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Audacy weighs premium tier with commercial-free radio streams

A survey sent to some Audacy app users asked how much they would be willing to pay for a premium radio experience.

A survey sent to some Audacy app users asked how much they would be willing to pay for a premium radio experience.

The Audacy streaming radio app appears on a smartphone. (Photo by Focal Foto, Creative Commons; Graphic by The Desk)
The Audacy streaming radio app appears on a smartphone. (Photo by Focal Foto, Creative Commons; Graphic by The Desk)

Radio broadcaster Audacy is exploring a plan that would allow users of its streaming radio app to listen to commercial-free music, news and sports programming for a monthly fee.

The plan would see Audacy replace commercial breaks on its traditional AM and FM radio stations with “exclusive content like additional news, interviews or songs, all while remaining in sync with the live broadcast.”

Details of the potential strategy were first revealed in a survey some smartphone and tablet users received when they streamed audio content through the Audacy app over the last few weeks.

The survey asked Audacy listeners to choose how much they’d be willing to pay for commercial-free radio, with the prices starting at $1 per month and going as high as $11 a month, according to a copy of the survey reviewed by The Desk. A follow-up question presented a similar list of options, but asked users to weigh in on the maximum price they’d be wiling to pay before they thought a premium radio subscription was too expensive.

The questionnaire closed out by asking radio listeners to pick from a drop-down list of other premium offerings that would make them more likely to pay for a commercial-free radio subscription. The options included the ability to restart a song from the beginning, branded station swag and subscriber-only events.

Officials at Audacy have not spoken publicly about the potential plan, and no one returned an email seeking comment from The Desk sent earlier in the week.

Audacy’s consideration of a premium, commercial-free streaming radio offering comes at a time when traditional media companies are starting to focus more streaming platforms as the future of their businesses.

Last year, SiriusXM’s top executive affirmed the company is considering more ways to build out its streaming radio platform, which has largely existed as a supplemental product to its satellite radio service. The executive, CEO Jennifer Witz, later said SiriusXM was working on a complete overhaul of its streaming radio product in an attempt to reach younger consumers on a wide variety of devices in and out of cars.

Audacy’s main competitor, iHeartMedia, has offered a premium streaming product through its iHeartRadio app for years. The plan, called iHeartRadio Plus, costs $5 a month and allows streamers to replay songs airing on AM and FM radio stations and access premium versions of on-demand stations and playlists. Likewise, radio aggregator TuneIn offers a premium tier of service that costs $10 a month and offers access to commercial-free news streams, play-by-play from professional sports teams and more than 120,000 audiobooks.

In January, tech company Auddia launched FaidrRadio, a premium curated music service within its Faidr app. The feature uses artificial intelligence to “insert” music and other programming during commercial breaks on the web streams of supported AM and FM radio stations, and is promoted as a way for subscribers to listen to their local DJs and radio programming “without distracting, unwanted interruptions.”

“We see FaidrRadio as a place for users to engage with great music and compelling program hosts and as a launchpad for new voices to get mainstream exposure,” Michael Lawless, the CEO of Auddia, said in a statement earlier this year.

FaidrRadio launched with a free trial offer for Faidr app users, who were eventually asked to pay $6 a month for the service. In March, executives at Auddia said they were blown away by the success of the app, with one out of 10 app users eventually plunking down cash for a paid subscription, spurred in part by the company’s decision to also integrate podcasts into the platform.

“Our goal of delivering premium, ad-free AM/FM alongside exclusive content is resonating nicely,” Lawless said. “Now that we’ve added podcasts to the iOS app, we feel confident we can maintain or exceed this subscription conversion rate on the product, which puts us ahead of where we need to be in iOS for our metric-inflection point we are targeting mid-year.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).