This guest column is contributed by Larry Rosin, President of Edison Research. It was first published on The Infinite Dial blog.
I look forward each month to the release of Triton Digital’s streaming audio statistics. I started to notice something a while ago and for whatever reason seems not to have gotten attention – iHeartRadio has simply stopped growing.
You can find the underlying data that is tracked in RAIN News as seen below:
In May of 2011 iHeart was about to enter a year of explosive growth and by May of 2012 the “Average Active Sessions” increased an astounding 127% to 183,000 sessions. Another good year of growth followed and by May of 2013 iHeart hit what stands as its all-time peak of 245,463 AAS.
And then – no read of the data can argue for anything other than flatness (at best) since then. For May of 2014 iHeart recorded 242,079 average sessions (down 1% from May 2013). The most recently reported month of September 2014 is nearly identical at 242,638.
So the question is: “Why?”
It can’t be a lack of advertising. Even the briefest listen to any iHeartRadio station contains multiple mentions of the brand and the app. Add in the various concerts and television specials and goodness knows the brand name is getting an enormous number of GRPs.
Nor can it be that there’s no growth to be had – Pandora has grown 32% in the 16 months since iHeart’s peak (from 1.485million AAS to 1.900million).
The closest thing to a possible clue is that most all of the sites that are geared (or mostly geared) to the streams of AM/FM Radio stations are flat or down since May of 2013. Cumulus is down 22% from that time in the September Triton numbers. CBS is down 14%. ESPN and Greater Media show modest gains. In general – it is more than fair to say the business of streaming the content of American radio stations is stagnant at best.
To its credit, iHeart is more than just the streams of radio stations. But regardless, it is not achieving growth, even as every day more and more people have a smartphone in their pockets or purses.