January 21, 2016 / 2:04 PM / 2 years ago

Digital music service iHeartRadio reaches 80 million registered users

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - IHeartRadio, the digital music service for a network of traditional radio stations, announced on Thursday it had more than 80 million registered users in the intensifying fight to court listeners online.

While many traditional media companies have seen their businesses upended by the Internet, radio still has vast reach, with more than 90 percent of adults in the United States tuning in weekly, according to recent Nielsen research.

That allows iHeartMedia Inc , which launched iHeartRadio in September 2011, to build its digital brand from a position of strength, said Ted Cohen, a former music executive who is now managing partner of TAG Strategic, a digital entertainment consultancy.

“Their ability to live in the physical world and the digital world at the same time is pretty unique,” he said.

IHeartRadio, whose parent company iHeartMedia was formerly known as Clear Channel, allows users to access radio stations across the United States, create custom stations and listen to podcasts, among other features.

IHeartMedia owns 858 domestic radio stations in more than 150 U.S. markets.

Unlike services such as Spotify and Apple Music, iHeartRadio does not allow users to listen to particular songs on demand.

Listeners may use some of iHeartRadio’s features without registering, meaning the 80 million figure does not capture the platform’s full reach, said Owen Grover, iHeartRadio’s senior vice president and general manager.

User engagement, not just registered users, is the key measure to watch, analysts say, with many listeners dropping off in a crowded marketplace.

IHeartRadio has seen double-digit growth in both the number of active users and the amount of time users spend listening over the past year, Grover said, although he did not provide specific figures.

Rival online radio station Pandora has 78 million active monthly users, a spokesman said. The company does not disclose the number of registered users.

While iHeartRadio has managed the digital transition well so far, it must keep innovating to satisfy young listeners who do not have the same attachment to radio, said Jay Samit, a former music executive.

“They want to listen to what they want, when they want, where they want, on the device of their choice,” he said.

Toward that end, iHeartRadio has partnered widely, with programs available on 80 device platforms, ranging from Apple TV to the Mercedes-Benz auto dashboard system.

Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Lisa Shumaker

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