2007 is looking to be the make-or-break year for Internet radio: While the Copyright Royalty Board is busy trying to raise digital royalty rates–a move that could potentially put several big Internet-radio stations out of business–several companies are thinking to the future, and trying to develop technology that will allow you to listen to webcasts no matter where you are. From today’s Wall Street Journal:
While ratings for traditional radio broadcasters have been lackluster, Internet radio listenership in the U.S. has risen to 29 million a week, up from 20 million three years ago, according to Arbitron Inc. and Edison Media Research.
Even so, the nascent industry has yet to capture the biggest prize — portability. Some halfway solutions exist, such as music devices that allow people to stream Internet radio on speakers, or software that allows technology buffs to access Internet radio from their phones. But results can be glitchy, expensive and technically against the terms of contracts with mobile-phone service providers. Now, start-ups and giants are jockeying for position in mobile Internet radio, in a race that could rearrange the business model of music and broadcasting.
There are some big names involved here, including Pandora, Sprint, Yahoo Inc., Last.fm Ltd. and XM; we’re hoping that an industry leader emerges early on–not because we love monopolies, but because we’ve undergone several frustrating high-tech showdowns over the last decade (Replay vs. Tivo, XM vs. Sirius, Chicago Hope vs. ER), and we have sad-looking boxes full of cables and antennas to prove it.