- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Media Encounters LLC is developing plans for duplicating downtown Tulsa’s Radio IDL Internet radio station in multiple cities across the nation, all networked through its Tulsa headquarters.

“In five years I’d like to have the 77 largest cities in America,” station co-founder Shannon Moudy told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/1ore8A9). “There’s no reason why the five boroughs of New York City can’t have their own radio station.”

That marks just one of the several changes reshaping Media Encounters and its blues beacon. The ownership has changed, with Moudy and partner eLiz Hollis buying out former managing partner Harry Willis.

Nine-month-old Radio IDL has more than 1 million monthly listens and has climbed into the top 10 among the world’s 300-plus blues stations tracked by Live365.com. While 90-percent-plus of its audience remains Tulsa-bound, Hollis said respondents have checked in from the Ukraine, Africa, the United Kingdom, Japan and multiple South American nations, not to mention various U.S. and Canadian cities.

“Whether it ends up being global or it ends up being local, it still helps downtown Tulsa,” said Moudy, general manager of Radio IDL. “We have sister cities that are doing business with us.”

The 24-hour station has added four original shows and eight live broadcast hours each day. Its staff has grown to 10, half of those drawing salaries.

The station has expanded its Reunion Center office from one to four rooms. It plans to renovate its existing studio into a living room-styled sound booth, with a window looking into the neighboring engineering and sales room.

RadioIDL.com is adding video of the studio and live festivals it covers. This follows a video service Media Encounters offers through Gigity.TV, with a YouTube channel in development.

The blues station also is working on potential album releases of recordings at the station, and an annual awards program.

“Not just for their music, but also what they’re doing in the community,” Hollis said. “Musicians are asked to donate their time all the time.”

All this comes as revenues for the $30,000 startup reached the break-even point in February. Moudy said the station is channeling profits back into the operation.

Moudy sees all this as validation of the blues format.

“It’s still a young generation’s music,” he said. “As it grows, it starts absorbing other styles, because you have those musicians who start getting interested in it. From the techno kid into the hardest-core music you can play, he’s going to mix that into blues.”

Moudy also sees Radio IDL’s success as vindication of the Radio IDL business model, which uses five third-party accounting services to track and identify who’s listening to the station and where they’re from. That gives Radio IDL the same attraction to advertisers as Facebook and other targeting services.

“That’s why digital radio and the Internet are doing well,” he said. “Older media markets are struggling because of that. Sometimes we’re breaking that barrier because of that. We’re breaking our Internet radio barrier because we’re getting them the data they need.”

An April report by industry consultants BIA Kelsey projected continued growth for Internet radio and streaming services, rising from 11.7 percent of ad spending broadcast budgets this year to 21.3 percent by 2018. Local market spending will follow, rising from 21.3 percent of the pie to 27.6 percent by 2017.

Local content would set apart Media Encounters‘ planned network from other broadcasters. Moudy foresees each Media Encounters radio launch employing a local staff providing news, activities updates, and other content. They would share some operating systems with the Tulsa office, tapping the city’s extensive fiber connections.

“We will have a centralized technology and a decentralized staff,” he said.

Moudy, who developed the Radio IDL backbone, is working out expansion details with Hollis and their consultants. While costs could hit $160,000 or more for each station launch, Moudy said profitability would scale up through synergies in shared content, advertising contracts, and market reach.

“I don’t have to rebuild the technology,” he said. “I only have to rebuild the people. The technology stays here in Tulsa.”

Moudy said the ability to target individual markets and low overhead costs could even lead to Radio IDL spinoffs within Tulsa, focusing on such individual areas as Cherry Street or Broken Arrow’s Rose District.

“You literally can do it by building,” Hollis said.

Alongside the station launch negotiations, Hollis said Radio IDL is being approached for blues festival sponsorship in Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis; and other areas beyond its Tulsa base. It has accepted one role with an Arkansas festival, which Moudy said demonstrates the five-year growth plan.

“It just doesn’t make sense for us to not be there for those events that are happening,” Hollis said. “Our footprint is getting bigger and bigger.”

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Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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