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Larry Rosin: Why Is iHeartRadio Not Growing?

larry rosin contributor logo canvasThis 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:

 

triton september 2014 leaders

 

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.

Larry Rosin

3 Comments

  1. You nailed it with “most all of the sites that are geared (or mostly geared) to the streams of AM/FM Radio stations”. It’s the content that’s not exciting for most listeners.

    Shame CC doesn’t tap their best programmers and most interesting hosts to produce tightly-formatted “side channels”. It’s not that they don’t have the talent, it’s that they’re not using that talent effectively.

  2. Golly, gee. Maybe, people don’t like a dozen commercials in a row and canned voice-track announcers who never talk about anything local. Maybe that’s it, huh?

  3. I’m with Steve Warren. It’s all about the endless commercials. I fully expect that Iheart radio has seen its peak. The future is not streaming AM/FM stations, in fact, it’s NOT AM/FM. AM/FM is doomed to fail as a business model when penetration of the Digital Dash reaches about 55% of all vehicles, about the same penetration point that killed music radio on the AM band. I fully expect that CC will transition iheart radio to the Digital Dash and abandon streaming AM/FM, but I doubt seriously they will abandon their addiction to commercials. Unless they do, and learn how to generate revenues in other ways, CC is likely to fail in a competition where quality choices without commercial interruptions will be abundant.

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