TORONTO – Another global music brand is headed to Canada this year as Bell Media locks in a partnership with U.S. entertainment broadcaster iHeartMedia.
The Montreal-based telecommunications company said Wednesday that it’s pairing with iHeartRadio, the digital music wing of the larger media company, to start a free streaming music service that will compete with the likes of Apple Music, Spotify and Stingray Music.
The early summer launch will connect Bell’s terrestrial radio stations to an iHeartRadio app that listeners can access on a wide range of devices such as smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and automotive entertainment systems.
It will also replace the company’s existing Bell Media radio app that’s available on a number of devices.
Once operating, the iHeartRadio platform will ensure Bell’s 106 licensed radio stations across Canada remain easily accessible as listeners change the way they play their music.
Over the past few years, the options for streaming music online have ballooned as an onslaught of technology companies unveiled services that rivalled the established players in terrestrial radio as well as satellite operator SiriusXM.
Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media’s entertainment production and broadcasting operations, said Bell wanted to get ahead of technological shifts, particularly with automakers installing entertainment systems in vehicles that connect to the Internet and easily link up with streaming services.
He said adopting the iHeartRadio brand in Canada will give Bell a more recognizable face with U.S. technology companies who could potentially offer the platform in their vehicles, for example.
“We wanted to attach our cart to their horse, so to speak,” he said.
“It’s prudent for us to recognize that many of these consumer electronics and all of the car manufacturers are located primarily in the U.S. and it’s much better to be positioned as a Canadian portion of a North American presentation.”
The iHeartRadio Internet platform is a relatively new business launched in the United States in 2011 as part of iHeartMedia — a powerhouse of U.S. terrestrial radio formed when Clear Channel Communications changed its name.
Canada will become the fourth national market for iHeartRadio, after the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Once the iHeartRadio platform rolls out, Bell plans to offer exclusive video content and access to footage from live events, like its MuchMusic Video Awards show.
iHeartRadio hosts its own music awards show in the U.S., which aired for two years on NBC but will instead be simulcast on smaller Turner-owned channels TBS, TNT & TruTV this April.
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