Can Free Streaming Work? Global’s DAX Is Now Slacker Radio’s Exclusive Audio Advertising Partner

Digital Audio Exchange (DAX) chief revenue officer DAX Jeff McCarthy (l) and CEO Matt Cutair.
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Digital Audio Exchange (DAX) chief revenue officer DAX Jeff McCarthy (l) and CEO Matt Cutair.
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Digital Audio Exchange (DAX) chief revenue officer Jeff McCarthy (l) and CEO Matt Cutair (r).

Global-owned DAX has just scored an exclusive deal with Slacker Radio. But how well can they monetize it?

Ad-supported audio has always been a soggy revenue source.  But smarter ad technologies and approaches — across all forms of media — could be turning that reality around.

Just this morning, Slacker Radio outsourced its US-based audio advertising needs to Digital Audio Exchange, or DAX.  Slacker was scooped by Nasdaq-traded LiveXLive Media for $50 million in 2017.

As part of the deal, DAX will spearhead ad sales and fulfillment across Slacker’s considerable collection of several hundred stations. In total, Slacker counts a unique monthly listener base of 1.2 million.

Slacker’s ‘dial’ includes a large number of different music genres, as well as news, sports, and talk shows.  So this is partly about music, but more broadly about non-interactive audio.

DAX itself is the result of an aggressive acquisition, also sealed in 2017.

Back in October of that year, the UK-based media and entertainment group finalized its purchase of AudioHQ to create ‘the world’s largest audio advertising platform’.  AudioHQ was subsumed into the growing DAX platform, which ultimately paved the way for deals like this one.

Global says it plans to marry its existing stable of advertiser relationships with Slacker’s reach.  If done smartly, that could seriously lift Slacker’s ad-supported revenue pot.  “The advertising-supported freemium tier of Slacker Radio is an important revenue source for the company and it’s a great value proposition for our subscribers and listeners,” Mike Bebel, EVP of Development and Rights Management for LiveXLive emailed DMN.

Matt Cutair, CEO of DAX and cofounder of AudioHQ, says the exclusive deal means more leeway to monetize.  “Now that we are their exclusive audio ad sales partner, advertisers will now be offered more unique and premium ways to engage with their dedicated audience,” Cutair explained.

That could mean more cash for Slacker, though the bigger challenge seems to be growing listeners.

Of course, 1.2 million uniques isn’t something to sneeze at — unless you’re sitting over at Pandora or its new parent, Sirius XM.  But others are also boasting far bigger audiences, including TuneIn Radio, streaming versions of terrestrial station giants, and emerging channels like Apple-financed Beats 1 Radio.

Broaden the circle to include podcasting, and the competition for audio attention is getting fierce.

Then again, that good news and bad news.  Podcast’s surging growth means more people are engaging with audio-based entertainment, though plateauing growth on platforms like Pandora could signal some saturation on non-interactive radio streams.