Clear Channel Radio is launching a new streaming digital radio station presenting music from its catalog of live performances, with exclusive sponsorship by Visa Signature. The deal represents another step forward both in content offerings and ad support for online radio, which has blossomed as big radio companies bleed.
The new "Stripped" channel is hosted on IHeartRadio.com, Clear Channel Radio's national music portal, which also allows visitors to navigate to hundreds of Clear Channel Radio station Web sites. The "Stripped" series, filmed in a special club-like studio built by Clear Channel, has tallied live performances by over 125 high-profile artists, including Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Bon Jovi, and John Mayer.
The weekly series launched in 2005 as part of Clear Channel's push to create and distribute more original content via the Web. Individual episodes are also available on demand.
Visa Signature's sponsorship is integrated into the launch of the new channel in a number of ways, including a Visa "take-over" of the online player and on-air endorsements. The Visa Signature brand also appears as the exclusive sponsor of various digital platforms, taking over the IHeartRadio application for the iPhone and BlackBerry as well as the "Stripped" widget.
Under the leadership of Evan Harrison, president of Clear Channel Radio's digital division, the broadcaster has mounted a sustained push to build digital content offerings and online ad revenues. Earlier this year, it announced the rollout of a new Flash-based digital player for all its online properties; a new structure to encourage navigation between these properties, increasing overall "stickiness"; improved ad-serving capabilities that allow advertisers to "follow" consumers; more preference-mapping to refine content offerings for individual consumers; and new mobile apps.
For Clear Channel, investing in digital seems to be paying off.
While the company is typically secretive about revenue data for specific divisions, especially now that it's owned by private equity, an industry watcher familiar with the business estimated that the digital operation's revenues cleared $175 million in 2008. That's still a relatively small proportion (about 5%) of total revenues, but higher than the industry average, which per the Radio Advertising Bureau was 3% in the second quarter.