NextRadio/Tagstation facing extinction: No industry support according to Emmis boss Smulyan

Emmis Communications Corp announced in a quarterly earnings call that it will “dramatically reduce the operations” of its NextRadio project following years of losses. NextRadio was an effort to make mobile phones act like portable radios, with an app that let listeners tune in to FM stations. It also offered targeted advertising and other enhancements.

Emmis chairman, founder, and CEO Jeff Smulyan shared the development during the conference call. He said that Emmis would stop funding the project after the company netted millions in losses and never received the hoped-for industry-wide support for the effort to connect FM radio with mobile devices.

“Everybody [in the industry] unanimously said we have to have this,” Smulyan said. “But when it came time to pitch in and help fund this, we just couldn’t get enough support. We can’t do this ourselves. We can’t fund R&D for the entire industry.”

He said Emmis’ losses around NextRadio reached $7.6 million just in the past year, with total losses in the tens of millions of dollars. Now it will be making big cuts to both NextRadio and the related business TagStation. Emmis will “explore other means of eliminating the operating losses from these businesses in the coming months.”

Smulyan did not divulge what would happen to the people who have been working on NextRadio, including its president, Paul Brenner. “It really is painful for me to move in a different direction,” Smulyan said. “I don’t know what the future holds for that team, but they are owed a heartfelt debt of gratitude.”

Anna Washenko