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Astral to launch mobile apps for radio Add to ...

Mobile phone users in Canada will soon have an app for their virgin ears.

Astral Media Inc. - which broadcasts the Virgin Radio format in five Canadian cities along with a host of other stations across the country - announced on Monday that it will soon launch mobile applications for each of its 83 radio stations.

The apps will be available on iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices, as well as the iPad and iPod. They will feature a live stream of any Astral-owned radio station, as well as on-demand content specific to each station, such as podcasts, new music and recordings of private performances.

"A disproportionate amount of the population uses radio regularly, and that gives us a great ability to mobilize people around adoption of new platforms," said Rob Farina, Astral Radio's vice-president of content and platforms.

With the launch, Astral goes up against competitors Corus Entertainment Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., which have both been expanding into the mobile space.

Rogers' all-news station 680 News is available on BlackBerry and iPhone, and in May, 2010, the company launched a Rogers Radio app for the iPhone, with access to content from its 52 stations.

Corus launched its Corus Radio app in February, 2009, which offers live streams of its 52 stations for all major mobile platforms.

The Corus app has had more than 400,000 downloads across devices so far, according to the company.

Mobile applications offer radio advertisers more exposure for the ad spots they buy on air with each station; and also offer companies the option of selling mobile banner ads within the application. Corus already does this; and Astral will beginning mobile ad sales once all 83 apps are launched. They will be made available starting in January and should all be launched by March.

"We have to find ways to generate revenue from each platform, and it's still early days for mobile on radio," said Corus vice-president of interactive and emerging platforms, David Huszar. "We've had some advertisers having good success with it … but I think the model, there's no question that it's in development."

Corus also plans to expand its presence in the mobile space, and soon intends to launch its second app, formatted specifically to its news-talk stations.

For its part, Astral's stations are mostly on a music format, and the company will be working on deals with artists to make new music available on a first-listen basis for its app users, as well as allowing users to vote on new music they hear through the app to determine which artists will be heard on-air.

"We really feel it's a giant leap in the reinvention of radio; and how we interact with our audience," Mr. Farina said.

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