Internet investment

Clear Channel ramps up Web musicvideos

The nation’s biggest radio company is taking on video.

Clear Channel Communications is planning to roll out on-demand musicvideos on its Web sites in a bid to capture a greater share of online advertising.

The first group of 16 stations will begin offering the service today in a variety of formats in the conglom’s top markets: New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis.

The program will be expanded in the coming weeks. Of Clear Channel’s 1,200 stations, 450 have a presence on the Web.

Programming directors of each station will select from thousands of video titles licensed from Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and a third major to be announced shortly.

Viewers will be asked to watch a 15-second online ad spot before the video starts to play.

“It’s all about creating complementary programming to the on-air experience,” said Clear Channel Radio exec VP Evan Harrison. “To date, if our listeners wanted to watch videos on demand, they had to go elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere,” in this case, usually meant Yahoo! or AOL, where musicvids are among the most popular offerings.

The music made available to the service will span all major genres of popular music.

Each station will host videos that suit its genre, be it pop, urban, rock or country. Clear Channel will operate the back-office technology that collects royalties to distribute to the labels.

Free on-demand videos is the latest online initiative for Clear Channel, which is attempting to innovate its way out of a declining ad market and slipping radio listenership.

Radio spots have been pushed way down the food chain on Madison Avenue as the business moves to more targeted media and to the Web.

While radio audiences have remained flat, time spent listening has dropped more than 10% in the last seven years, according to Arbitron. Analysts attribute the dropoff to advertising clutter and competition from iPods, satellite radio and other entertainment diversions.

In a bid to reduce clutter, Clear Channel introduced its “Less Is More” initiative last year to decrease the length and frequency of spots. The jury is still out on its effect on listeners.

Company is looking to turn its online sites into ad profit centers.

Last year, it cleaned up the busy sites, introduced podcasts at 70 of its 1,200 stations, and began a video series called “Stripped,” which are videos of in-studio performances.

Clear Channel Web sites received an average of 9 million visitors per month during 2005.

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