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Mobile Phone Broadcasts

April 19, 2005
Hollywood Reporter

Nokia's Visual Radio, which merges traditional FM radio with mobile phone interactivity, is set to go live in the United States, under a deal with Infinity Broadcasting disclosed Monday at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.

The announcement was made with Nokia's technology partner, Hewlett-Packard.

The partners are determining which of Infinity's 185 radio stations will be the first in the country to offer the service to their listeners. Mobile phones with the capability to receive Visual Radio will be available in the U.S. within six months, according to Reidar Wasenius, Nokia manager, Visual Radio.

"It adds another dimension to FM radio," said David Goodman, Infinity president, marketing. "I love the idea of everyone walking around with a portable radio that happens to make phone calls and show great pictures."

Consumers receive the standard FM radio broadcast on their mobile phone. Simultaneously, Visual Radio sends whatever information and graphics the station wishes to the handset's screen, delivered via the cellular network. The result is increased listener time, brand loyalty and additional revenue streams for the station, Goodman said.

Infinity will be the first U.S. broadcaster to offer Visual Radio, which already is available to listeners of Virgin Radio (U.K.), Kiss FM (Finland), MediaCorp. (Singapore), RS Promotions (Thailand) and FFH Hit Radio (Germany).

"It makes us very happy to offer Visual Radio on this continent, since this is such a major market in the world and it is the home of commercial radio," Wasenius said. "It proves the credibility of the concept."


Initially, the interactive mobile content is expected to include artist and track information, radio station promotions, voting, polling and opportunities to purchase concert tickets, ringtones, music and other related products, all synchronized to the regular broadcast.

"We've been looking at what others are doing elsewhere in the world that would amplify what our audience is listening to," Goodman said. "The analogy would be that Visual Radio is to radio what 'Pop-Up Video' was to VH1. The things you can integrate are really limitless, and I'm looking forward to the creative things our program directors come up with."

Listeners can get this parallel channel whenever they like simply by pushing the relevant button on their mobile phone. No subscription is required, and there is no cost other than the standard carrier fee.

Nokia and HP have designed Visual Radio to be practically free for broadcasters. "Upfront licensing and technology and everything costs zero dollars," Wasenius said. HP installs the required software suite on the station's computer, integrates it with existing broadcasting software and trains station personnel. The station's only cost is time, which Wasenius said could start with less than one full-time employee and ramp up as appropriate to match the growth of revenue from advertising and sponsorship.

"Interactivity is going to be where a lot of the action is, and if you're a traditional radio station you need new hooks to hold on to your customer base in the face of satellite radio," said Shane Robison, HP's chief strategy and technology officer.

"This is a new way for Infinity to have a new relationship with its customer base. Trials around the world have been very promising, and it's just getting started. Infinity's adoption of the Visual Radio service in the U.S. is evidence of the exciting possibilities that lay ahead for the radio industry," Robison said