Rob Farina Talks 1M Apps, Radio & iHeartRadio

Rob Farina


by David Farrell

Wednesday May 10, 2017

FYI caught up with Rob Farina in the over-sized lobby at the Sheraton downtown in Toronto during CMW. As ever, the radio executive is pumped. And why not, he’s surrounded by broadcasters, musicians and music biz brass and it seems as if they all want to talk to him.

Farina’s twin passions are broadcasting and renovating mid-century houses. In that order.

His ascendancy in his chosen profession has the trajectory of a hot stock, give or take a couple of missteps along the way.

He knows it but isn’t saying so because it hasn’t been announced when we talk, but his hiring at Bell Media, first as a consultant for the club house-sized iHeartRadio project, has been formalized and he’s now heading a file titled Content, Strategy and iHeartRadio and that includes overseeing the company’s successful Orbyt Media syndication-arm that covers the gamut of entertainment and news interests.

Over the years he’s worked for CHUM, Rogers, Astral, CTV and found the time to have his own (now mothballed) side-bar consultancy firm, Black Box Entertainment.

Farina’s focus today is all about iHeartRadio Canada and all of its tentacles.

The first thing he tells me he wants to be made absolutely clear is that the iHeartRadio platform is open to the competition.

Initially launched a little over a year ago with Bell Media’s top radio brands, plus a hundred or so music streaming channels, Farina proudly reports that the app has now been downloaded by a million listeners in its first seven months of availability. It’s a significant number, and he’s not afraid to crow about it.

But to the competition: “I think there has been this notion in the industry that the choices were either (competitor) Radioplayer Canada or iHeartRadio and I want to make it abundantly clear that we have no problem with radio stations being on both.

“As a radio station owner, I would think you would want to be available to be heard wherever possible. If anything, iHeartRadio is a different proposition.”

Key amongst the differences is that Bell Media’s iHeartRadio has been quick to broaden its scope so it can now run across a staggeringly large 120 platforms embracing mobile, home, automotive and wearables.

It means one can stream using Chromecast, DirecTV, Echo, Nexus, Xbox, Apple CarPlay, most of the proprietary big car company in-dash systems, Bose, Pebble, Android Wear, Samsung Gear 2 and Apple Watch.

Make no mistake, the tech development needed to connect across these very different proprietary delivery systems is no milk run and cost a bundle in developer man-hour dollars.

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