10 marzo 2008

Radio su Internet, ritorni ancora molto incerti

Su SeekingAlpha, J.P. Hannan commenta i risultati che l'analista della banca d'affari JPMorgan, John Blackledge, rilascia trimestralmente sulle prospettive dell'industria della radio online (qui il report di dicembre 2007) .
E' vero che molti ritengono elevatissimo il potenziale dell'ascolto della radio via Internet, specie se lo si confronta con le scarse dimostrazioni di successo dei vari sistemi di radio digitale non online. Ma bisogna anche sottolineare che per adesso nessuno può ancora scommettere sulla sostenibilità economica del modello, una volta (ricorda Hannan) che uno metta sui piatti della bilancia le entrate generate dalle radio su Internet e i costi di produzione, banda e diritti. Tra l'altro negli USA si rileva un certo rallentamento del numero di ascoltatori e soprattutto la mancanza di veri punti di riferimento in termini di popolarità e seguito di ascoltatori. I primi passi che la radio sta muovendo nel suo futuro prossimo venturo sono ancora tortuosi (e costosi).

Internet Radio: Positive ROI Remains to Be Seen
March 10, 2008

Internet radio appears to be stuck in the mud right now. The concept holds such promise as more and more devices become Wi-Fi and Wi-Max enabled, and is particularly exciting for cars where more than 1/3 of radio listening is estimated to occur. For the cost of your internet connection or in some cases a modest subscription fee, one can have any variety of music or other content from all over the world.
Unfortunately, it’s not getting much traction from users, and those users who have discovered the medium seem to have not settled on any favorites in the sector yet.
Whether its terrestrial broadcasters like Clear Channel (CCU) retransmitting their existing over-the-air signal or internet-only offerings from the likes of Yahoo (YHOO) and AOL (TWX), recent reports confirm that while there is not much overall movement towards the nascent medium, there is lots of movement within it. There is not much growth in overall users, but we are seeing a shifting in share between the two classes of internet radio players, with traditional terrestrial broadcasters winning recent rounds. Of course, this could again change in coming months as there is such a low barrier to entry that new offerings will probably continue to fragment the market.
J.P. Morgan media analyst John Blackledge, who is one of my favorite on Wall Street, tracks this information like few others I’ve seen in what he dubs the “Internet Radio Scorecard”. In his latest report released March 6th, he had this to say:

* Unique visitors to internet radio dipped 4% to 60.4 million after holding above 62m for the last three months. While we believe this may be the beginning of a seasonal winter dip similar to what occurred between January and March 2007, January traffic stands roughly 6% above the average levels experienced during that stretch.
* Internet radio traffic was up 6% versus last year as 25% y/y growth for the terrestrial operators overcame a 5% y/y decline for the pure plays. We believe this divergent growth path represents a share shift as total traffic has been mostly flat since mid-2006, while terrestrial’s share grew from 35% to 44% as the pure plays’ fell.
* Traffic at the terrestrial operators’ sites was down 0.5% vs. last month but stand firmly above the 25-26 million range it had been stuck in most of last year. We continue to expect unique visitors to the terrestrial radio group’s sites to continue to post sequential and y/y growth in 2008.
* Unique visitors decline at both Clear Channel and CBS Radio, which were down 4% and 15%, respectively. However, NPR (up more than 50%) Citadel (+13%), and Radio One (+11%) were among the few in the group to post monthly gains.
* Traffic was down at Yahoo!, AOL Radio, Pandora, and Live 365 as only a few of the internet pure plays experienced growth this month. Specifically, Yahoo and AOL were off 4% and 15%, respectively, while Pandora declined 7% for its first decline in seven months.

No definitive findings can be made it seems of these reports, but it is a fascinating area to keep an eye on by media investors going forward as more and more content is put online by terrestrial and internet pure play broadcasters alike. Terrestrial broadcasters, in particular, are spending considerably more of their budgets on interactive initiatives, with streaming a cornerstone of those efforts for some. Whether there will truly be a return on investment after factoring bandwidth usage and other fees remains to be seen.

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