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iHeartRadio to expand into Canada via Bell Media alliance

By | Published on Thursday 7 January 2016


As Pandora plans to expand its reach worldwide this year, its main rival in the US – iHeartRadio – which is getting close to catching up its competitor in terms of userbase, has confirmed it will go live in Canada in 2016 via an alliance with the country’s Bell Media company.

iHeartRadio is the digital platform of US radio giant Clear Channel, of course, which liked its online venture so much it rebranded the whole company as iHeartMedia. The service offers a personalised radio service of the Pandora model as well as access to content from across iHeart’s existing network of AM and FM stations.

Likewise, the Canadian version of the service will pull in content from Bell Media’s traditional radio outlets, as well as offering some personalised radio goodness. The alliance will also see the iHeartRadio brand properly launch in Canada, with an accompanying events programme as already exists in the US.

According to Billboard, the partnership between Bell and iHeart was initiated by the former, and specifically its recently appointed President Of Entertainment Production And Broadcasting, ex-Universal Music exec Randy Lennox.

He told the trade mag: “I had admired the iHeartMedia radio brand from afar in my time at Universal, thinking what an immensely ubiquitous and beloved brand this is. So upon arrival at Bell Media, we went to New York and had a series of meetings with them about how our assets were mirrored. We are taking the position that we are iHeart North, so to speak, the Canadian franchise of iHeartMedia, which includes its events, its concerts, its digital platform, its consumer electronics position, and so on”.

In the US, iHeart has used its existing AM/FM stations as a massive marketing platform for its online set-up, while the radio firm’s existing network of sales teams seek advertisers for the service, which currently has no premium option so is entirely dependent on ad sales. Bell Media will presumably do the same. Though no word as yet on how much traditional radio content will be shared between iHeart US and iHeart Canada.

Elsewhere in iHeart news, the media firm has also announced a new alliance with Universal Music centring on virtual reality technologies, which are insisting on being a talking point again in 2016, though some people reckon this time the tech might just live up to the hype.

The alliance will see the music major and radio giant “connect artists, music fans and brands and sponsors in a series of revolutionary, fully immersive entertainment experiences”. Ah, “fully immersive experiences”, that takes me back. I bet there’ll be some “emotional connections” and “revolutionary marketing” by the time this partnership has gone through the motions.

Confirming the VR tie-up at the CES shindig in Las Vegas, Universal Music big cheese Lucian Grainge said: “At UMG, we are focused on harnessing cutting-edge technology to pioneer new creative and commercial opportunities for artists, labels and fans. By combining iHeartMedia’s music events and hundreds of millions of listeners with the ability of our artists to forge powerfully emotional connections with their fans, we are ideally positioned to use VR technology to create authentic experiences that benefit our artists, consumers and marketing partners”. See, told you, “emotional connections”.

Adds iHeartMedia top dude Bob Pittman: “Our greatest strength at iHeartMedia is that we curate for our listeners – in this case, working with UMG to create a completely new entertainment experience using state-of-the-art VR technology. And now, as advertisers seek to tie their brands and products to music and artists in innovative ways, we can use our industry-leading reach and best-of-breed music events to unlock the combined power of music and VR as a revolutionary marketing tool”.

And there you have it. Universal and iHeartMedia, keeping it (virtually) real.