WBEB-FM Drops Its Internet Stream

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The battle between radio and SoundExchange has been going on for many months now, and the new rate tiers are in. While the agreement provides a 16 percent discount on previously-set rates for 2009 and 2010,  they then jump by nearly 67 percent over the five years following. In response, WBEB-FM, a top tier Adult Contemporary station, took down its Internet stream in the middle of last month. According to the station owner Jerry Lee, up to half the revenue generated by the station’s streaming broadcast would go straight to SoundExchange, a situation he deemed unacceptable.

Question is, will the short-term savings be worth opting out of what most in the industry deem to be the future of radio? This is especially true when you look at the recent rise of Internet-enabled mobile phones. Recent efforts by Clear Channel Communication, for instance, have shown streaming to already make up over 10 percent of its audience, and the numbers continue to grow.

Via MediaWeek:

“Our streaming audience has grown 17 percent last year compared to 2007,” said Evan Harrison, President of online radio and Executive VP for CCR.

Just last week, CCR’s iheartradio iPhone application hit one million downloads. CBS Radio/AOL Radio has seen comparable station audience growth; the number of downloads for iPhone application has surpassed three million.

“You can’t tell listeners where to go. We need to be everywhere our listeners are,” Harrison said. “Within a couple of years, I think half our listening will take place on a combination of mobile and Internet. The pie is being reshaped.”

Of course, as we continue to develop metrics for measuring audience and new ideas for monetizing the content, it must be admitted that both of these lag behind the simple widening of audience. Still, CCR’s online advertising efforts are quoted by some sources as accounting for up to 5 percent of its total $3.3 billion in generated revenue.

Each company will have to make its own decision about streaming. Personally, I believe that it is the future. Increasingly people demand to consume media when, where, and how they want to. In the age of time-shifting radio must be prepared to meet the audience on its terms.

What are your thoughts?

Photo courtesy of KaCey97007, used under its Creative Commons license

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