Clear Channel swipes at Pandora with iheart revamp

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? Radio station giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. is revamping its website and mobile products to imitate the personalized music offerings at Pandora, an online service that is growing in popularity.

Bob Pittman, chairman of media and entertainment platforms for Clear Channel, said the success of Pandora Media Inc. proves that people like being able to stream songs according to their personal tastes on mobile devices.

Clear Channel plans to add a similar feature over the coming months to its website and mobile application, called iheartradio. The products allow listeners to hear the feeds of stations outside their market and to certain channels that stream music along specific genres.

With the new offering, Pandora gets a strong competitor. Clear Channel, which operates more than 850 radio stations nationwide, said its service will be able to offer listeners access to more songs than Pandora can.

Clear Channel is kicking off the new service with a star-studded two-day concert in Las Vegas on Sept. 23 and 24 featuring acts including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Lopez.

Clear Channel will have one advantage over Pandora: It won’t need to make money from this new service.

Pittman said the new service will be considered successful if it helps reach audiences in different ways.

“To us it doesn’t matter if it ever succeeds as a business,” Pittman said in an interview. “We only have to have it succeed as a feature.”

Pandora went public with an initial offering of stock last month, but its stock price has seesawed as euphoria among Internet investors gave way to the reality that its ad revenue has not grown fast enough to cover the royalties that it pays to play music. Pandora’s stock closed at $19.26 on Monday, about 19 percent above its initial public offering price.

Pandora adopted its current name in 2005 when it morphed into a new type of radio station that streams music over the Internet. What makes Pandora different from broadcast radio is that it can employ computer formulas to learn each of its individual listeners’ tastes in order to create personalized song lists.

Pandora has said it has about 94 million registered users and more than 30 million listeners a month.

Pittman said Clear Channel isn’t far behind, with about 27 million monthly online visitors, although that figure includes visitors of radio station websites and those who listen to the iheartradio application. Clear Channel, a privately held company that had $5.9 billion in revenue last year, reaches 237 million listeners over traditional radio airwaves every month.

Pittman said that the new iheartradio app will have access to 10 million tracks, millions more than Pandora, and will run without ads for the rest of the year. The company is also offering freebie concert packages to listeners to build buzz around the relaunch.

It will be available on the Web at and on various devices, including the iPhone, BlackBerry and devices running Google’s Android software. Clear Channel acquired streaming music company Thumbplay in March and used its technology as the basis for the new customized radio feature.