The latest round in the Clear Channel-vs.-Pandora battle will play out this fall, when Clear Channel’s streaming-radio app and website IHeartRadio introduces Pandora-like functions amid a promotional burst including a high-profile music festival.
The new version of IHeartRadio will debut on Sept. 23, the first day of the IHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a two-day concert that will include Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Steven Tyler, Kenny Chesney, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood and Bruno Mars.
Consumers can listen to the festival live through the IHeartRadio app, on some Clear Channel stations, at IHeartRadio.com and on station websites.
The latest iteration of IHeartRadio is the first formal integration of Thumbplay, a subscription-based music service Clear Channel acquired earlier this year. The new version will offer more music and more customization for users who want to create personalized stations based on genres or songs. Those custom stations will run ad-free through the end of 2011.
The new IHeartRadio will also include non-audio features like song lyrics, contests and locally targeted news updates, Clear Channel chairman Bob Pittman said.
Beyond Pandora, which began trading publicly June 15, Mr. Pittman is keeping an eye on the other emerging players in online music, such as Turntable.FM. “I think Turntable’s great, but it’s very early and they have music rights issues and scalability issues,” Mr. Pittman told Ad Age. “Our job is to watch stuff like that out on the internet, see if there’s possibly a new feature if not a business, to continue to make all our IHeartRadio stations in one place integrated together.”
Mr. Pittman’s other goal with the IHeartRadio app and music festival is to promote the reach of radio — specifically Clear Channel — to advertising partners that might still think of broadcast TV as the best platform for fast reach. Sponsors for the IHeartRadio Music Festival will be announced in the coming weeks. “I think what we’re demonstrating is we can do a major announcement,” Mr. Pittman said. “We can let folks in the future go directly to 100 million people all at one time by roadblocking all of our stations. This is demonstrating the unique national reach we have — I’m not sure even we’ve ever thought of ourselves as national.”
Clear Channel is also hosting and streaming the IHeartRadio Festival all in-house — save for social-media integration with Facebook that will include ticket pre-sales in the coming weeks. “When you have 237 million [monthly] users, I don’t think anybody could really help us,” Mr. Pittman said.