Radionomy takes a giant leap for online radio


Brussels-based Radionomy acquires assets from AOL in a multi-million euro deal that puts it at the forefront of the internet radio revolution

7,000 stations at your fingertips

He’s a former bookkeeper and aspiring DJ, and he’s done something no one has before – taken the lead in a segment of online media away from the Americans. Alexandre Saboundjian is the founder and CEO of Radionomy, which this year became the world leader in internet radio.

Internet radio is like regular radio except that the media is not carried on the airwaves, but on the internet. That gives it two huge advantages: No radio frequencies, thus no limit to the number of stations available, and automatically international.

As a result, it’s open to all. And because of that, it’s at least as diverse and varied as wireless radio ever was. On the Radionomy website, you can choose from categories, like blues, classic, country, jazz, metal, etc. Each category contains sub-categories, and each sub-category contains dozens of stations. Currently, about 7,000 stations from around the world are available through the site.

Streaming your station through Radionomy is free, but there are some conditions. Each station is limited to a library of 80,000 licensed works – music and other content. On top of that, stations can programme 5,000 tracks made in their own studios.

Radionomy, based in the Brussels district of Anderlecht between the Brussels-Charleroi canal and the remains of the Senne river, offers nine months of broadcasting for free to stations, after which the station needs to reach an average audience of 130 streaming hours a day to stay on the free programme.

For four minutes every  hour, Radionomy runs advertising. Station managers get a cut of the revenue, and the company claims incomes can reach as high as €5,000 a month. 

High-value talks

Radionomy’s leap to the forefront of online radio came in January, when the company acquired two assets from AOL, the internet pioneer and media giant that bought Time Warner and now owns properties like the Huffington Post. Radionomy bought Shoutcast – software for media streaming online, which brought with it another 55,000 internet radio stations – and Winmap, a media player for desktops and Android phones. 

The world market for radio advertising is worth about €11 billion

- Alexandre Saboundjian

Winamp was launched in 1997, retaining a huge following of fans who were distraught when AOL announced last November that it was shutting it down. “We got information in November that Microsoft was in talks with AOL to buy Winamp and Shoutcast, and so we decided to see if there was still a window to allow us to talk to AOL,” Saboundjian tells me. “We explained who we are and what the plan would be if we were to bring those two pieces into our company. In 10 days, AOL decided to go forward with us.”

The companies did not release the details of the deal, but insiders put the price of the transaction at between $5 and $10 million (€3.6 and €7.3 million). AOL paid an estimated $80 million (€58 million) for the two properties back in 1999. The money for the acquisition came in part from venture capitalists Union Square Venture and Bain Capital, as well as the US television network CBS. AOL retains a 12% stake in the two properties.

The deal moves Saboundjian’s company to the first rank in internet radio. The acquisition of Shoutcast came soon after Radionomy’s merger at the end of last year with TargetSpot, a company specialising in online audio advertising. Radionomy now owns about one in every two online radio channels in the world. “The world market for radio advertising is worth about €11 billion,” Saboundjian says. “Last year about €728 million of that went to online radio. One hundred percent of the radio public will move to online sooner or later. The question is simply whether that takes five, 10 or 20 years to happen.”

It was Shoutcast, which comes with its own streaming technology, that was the main attraction in pushing Saboundjian to seek talks with AOL, but the eyes of the faithful users of Winamp will be on what becomes of the application now that Radionomy has vowed to keep it alive.

A strong community

“Some people might think it’s an old product, a dead product,” Saboundjian said. “It’s not. There are still a lot of radio listeners. The goal now is to create a new version by the end of this year, here in Brussels.

"I think nowadays users are looking for software you can have on your computer, on your mobile phone and in the car in the future, so we will redesign with that in mind. I’m convinced there is still room for new features in a player. Winamp is well-positioned to meet the needs of the future, and gain back its leading role.”

Saboundjian was surprised, he said, to discover how much love there still is for Winamp, with three million downloads a month worldwide. “There was no special innovation in the last two years, but it is still a very strong community and appreciated by users,” he says.

Radionomy, says Saboundjian, has a dedicated team working on development of the app, while retaining including the features users have come to expect: playback for 60 audio and video formats, 6,000 add-ons, including skins and plug-ins, coverage in 16 languages and, of course, access to the more than 60,000 internet radio stations Radionomy-Shoutcast now provides.

Photo courtesy Radionomy

Brussels-based Radionomy takes a giant leap for online radio with purchase of AOL assets

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