Internet Radio's Unheralded Rock Star


You never expect to teach an old-school media company some new-media tricks, but that's what appears to be happening with CC Media Holdings' Clear Channel Radio.

The terrestrial radio juggernaut -- watching over hundreds of AM and FM radio stations around the country and syndicating content to many more -- has a hit with its iHeartRadio app.

The free digital service that offers up Clear Channel's own stations, partner channels, and a customized radio offering along the lines of Pandora announced yesterday that the application has been downloaded 135 million times.

It's a big number, but we know that downloads don't translate into users. Well, Clear Channel is apparently doing fairly well on that front. The iHeartRadio network is attracting more than 48 million unique monthly visitors.

The company has now surpassed 20 million registered users, and that's something that is only required for users that want to take advantage of iHeartRadio's Pandora-like music discovery offering.

Are Pandora and Spotify scared? They probably shouldn't be. Spotify completed a financing round last week that values the European streaming service at a cool $3 billion.

Pandora served up 1.25 billion hours of content last month, 65% more than it did in October of last year. Pandora's active listeners of 59.2 million have climbed 47% over the past year. Seeing listener hours grow at a headier clip than the online speedster's user base indicates that the average listener is tuning in more often. That doesn't seem like a company that is hurting since iHeartRadio rolled out its Pandora-like music discovery feature late last year.

There are also plenty of new players rolling in. Sirius XM Radio -- another receiver-based radio provider, though using satellites and premium subscriptions to deliver top-shelf programming and commercial-free music -- is expected to introduce its own Pandora clone next month.

Microsoft turned heads by introducing Xbox Music, its spruced up streaming platform that offers components similar to what Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio are offering. We also can't forget the leading retailer of digital music -- Apple -- as reports claiming that Apple is in licensing talks with major record labels for a streaming service of its own will birth another player to reckon with.

However, Clear Channel has a surprising advantage that every other player does not: Clear Channel still reaches 239 million monthly listeners -- that's a majority of the country -- through its AM and FM stations. Clear Channel can promote iHeartRadio that way, especially as it expands its programming.

This is a crowded niche that's about to get even more congested, but don't lose sight of what a terrestrial radio dinosaur is up to. Clear Channel has the amps to back up its ambitious playlist.

Streaming out loud
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