AOL Radio has now teamed with Slacker Inc. and will re-launch in late summer without former partner CBS Radio. Meanwhile, CBS is focusing on its own online radio product, which recently incorporated Last.fm, which is part of CBS Interactive.
“Today we are in a much different place then we were even just a few years ago. Our accomplishments have put us in the enviable position of charting our own destiny and maximizing our financial potential. As a result, we have decided to sunset our partnership with AOL Radio,” CBS Interactive Music President David Goodman told employees in an email a few days ago. “We’ll be winding down our distribution agreement with them over the next 75-100 days, and will focus on continued organic growth. AOL has been a great partner and helped drive our early success. There’s no doubt we’ll continue to work with them and their acclaimed properties. Congratulations to everyone who shared a common goal and vision, and for executing flawlessly on the strategy,” said Goodman.
The end to the CBS-AOL partnership was kept pretty quiet until Tuesday (6/28) when AOL Huffington Post Media Group announced the new deal with Slacker.
“AOL Radio will offer an enhanced radio experience with fewer ads, new personalization features and premium subscription offerings. The new service will deliver three product tiers to users: the free AOL Radio service, along with ad-free and feature-rich radio and on-demand premium subscription tiers with personalization and customization powered by Slacker,” the announcement stated.
AOL said the new partnership with Slacker will provide access to ad-free radio and enable users to create tailored radio stations, save favorite songs and stations, read album reviews, access artist biographies, review station histories, increase song skipping capabilities and much more, depending on the tier of service selected. AOL Radio and Slacker plan to develop new advertising opportunities for mutual clients and integrate AOL Music’s original editorial voice across all its services.
“Slacker Radio is the perfect partner to significantly increase the quality of our offerings,” said Lisa Namerow, Head of AOL Radio. “By combining AOL Radio’s reach with the success of Slacker in mobile, we are increasing the distribution of our brands and further identifying AOL Radio as a leader in delivering superior radio experiences.”
“Both companies bring unique content and functionality to this new partnership,” said Jim Cady, CEO of Slacker.
Upon the launch of the new AOL Radio player, Slacker will lead advertising sales within the player, enabling AOL to package a portion of the inventory for premium AOL Music integrated sponsorships.
The new AOL Radio and its iPhone App, which has been downloaded more than three million times, will re-launch in late summer. Android and other platform launches will follow shortly thereafter. The new player will also continue to host AOL’s 250 expert-programmed original music stations, as well as additional new Slacker programming including stations and content from ESPN Radio and ABC News Radio, which will include additional offerings and stations for subscribers.
Back in 2008 RBR-TVBR interviewed AOL Executive Vice President Kevin Conroy about the deal with CBS Radio, which was then a year old. At the time he said it enabled AOL to “tap into local market advertisers, as well as regional advertising, which makes us part of the largest online radio ad network.” Conroy left AOL in 2009 to take a position with Univision.
As noted, CBS is pursuing its own course. “Last.fm has been integrated into the radio.com player,” Goodman noted. “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – in fact, thousands of stations have already been created in just the past few days.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Partnerships come and go over the years as the business landscape changes. It appears to us that the biggest challenge for AOL Radio is not changing partners, but getting users to go back to the Apple App Store and download a new app.