Krantz is digital one at Westwood

5:00 AM PST 03/29/2007 by Paul Bond

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Gary Krantz was president of Air America Radio and was a top executive with Premiere Radio Networks and AMFM. In September, Westwood One, provider of 150 news, sports, music and talk radio programs to stations nationwide, made Krantz its chief digital officer, a new position at the company. He spoke to The Hollywood Reporter West Coast business editor Paul Bond.

THR: When your position was created six months ago, CEO Peter Kosann said it was time for Westwood One's digital portfolio to shift from the developmental stage to execution. What took so long?

Krantz: (Laughs) We've moved ahead in two specific areas. One, online branding through Web sites we built for our own programs and partnership content, like CNN and Notre Dame football. Second, the syndication of our content to other media sites. One product is Real Traffic, another is Metro Web News.

THR: What successes have you had since joining?

Krantz: What we call our "destination sites initiative." When I got here, we had just four sites, and we now have more than a dozen, including DennisMillerRadio.com and a co-branded CNN radio site, which will be the only place you can hear Larry King online.

THR: Speaking of the new Dennis Miller radio show, what's the buzz?

Krantz: It is one of the most successful launches of a daily talk show. We have seven of the top 10 markets and over 80 affiliates. It simultaneously launched on terrestrial radio and online.

THR: How will radio content companies make money online?

Krantz: The process is to build it, then begin the distribution process on the syndication side. For instance, Real Traffic. That product now is being used on 141 media sites.

THR: On the Internet, is the big opportunity advertising or something else?

Krantz: The primary opportunity is online advertising -- banners as well as streaming. We're now streaming several of our live talk shows, including Loveline, Jim Bohannon, Dennis Miller, Larry King. I see us catching the wind at a time when Internet radio associated with traditional broadcasters is outpacing Internet-only stations.

THR: Besides the Internet, what does a radio chief digital officer occupy his time with?

Krantz: We're about to announce several partnerships with content providers, like CNN. We're about to announce a mobile deal for our top-tier talk shows. We have a deal with MSnap to provide text messaging solutions for advertisers.

THR: What's your most popular Web site?

Krantz: Probably Loveline. But we also are involved with Bill O'Reilly's Web site, and we're focusing on the WestwoodOne.com home page, making it extremely relevant as an entertainment and news portal.

THR: Should satellite radio companies XM and Sirius be allowed to merge?

Krantz: Both services have done a good job of creating a wide diversity of content that didn't exist on traditional radio. If there's a clear benefit to the consumer, they should. But I also believe in healthy competition and the power of many. It's a huge topic to be played out over several months. Westwood One is a pure-play content company that works with almost all the radio stations in America and both satellite companies. We're distribution agnostic, although our core still remains with traditional radio stations.

THR: What are you planning, digitally speaking, in the near future?

Krantz: We're about to launch Metro Web News, which is an online news service. We already have agreements with 150 sites, primarily radio sites, to provide up-to-the-minute online news including text, audio, photos, thumbnail video etc. It's a service that's perfect for Westwood One because we've been in the business of providing this kind of content to terrestrial operators for decades. (launches April 15).

THR: You haven't mentioned podcasts and HD Radio.

Krantz: We're involved dynamically in both areas. Almost all of Westwood One's programming available online is available for podcast(s) that people subscribe to at the WestwoodOne.com home page or at individual Web sites or iTunes.

THR: Are podcasts generating revenue?

Krantz: We're beginning that process now through advertising. And on certain sites, we plan a premium service, like with Dennis Miller.

THR: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you: What went wrong at Air America?

Krantz: Nothing. They're still thriving and on the air with new owners, broadcasting 19 hours a day, seven days a week. It's an idea that is still extremely relevant and needs continual support financially, and it looks like they've done that.

THR: Was it easier to sell ads at Air America or Westwood One?

Krantz: Over 6,000 media affiliates receive Westwood One programming in one shape or form, be it a traffic or news report, live play-by-play at the NCAA Final Four, backstage at the Grammys or talk programming. So it's a much wider palette to choose from when going to an advertiser. Air America, by nature, has a very specific point of view, and there are certain advertisers who are leery of controversial programming, as it was labeled. But there were also other advertisers who weren't in network radio who came to Air America and provided incremental network dollars that mainstream networks would not enjoy, like the ACLU, People for the American Way and green-oriented companies, etc.

THR: I asked you about your successes. Any failures?

Krantz: Fortunately we haven't seen any yet. Peter was right about the evolution of the digital strategy being a key area of growth for the company, and we're uniquely positioned because of the diversity of our content and infrastructure of producers, writers, engineers and ad and distribution executives. And that's without even getting into our history. We have a news archive that goes back to the '30s and an archive of live concerts and radio shows back to the '70s.

THR: How do you monetize a radio archive dating back to the '30s?

Krantz: There are a variety of business models we're exploring, but it's too early to share.

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