Apple recently introduced the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus & iPhone X (it’s 10th anniversary iPhone). Each of these new iPhones have an FM chip in them, I’ve read, that if turned on, could receive OTA FM radio signals, but these chips are not activated.
I’m not an engineer, but I suspect there’s more to making an iPhone receive FM radio than just turning on a software switch. I will let those more knowledgeable about these things weigh in on this aspect.
Streaming Audio & Data Usage
One of the reasons broadcasters cite for having FM chips activated in smartphones is that it uses less battery power and doesn’t consume your data plan like streaming does.
And the other reason is that FM radio stays on-the-air when cell towers go down in a storm, like Hurricanes Irma or Harvey.
NextRadio says it’s seen a big percentage jump in usage to their App in Florida during Irma by allowing a smartphone equipped with an FM chip to listen to over-the-air FM radio broadcasts.
Verizon’s Smallest Data Plan
I’m a Verizon customer. Have been for a long time. I was on their unlimited data plan until a Verizon rep said my data consumption was not even half of Verizon’s smallest data plan and that I could cut my monthly phone bill in half by getting off that plan. So, I did.
This past Memorial Day weekend I streamed Allan Sniffen’s WABC Rewound while driving from Massachusetts back to Virginia. I consumed almost all of my 1GB plan due to this. I called Verizon about what I could do and was told they would switch me to their new small data plan at no charge. It’s now 2GB, plus any unused data rolls over.
I have something like 4+GB now and it grows because most of my music streaming is done when I’m connected on WiFi and not over-the-air.
I expect that this will be expanded again by Verizon due to competition from other wireless carriers.
T-Mobile Unlimited Music Streaming
Back in July 2016, I wrote a blog article titled “SiriusXM Radio is Now Free.” That article still sees lots of traffic from people searching for this service. I think they thought I wrote that it was now free, but the nature of the article mused what if they made some of their music channels free and then sold commercials in those nationwide free music channels. It’s actually something that’s been kicked around by America’s only satellite broadcaster.
But in 2014, T-Mobile introduced “Music Freedom.” T-Mobile wrote, “With Music Freedom, T-Mobile Simple Choice customers can stream all the music they want – without ever touching their high-speed data – at no extra charge.”
Then in 2016, T-Mobile expanded this to more than 100 music and video services. T-Mobile CEO and president John Legere vlogged: “Music Freedom and Binge On have radically changed the way T-Mobile customers watch video and listen to music.”
T-Mobile & Sprint Merger
CNBC says that T-Mobile and Sprint are in active merger talks. If they do become one, they would become America’s second largest wireless carrier. Can you see how both Music Freedom and Binge On would provide a very competitive stance to AT&T and Verizon?
Radio’s Streaming Effort May Be Screwed
Then Mark Ramsey published part one of a two-part blog post titled “Radio’s Streaming Effort May Be Screwed – Part 1” and showed Triton streaming activity for broadcasters and pureplays year-over-year. It’s not pretty. Pureplays up 16.2% and broadcasters down 1.6%.
Radio is not getting more important in the streaming world.
I believe it’s because, like most people, I listen to OTA radio using a device designed for listening to this service, a car or home radio set.
When I stream, I go to things I can’t get over-the-air, like Smooth Jazz music.
I put two new Smooth Jazz radio stations on the air in my radio career. Both of them are gone, as is the format in most radio markets in America today. Streaming is about the only way to listen to this genre of music.
Streaming Audio & NetFlix
Streaming audio teaches people to expect a different listening experience as Netflix taught people to expect a different viewing experience. Like getting an entire season of a show (House of Cards, for example) released on the same day and not dribbled out one episode per week, like broadcast TV.
Dave Van Dyke’s Bridge Ratings just showed how broadcast radio is being impacted by streaming: “New behavior by on-demand streaming listeners has accelerated time-spent-listening attrition because radio has not been able to accommodate the volume of songs released by popular artists.”
Broadcast radio can now sympathize with broadcast television with the way new product is released to the listening/viewing audience.
In my broadcast capstone class, one of the books my students read was by Gary Vaynerchuk called “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.”
Gary skillfully shows how you can’t take your message and just paste it across all the various forms of social media. That each platform is like a different radio format. Your message to be effective and cut through needs to be molded to fit the social medium. Facebook is different than LinkedIn that’s different from Twitter, that’s different from Pinterest et al.
I believe it’s the same with taking your radio station’s over-the-air signal and simply streaming it (with a few exceptions, like a 1010 WINS or WTOP).
When your offering can be as easily received, as every other audio offering from anywhere in the world, yours will need to be either the very best, very niched or one-of-a-kind.