Brian Lakamp, Clear Channel's president of digital, fully understands the irony of a radio company hawking its in-car apps at CES. "We're already in every car," he said from Ford's booth in the South Hall, where Clear Channel's IHeartRadio was a featured partner of Ford's new Sync AppLink system. "But we're adding a new mode of connectivity to the experience, and are excited to bring our customized app into the car."
In addition to Ford, IHeartRadio has existing deals with Toyota and Chrysler in the automotive sector. It's also venturing into TV and gaming, with recent announcements with Vizio TV and Microsoft Kinect. What's unique about the new Sync AppLink is voice activation, allowing drivers to access their favorite stations with simple commands like "local stations," "my stations" or even individual call letters. The feature will be available in all 2012 Ford Fiesta, Fusion, Fusion Hybrid, F150, Mustang, Expedition, E-Series, Super Duty, Shelby GT500 and SVT Raptor vehicles.
Music-service distribution has become something of an arms race at CES in recent years, particularly as major players like Pandora and Mog continue to be featured in more automakers' dashboard systems and after-market manufacturers' products. But can they really move the needle on the companies' user base? Mog has yet to disclose any subscriber figures, but told Billboard Tuesday that the service has seen monumental growth since its Facebook integration launched in September. IHeartRadio, which relaunched with a major music festival in September, has seen a boost of over 2 million new registered users since the new app debuted, with over 47 million downloads in total to date. "We want to be everywhere our listeners are," Lakamp said.