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The Metaverse Is Coming. What’s It Mean For Radio?

The metaverse has become the top buzzword of 2022, as advertisers and media companies look for their place in virtual reality worlds and immersive environments. Yesterday iHeartMedia said it will create events and experiences for music fans on the Roblox gaming platform to build an on-ramp to the metaverse for its 250 million users. Meanwhile, Audacy Chief Revenue Officer Brian Benedik, who recently worked at augmented reality startup Niantic, says how audio is consumed will evolve in the metaverse.

San Francisco game developer Niantic makes the wildly popular Pokémon Go mobile game in partnership with Nintendo and the Pokémon Co. Benedik spent just over a year there as Senior VP of Global Revenue after leaving Spotify and before joining Audacy last month. With the arrival of 5G and tech advancements in headwear and glasses, he says the metaverse isn’t some conceptual pipedream that’s years away. “It's real and it's coming,” he told the audience at last week’s Digital Hollywood CES online conference. “Brands are really thinking about how they participate in that. Let's face it, brands and marketers gravitate towards what consumers are doing. And as this headwear starts to hit the market this year, we're going to see some experimentation there.”

From an audio perspective, Benedik believes the metaverse opens up new opportunities for consumption. “We're keeping a close eye on it,” he told Digital Hollywood CES. “When you think about where audio has been, from listening to your radio to smart speakers, airpods and all these different ways on the go that you can consume audio – that's going to evolve in the metaverse.”

Benedik went on to say that headwear manufacturers are interested in talking to audio platforms “to power the audio experience. We've got a lot of interest from the metaverse tech companies to talk,” he said.

Bob Pittman, CEO of iHeartMedia, sees an opportunity to educate the audio giant’s millions of users about the metaverse and web3 to create the demand necessary to bring new platforms to the mass market.

“Although there are a number of great new products for the metaverse and web3 from a wide array of creators, with our unparalleled audience reach, multiple platforms, and our trusted broadcast and podcast hosts, iHeartMedia is uniquely positioned to build the consumer awareness, understanding and demand necessary for those new products and platforms from both us and others to succeed,” said Pittman in the announcement. “We see this as a unique opportunity to serve our listeners’ needs, provide an important new layer of growth for the company, and help develop the advertising and consumer potential for the metaverse and web3.”

So what exactly is iHeart planning to do in this brave new virtual world?The company says it will bring “immersive musical moments” to the 47 million daily active users on the Roblox platform. It also plans to build a new token that will incentivize and reward the iHeart creator community and give fans unique access to offerings across its multiple platforms. This includes a series of collectible non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are unique and non-interchangeable units of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger. It first delved into the exploding NFT world last fall when it launched iHeartRadio Music Festival NFTs in partnership with Green NFT platform OneOf.

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