TuneIn, the site best known for streaming thousands of radio stations online, is angling to become the one-stop shop for everything you feed into your ears.
The company on Tuesday added an $8-a-month subscription that unlocks a variety of new perks: It removes the audio ads from 600 radio stations, streams audio play-by-plays from Major League Baseball and from Premier League soccer, and opens up aisles of audiobooks.
Online music listeners are hearing radio with fresh ears following Apple's launch of Beats 1, a global online radio service. As the vogue in music has shifted to online streaming of songs, services like Spotify and Pandora offer music playlists and channels tailored to an individual's taste. But the format of traditional radio, which has DJs chattering and broadcasting the same thing to everyone, endures in popularity. Ratings firm Nielsen this year found radio reaches 93 percent of US adults every week, compared with smartphones' reach of 70 percent.
"Apple hasn't invented radio, but they have identified what was special about it to so many people," TuneIn Chief Executive John Donham said. "There's something compelling that happens when somebody is talking to you, it moves from an on-demand experience to a social one."
TuneIn Premium removes the element people dislike most about traditional radio: all the commercials.
Radio stations that stream with TuneIn already have devices in place to swap their ads on the regular broadcast with digital ads for the online one. TuneIn's commercial-free feature simply helps the programmer play a song the same length as the ad break instead.
The freedom from commercials will set TuneIn apart from other major sites for radio online. iHeart Radio streams radio stations, with their ads, owned by the biggest terrestrial radio company in the US, iHeart Media -- formerly Clear Channel. (TuneIn has 60 million active users every month, compared to iHeart, which has 87 million unique visitors monthly.) Online music service Rdio this month introduced live stations from its partner Cumulus, the second biggest operator of AM and FM stations in the US, but the streams from those channels include commercials.
The TuneIn subscription also aims to appeal to people whose listening entertainment is more than music. It adds high-demand sports broadcasting like Major League Baseball and Premier League matchups for English football, and opens a library with unlimited access to 40,000 audio books.
For Major League Baseball, subscribers can listen to home and away feeds for every game. All TuneIn listeners, both paid and free, can follow their personal MLB allegiances on team-specific radio stations and hear programs like MLB Fantasy 411 and official MLB podcasts. For soccer, paid subscribers in the US and Canada can hear more than 1,000 play-by-play Premier League events per season and additional access to English-language coverage of German league Bundesliga and live play-by play-coverage for all Bundesliga matches in German.
In audiobooks, subscribers have unlimited access to a library from publishers like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Scholastic, including the "Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter" series. Subscribers will also have access to 16 different language-learning programs.
Audible, an audio book company owned by retail giant Amazon, charges about $15 for access to one book a month, with a 30 percent discount on additional titles. At 40,000 books, TuneIn's library is smaller, but you pay less and have unlimited access to any item.
TuneIn Premium is $8 in the US, 9 Canadian dollars in Canada and 5.99 pounds in the UK. The company plans to roll out to additional countries.