The CBS Digital Radio Network

Yesterday I attended a launch event that really impressed me. As I watched it, I sent this twitter message:

      Watching a killer presentation on the cbs digital radio network. These guys have nailed it

I got a bunch of replies asking for more, but I’ve been offline for most of the past 24 hours and couldn’t get around to posting about it.

Paid Content has a post on the event that does a good job of "play by play". But it really doesn’t capture what went down.

Ad Age did a slightly better job with their coverage, but also missed the big point.

And that point is this. CBS has launched a single flash player that showcases all of their terrestrial stations’ internet streams, all of their internet radio streams (like the new WNEW), all of AOL’s internet stations (which CBS now operates for AOL), and best of all allows the listener to create their own custom radio stations that are also available on the player.


And that flash player can be launched whenever you visit a CBS radio station’s website, whenever you play an AOL radio station, and whenever you play a custom station you or your friends create using the new CBS digital radio network.

Think about this. They have rolled out the entire spectrum of what radio might be on one single player. You want to listen to WFAN? You can do it on the player. You want to listen to AOL’s indie rock stream? You can do it on the player. You want to create and listen your own station? You can do that on the player. I suspect it won’t be long before you can listen to any stream on that player too.

And here’s what really got me. When all of this audio content is being delivered in a single network, CBS can move you around the network when it makes sense. If you are listening to the AOL indie rock stream and Wilco is playing in the WXRT studio, the CBS digital radio network can alert you in the AOL stream and give you one click access to the Wilco live performance.

As my friend David Goodman explained, when the next Eliot Spitzer moment happens, you can go from the wonderful WNEW stream to 1010 WINS to get the news and then go back, all in a single state of the art flash player.

As I said in my twitter, these guys have nailed it.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. ErikSchwartz

    “you can go from the wonderful WNEW stream to 1010 WINS to get the news and then go back, all in a single state of the art flash player.”This was the vision of why Y! bought never did it because Y! got too political, but we could have built an internet based audio CNN in 1999.Instead we bought Marc a basketball team.

    1. mrclark411

      “Instead we bought Marc a basketball team.”Classic.

  2. Nate

    So it’s an audio client you install? Windows only? Mac?The articles you cite mention preroll ads, banner ads, and “contextual marketer slides” (shudder). Did you see any of these in action?If they want you to see graphical ads my guess is that they also don’t want you to minimize the player window while you’re working on other stuff. If so, *dealbreaker*. Audio commercials would be fine though because that’s how radio works.It’s not portable is it? Now, an iPhone app would be something. Lately I’ve been listening to Muxtapes in a background browser tab instead of using iTunes. Any internet media player that works on iPhone would rule. Who even needs a music library at that point?

    1. fredwilson

      it’s flash. no audio client. one more reason why apple needs to let flash onto the iphone

  3. mrclark411

    What I’d like to see is for CBS, Clear Channel or an internet play (AOL, G, Microsoft, Y!) to partner with Verizon/Sprint/AT&T and develop an XM/Sirius killer. Who cares about 200 satellite channels when I can get any music/news stream off the net or a personalized playlist in my car?

  4. GeorgeT6

    I have a couple of comments based on a quick read of the two links provided.Definitely on the right track in terms of ability to create ones own playlist and ability to station hop. I really like the feature allowing others to suggest songs | artists to playlist, which is a must in finding new music.Some comments on the Ad Age article make salient comparisons to Pandora -(which I really dig), but miss the ‘applet’ portability of a flash player vs. a full on website. If CBS can truly make this work across all genres it may have a chance of surviving.Does anyone really use AOL? Forgive me if I am being somewhat arrogant but I last logged onto any known AOL environment in 1995. Is AOL really pulling in any real numbers with its multimedia resources | Players?”Mr. Goodman said the new CBS/AOL player will also allow advertisers to effectively create page takeovers using pre-roll video ads and banner ads before the beginning of streams. ” Ugh, people – I realize that advertising is the reason behind the push for such innovations, but really this will only serve to turn people off. I want my music | content now, not have to wait for some ‘required ad’ to play. I will ignore the ad by going glassy eyed or by finding another player. Make ads part of the players’ skin with options to see more.Again a great start by terrestrial radio in ‘getting it’, but I want more content and less down yer’ throat advertising. I am willing to put up with all sorts of adjacent ads but do not delay my access to content. I have the same issue with ads that interrupt my link from main page to article. I always go for the close button -(moving it or making it part alpha channel transparency just distracts me even more from the adverts message).

  5. Chris

    By the way, WXRT rocks

  6. simondodson

    i work for a big radio broadcaster here in Australia. we have nothing like this yet .. but i can see the crazy potential in something like this. but hows it all work ? who pays for it ? ad supported ?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, ad supported. just like radio has always been. if you minimize the player, you’ll get a few audio ads every hour and that’s it.

  7. scott crawford

    Excellent example of what’s coming on lots of fronts. Pocket media. Here we go.So much fun it makes my toes curl.

  8. ceonyc

    I’d like a live stream for winamp or the client… something I can scrobble. I hate browser streaming. I’m happy to d/l a little radio notifier if they want to ping me… I’m surprised you’re cool with a closed, proprietary player… but I guess it’s a great first step.

    1. winampguy

      Wish granted: CBS Radio will be in Winamp.

    2. fredwilson

      Its flash. Not a desktop client. I am the opposite of you charlie. I want everything in the browserFred

      1. ceonyc

        Then it should have a nice API so someone can build me a client on AIR. 🙂

  9. Harry DeMott

    Very cool for sure. A step in the right direction. Truth of the matter is that no one has really nailed it yet – although this takes another jump toward serving listeners of music in all mood states.

  10. Scott Johnson

    The other big point here: Audio streaming, particularly talk, is going to crush podcasting. Aside from audio books, nobody wants to sync. Way too complex for mainstream adoption.

    1. GeorgeT6

      I am not so convinced that this will ‘crush’ podcasting. There is a good argument that the major broadcasters may scale back on podcasting IF they are willing to pay the licensing fees to use this technology. I suspect NPR -which has a good sized subscriber base for its various podcasts (both national and local) will continue to do so.The biggest part of Podcasting, the independent Vlogger, will continue on. I have not looked at any hard data lately but this segment combined has millions of subscribers. Granted the individual numbers per ‘caster are small, often under a 1000 or 100 per but the combined number as a whole is giant. Podcasting started off with no corporate sponsors and most likely will continue on if most bail out.Podcasting and its ilk with its Long Tail models will continue despite innovations such as the CBS player.\ for the record not a Podcaster, but some of my best friends are.

  11. Ethan Bauley

    We’ve discussed this before, but does 2-4min of ads per hour make a good business?Great stuff…thanks for keeping us posted on this! Keep it coming 😉

  12. kenberger

    Great app. Here is what would make it nirvana for me:I hate most commercials with a passion, largely because the broadcast model doesn’t know who I am and thus the radio and tv play me largely irrelevant ads.An idea (that I would pay for): I choose a genre I want to listen to, or a favorite list. Implement some kind of audio recognition software that listens and can tell when commercials are on or the dj talking, as opposed to music. Whenever that happens, skip to another channel on the list.This would mimic exactly what I do when I’m driving and listening to the radio (I hit another preset button when talking starts).Of course, I could just subscribe to satellite radio, but that misses the flavor of great radio stations.

    1. fredwilson

      I think the better solution would be to figure out to effectively target the right audio ads to you kenFred

      1. kenberger

        Of course, we both know that there are a few cool companies on ‘target’ to make that happen, and if they can ultimately be better at that than Google is at targeting ads to me (better be much better than Google), it will be great.Until that is fully launched and works so well that I love most of the product awareness served to me, I want to be ad-free. Not even just a few ads an hour.Come to think of it, for my personal use I’d likely still have no problem paying to get 100% pure content.

  13. MikePLewis

    That’s a lot of good stuff in one package. It will be interesting to see how they keep this player from becoming too bloatedAlso, as users enjoy their iTunes experience more and more, i wonder how radio fares and how last incorporates that information into the player.Overall i’m just impressed that they’ve continued to innovate after their CBS purchase. For so many companies that buyout means the end of new and interesting improvements. Time will tell……

  14. Mark Allen

    I am a little disappointed that this doesn’t seem to be leveraging any of the innovative social stuff is doing. I want to see what my friends and people with similar tastes to me are listening to.

  15. Stu Stein

    Can you embed the CBS player into another website?I would think that would give them more distribution and more advertising dollars.

  16. Steve

    OK–So I’ll grant that this is novel. But by no means has CBS “nailed it.” Do you know what’s missing? Well, how about 96kBPS streaming on all their FM music stations? It continues to amaze me how independent “stations” like Radio Paradise can beam out 128K and even 196K streams, while major domo b-casters like CBS seem to struggle to put more than a few of its streams in the largest markets into the 96K realm. Clear Channel is even worse. Their streams are a disgrazia. Fix the sound, and I’ll grant you they’re closer.

  17. Chris_Rose

    Will the new CBS flash player work in iPhone or the new Blackberry Bold (9000)?

    1. fredwilson

      Not sure about blackberry but as of right now, iphone doesn’t support flash