Friday, October 12, 2018

Report: Emmis Giving Up on NextRadio

NextRadio—a costly initiative led by Emmis Communications Corp. to make mobile phones act like smart portable radios—appears to be history after the company said it would no longer fund the effort, reports the Indianapolis Business Journal.

NextRadio, which began in 2012 and operated as a subsidiary of Emmis, was intended to be an industry-wide effort. But Emmis boss Jeff Smulyan said Thursday morning during an earnings call that the consortium he had hoped to build never materialized. Instead, Emmis racked up tens of millions of dollars in losses.

Emmis officials announced Thursday morning that the Indianapolis-based radio company has lost $7.6 million on NextRadio in the last 12 months alone.

The type of loss Emmis had this year with NextRadio “has been going on year after year,” Smulyan said.

Smulyan said Thursday that there was considerable support for NextRadio, which allowed cell phones using an app to tune into FM radio with various enhancements not available through a traditional radio, and allowed advertisers to more directly target listeners with tailored messages. But Smulyan admitted that support “was 10 miles wide and a tenth of a mile deep.”

After years of negotiations, Emmis finally got buy-in from a number of major cell phone carriers to allow their cell phones to activate a chip so the FM radio app would work.

But Emmis’ negotiations with other radio operators weren’t as successful. Some within the industry said cash-strapped radio operators didn’t have enough money to support the effort.

The company said it planned "to dramatically reduce the operations" of NextRadio and related business TagStation, and "explore other means of eliminating the operating losses from these businesses in the coming months."

It’s unclear what will happen to Next Radio President Paul Brenner and his staff.

Smulyan added that the staffers working on the NextRadio initiative produced “some of the most innovative and groundbreaking work I’ve ever seen. They’re brilliant, hard-working and dedicated.”

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