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Guest Blog: Jeff Smulyan – From Consumer Electronics Show to Canadian Music Week, NextRadio is everywhere!

Jeff Smulyan, CEO of  Emmis Communications, shares how the app NextRadio can make the listening experience more interactive for radio fans. 

For many years, we have been working on the activation of the FM radio in smartphones on behalf of the American Radio Industry. Most people don’t know that every smartphone sold has the capability of receiving local FM radio. The importance is that unlike streaming, the public pays no data charges when listening over the air through the activated FM radio in their smartphones. Currently, the American public listens to local radio for over 9 billion hours on various streaming services, and they are paying for all of those hours in their data bills. The same data usage applies to streaming services in Canada.

In addition, listening over the air drains cell phone batteries at one fifth the rate as listening to the exact same content in the streaming networks. Further, in any emergency, when the power grid goes down, all phone use is lost. With the FM radio activated, listeners in any emergency would have a radio that can provide life-saving information on the device that is constantly with them.

But for the consumer, the most exciting part of FM radio in smartphones is the interactivity that we have brought through NextRadio. NextRadio is a free smartphone app that combines your local FM radio broadcast with the internet to create a visually engaging, interactive artist and advertising experience.

With NextRadio, watch music and talk come to life with album art, station logos, and song and show details. You can use the app’s Live Guide feature to see what’s playing on stations in your area in real time or browse stations by genre or frequency, set your favorites or view recently played stations. NextRadio also offers one-touch call in or text the shows that you love, buy the song while it plays on the radio and share with the station whether you like or dislike the song being played. When compared to streaming music, NextRadio gets 3x better battery life and uses nominal data.

While listening to your favorite local radio station through NextRadio, if the artist playing on air is scheduled for an upcoming concert, you can buy tickets, add the event to your calendar and even get directions to the venue. When ads are running on the radio, advertisers can create a simultaneous visual interaction with the customer. Websites can be accessed, coupons downloaded and events can go immediately to your calendar. If the radio station wants to do contesting, prepopulated texts are built into the system. Nearly every component of the station’s broadcast can become visual and compelling.

Currently in the U.S., we have a relationship with Sprint that involves preloading the NextRadio app on 30 million smartphones and the effort is now moving to other carriers and manufacturers. HTC phones available with all major wireless carriers have allowed the activation of the FM radio within the phone which makes use of the NextRadio app possible. Also Motorola’s affordable Moto G and Moto E phones are available at many carriers as well, making NextRadio more accessible than ever before.

There are over 1.4 million NextRadio app downloads, a number that is experiencing double-digit percentage growth every month! Over 11,000 FM radio stations are being listened to with the app, and there are over 2 million hours of listening. We have found that NextRadio grows radio listening. Stations listened to with the NextRadio app are averaging 16 minutes of listening time– over 50% higher than the traditional radio average here in the United States.

Also designed as an automotive radio platform, NextRadio has enabled new features for the “Connected Car” dashboard. Recently, we shared booth space with iBiquity’s HD Radio at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). At CES, we launched our first joint product with HD Radio demonstrating the benefits of interactive digital radio in a connected car. The demonstration platform is the first combination of both analog and HD Radio broadcasting with NextRadio services.   It showcased the benefits of the connected car combining free over-the-air broadcast radio services with the elegant visual and digital capabilities of the NextRadio app. The combined technologies will deliver a highly personalized and contextual suite of services to the car radio platform enabling a level of engagement, programming information and interactivity never before available for local radio services. Every automotive OEM and Tier 1 supplier we met with at CES has requested that the NextRadio platform move quickly into their development plans!

Based on our growth and success in the U.S., broadcast owners in Canada have reached out to us to provide them information for how they can bring NextRadio into Canada. Our team is also working to align smartphone providers and data carriers so Canadian consumers can benefit from FM radio enabled smartphones and car applications. I am looking forward to being a part of the Canadian Music Week and excited to be a panelist during the radio session, “The Future of Radio” on Thursday, 5/7 at 11:40am.

See you in Toronto,

Jeff Smulyan

CEO Emmis Communications


Widely recognized as one of the most visionary leaders in the radio industry, Jeffrey H. Smulyan serves as Founder and Chairman of the Board of Emmis Communications Corporation, an Indianapolis–based radio and magazine publishing company with operations in nine U.S. markets.



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