Thursday, August 19, 2021

Radio Unites Against Common Threat: Spotify

Philadelphia-based radio and digital broadcaster Audacy is providing a digital home for yet another competitor after reaching a content distribution partnership with Urban One.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports the deal will bring the content of Urban One’s 57 stations across 13 different markets to the Audacy app. With the partnership, the platform now has over 2,000 local and national radio stations from more than 100 markets.

Audacy said a typical distribution partnership allows a company such as Urban One to expand its digital audience while selling additional advertising. In return for providing the digital platform, Audacy benefits from selling pre-roll ads that automatically play directly before featured content begins. The arrangement also brings more listeners to the Audacy app, where the company hopes they will stay and seek out more content.

Audacy's pact with Urban One is the just latest in a string of similar deals with radio rivals. In February 2019, it announced content distribution partnerships with Cox Radio and Bonneville, and then similar arrangements with Alpha Media and Salem Media Group later that year.

In November, Audacy signed a partnership with Beasley Media Group to livestream its 64 stations situated in 15 different markets, including Beasley's six Philadelphia stations — classic rock station 102.9 WMGK-FM, country station 92.5 WXTU, sports talker 97.5 The Fanatic, rock station 93.3 WMMR-FM, pop station 95.7 BenFM (WBEN-FM) and talk station 860 WWDB-AM.

It seems counterintuitive to promote stations that are fierce rivals and could eat into the listenership of Audacy’s local stations — KYW Newsradio, SportsRadio 94 WIP-FM, adult contemporary station B101 (WBEB-FM), classic hits 98.1 (WOGL-FM), pop station 96.5 WTDY-FM and conservative talk station 1210 WPHT-AM. But Corey Podolsky, Audacy’s vice president of business development, said a healthy radio industry helps both Audacy and its traditional terrestrial radio competitors as the industry as a whole locks horns with streaming alternatives such as Spotify.

“We believe if you build radio listenership in general, that helps us,” Podolsky said. “So we absolutely compete with them when it comes to radio but not when it comes to technology.”

Podolsky said the fragmentation of radio listenership has hurt the industry but when all of that radio listenership is pulled together, it dwarfs Spotify.

This is the second major deal struck with Silver Spring, Maryland-based Urban One. Last November, Audacy and Urban One competed a station swap where Audacy acquired hip hop formatted WPHI (103.9 FM) and turned it into an FM simulcast for KYW. In return, Urban One received five stations in St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte. Despite the sale of WPHI, Urban One retained two Philadelphia FM stations 100.3 RnB (WNRB) and Classix 107.9 (WPPZ), which both play throwback R&B music.

One rival not partnering with Audacy is iHeart Media, the only radio broadcaster with a larger footprint. iHeart has a robust app of its own and just last month reached a partnership that will enable streaming service TuneIn to distribute iHeart’s more than 850 digital stations.

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