Industry News

C’mon Everybody: Let’s View TEGNA’s Twist

Radio+Television Business Report - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 10:30

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Until now, the Northern Virginia-based broadcast TV station owner once known as Gannett has been largely known for owned-and-operated stations including the CBS affiliate serving the Nation’s Capital and two digital multicast networks.

Now, True Crime Network and Quest are getting a sibling. And, it’s putting its focus on women — and perhaps LGBT audiences, too.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Is TEGNA too shy with who this new multicast network is really appealing to? C’mon, TEGNA — get out of the closet and say this offering is for the LGTBQ crowd. The name alone suggests it. [More below, for Members Only].

 

TEGNA Inc. this spring will officially launch its third multicast network.

Welcome to Twist, which TEGNA describes as “a women-oriented channel featuring lifestyle and reality programming.”

Initially, Twist will include home, food, and reality content, “much of it featuring exciting reveals – or twists – at the end of each show.”

Programming will be comprised of unscripted TV programs including Clean House, Top Chef Masters, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Dance Moms, Tabatha Takes Over, Tiny House Nation, and Flipping Out.

In a regular feature on the network, Twist will encourage viewers to submit their own videos of twists they’ve been thrown in life and how they persevered through them in a positive segment called “Share Your Twist.”

Brian Weiss, President/GM of TEGNA’s multicast networks, commented, “Twist will provide an exciting new viewing option for our female audience with content that has not been available through a multicast channel until now. The launch of Twist will enhance TEGNA’s leadership among non-fiction multicast networks, delivering the kinds of free content that over-the-air viewers crave.”

Carriage will be seen in 41 TEGNA markets. And, to bring it to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, a newly reconstituted Univision Communications has agreed to add it as a digital multicast offering. Seven other Univision markets have committed to Twist.

Even more, Twist will be added to 31 stations presently owned by HC2 Broadcasting.

These arrangements will bring Twist to DMAs covering 70% of U.S. television households.

And, additional distribution agreements are expected to be announced by summer, TEGNA says.

A preview reel can be seen at www.watchtwist.com.

— Editing by Adam Jacobson, in Boca Raton, Fla.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Is TEGNA too shy with who this new multicast network is really appealing to? C’mon, TEGNA — get out of the closet and say this offering is for the LGTBQ crowd. The name alone suggests it.

For a generation of LGTBQ adults, Twist was a popular nightclub in the heart of Miami’s South Beach. And, some may recall its association with the “Men on Film” skit as seen on the FOX sketch comedy program In Living Color some 30 years ago.

Yes, some may believe it is stereotypical to simply assume Twist is LGTBQ friendly because of Queer Guy. But, all of this programming isn’t singularly enjoyed by women. And, given the disposable income and show preferences of the LGTBQ community, particularly among gay men, TEGNA could see bigger riches and, believe it or not, free promotion from any group that may protest its arrival.

Strictly catering to women is limiting and not exactly a slam dunk, revenue-wise. Just talk to Meredith Corp.’s national media leadership. By bringing a LGBTQ-friendly, if not laser-targeted, digital multicast network to life, TEGNA could only further bring over-the-air TV’s longevity story in a world where cord-cutting stories have been hijacked by deep pocketed AVOD, SVOD and OTT platforms in a place no different than podcasters were in 2018.

Be bold, TEGNA. Give viewers a new twist by fully realizing Twist’s audience potential. 

Categories: Industry News

Entercom’s EPS Miss A Blemish As Q4 Revenue Grows

Radio+Television Business Report - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 09:55

One of the nation’s largest audio media companies, with investments in podcasting and a growing streaming app, is rapidly recovering from not only COVID-19 fueled detriments to its revenue, but also from challenges largely associated with the November 2017 tax-free merger it successfully completed with CBS Radio.

Entercom Communications early Wednesday released its Q4 and full-year 2020 earnings report. While its revenue was down 22.8% year-over-year, it surpassed Wall Street estimates. Entercom’s earnings per share? That’s another story.

Entercom’s adjusted net income shriveled to $23.04 million (translating to a non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.17), from $53.38 million ($0.40).

Wall Street analysts expected non-GAAP EPS to come in at $0.18.

On a GAAP basis, Entercom’s EPS was negative, at -$1.21. That was far off from Street prognostications, as profit of $0.02 per share was forecast.

Total net revenue came in at $319.5 million, compared to $414.12 million in Q4 2019.

That said, year-over-year comps are being downplayed by the radio industry, which is intent on showing sequential quarterly improvements from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, those sequential improvements paint a positive picture for the owner of key Sports Talk properties as WFAN-AM & FM in New York and podcast players Cadence13 and Pineapple Street.

Total net revenue in Q2 2019 was $175.87 million, off from $380.67 million in the second quarter of 2020.

Of course, perspective is everything: Revenue was down 22.8% year-over-year in Q4. Revenue was down a steep 53.8% in Q2.

What was Entercom’s non-GAAP Station Operating Income (SOI)? In Q4 2020 it totaled $80.69 million, slipping from $129.66 million.

Then, there are the non-adjusted numbers, which show a diminished net loss in Q4 2020 of $162.4 million, from a net loss of $487.54 million in Q4 2019.

Lastly, Free Cash Flow, a largely important figure for the radio industry, came in at $37.97 million. While that’s down from Q4 2019’s FCF of $59.52 million, it’s a big swing from negative FCF of $47.87 million seen in Q2 2020.

POLITICAL PROWESS

The Q4 2020 results, while pointing to positive growth, are propelled by something that likely won’t be repeated for some time: incredibly strong political ad dollars.

Entercom in Q4 saw political revenue of $18.89 million — a record high that dwarfs Q4 2018’s revenue of $12.3 million.

Importantly, the record-crushing political didn’t diminish Entercom’s sequential improvements in spot revenue, or its network revenue.

Then, there is Entercom’s digital story. Not only has the company returned to growth, something finally seen in Q4 2019 after months of mediocre revenue trends, but it established a new division record in Q4 2020 — finishing at a mighty $58.8 million.

It’s extremely encouraging news for Entercom, which has invested heavily in its Radio.com streaming app and platform, inherited from the CBS Radio merger and completely rebooted.

The other interesting positive for Entercom: Sponsorship and event revenue isn’t totally comatose, with sequential gains pushing it to $9.6 million in Q4 from $7.24 million in Q2 2020. Year-over-year? That’s ugly, given the loss of holiday-themed live events Entercom would normally stage during the final three months of the year.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Entercom offered revenue by “format,” splitting its music stations from its Sports and News/Talk broadcast properties. The improvement in revenue on a sequential basis is most noticeable at its music stations.

EXPENSE CONTROL

Entercom’s C-Suite, ahead of its earnings call for investors and financial analysts, also pointed to a slash in station expenses in Q4 as a key factor in achieving revenue growth.

Station expenses for the fourth quarter declined 16% to $238.8 million year-over-year and corporate expenses declined 6% to $20.2 million.

The big black mark for Entercom in Q4: Operating loss for the quarter was $204.9 million, as this includes a non-cash impairment charge of $247.4 million. Yet, this compares to an operating loss of $455.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.

In prepared comments ahead of Entercom’s 10am Eastern quarterly earnings call, Entercom President/CEO David Field pointed to “strong sequential operating improvement,” with podcasting and sports betting contributing to across-the-board revenue growth.

“While the pandemic continues to hobble a large number of our advertisers, particularly locally, we are optimistic about a strong recovery in our local ad sales later this year driven by vaccinations, fiscal stimulus and pent-up consumer demand in heavily impacted categories,” he said.

In particular, Radio.com enjoyed 34% year-over-year growth in monthly active users in the fourth quarter and 53% growth in smart speaker listenership.

Categories: Industry News

More Choices Than Ever for Radio STL

Radio World - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 06:59

The author is senior solutions consultant for the Telos Alliance.

This article appeared in Radio World’s “Trends in Codecs and STLs for 2020” ebook.

Radio World reports there are more than 22,000 licensed radio stations in the United States. Of these, more than 15,000 are tallied by the traditional accounting of full-power AM and FM stations. Low-power FMs, translators and FM boosters add about 7,000 more.

The vast majority of these stations employ some kind of audio link from the studio or other origination point to the transmitter site. That’s a lot of studio-transmitter links.

Changing STL Technologies
What kind of STL was used by the first radio station where you worked? Forty years ago our main STL choices were these:

  1. Equalized program lines from your local phone company;
  2. Discrete (L/R) 950 MHz (band) TX/RX radios — one for mono, two for stereo;
  3. Multiplex (MPX) 950 MHz (band) TX/RX radios.

More choices arose during the 1980s — digital choices — such as the QEI CAT-LINK, which transported FM MPX over a T1 or E1 telco link, and Dolby’s 950 MHz STL transmitter/receiver pair. More audio data-reduction codecs allowed further choices in the 1990s, both in wired and wireless STL systems, including stereo and even multichannel digital STL systems.

[Check Out More of Radio World’s Ebooks Here]

Most of these used either T1/E1 telco circuits or worked in the 950 MHz band in the United States, and other UHF bands for other countries. The 21st century brought upgraded digital RF STLs as well as a variety of budget-priced analog composite systems.

By the end of the 20th century, both wired and wireless STL systems began having some serious challenges. Telcos became less interested in supplying equalized program circuits — so much so that most stopped accepting orders for new circuits. And, in major markets — often with clustered tower sites — the 950 MHz RF band had no room for additional users.

Today, it’s nearly impossible to even order new T1/E1 service, and observant engineers can easily see the deterioration of their telco’s outside wire plant.

In some markets, ISDN usage became “unlimited,” so a few broadcasters employed either dial-up or “nailed-up” ISDN service with ISDN codecs at each end. These days, ISDN service is withering and new connections are generally not available.

Despite the disappearance of old telco services and the congestion in some areas of the 950 MHz band, engineers actually have more STL choices than ever before.

The key to new STL options is internet protocol — IP. And the best news about IP is that it can be transported in more ways than you might think.

Let’s edit and append our list to delete nonviable options and add new options:

  1. Equalized program lines from your local phone company;
  2. Discrete (L/R) 950 MHz (band) TX/RX radios — one for mono, two for stereo;
  3. Multiplex (MPX) 950 MHz (band) TX/RX radios;
  4. ISDN codec (came and went over a 30 year period);
  5. T1/E1 link (unavailable for new installation and dying quickly);
  6. Digital, discrete (L/R) multichannel 950 MHz (band) TX/RX radios;
  7. Satellite delivery (L/R) using audio codecs;
  8. Discrete (L/R) audio using IP audio codecs with appropriate IP connectivity;
  9. Public internet;
  10. Fiber;
  11. Cable;

iii. DSL;

  1. 4G LTE carrier;
  2. Wireless ISP;
  3. Satellite;
  4. Managed, wired IP link;
  5. Private, wireless IP link;
  6. Linear, discrete (L/R) audio using AoIP (Livewire+, AES67) with appropriate IP connectivity;
  7. Managed, wired IP link;
  8. Private, wireless IP link;
  9. FM Multiplex (MPX) using µMPX bitrate-reduced multiplex technology (for FM);
  10. Public Internet;
  11. Fiber;
  12. Cable;

iii. DSL;

  1. 4G LTE carrier;
  2. Wireless ISP;
  3. Satellite;
  4. Managed, wired IP link;
  5. Private, wireless IP link;
  6. FM Multiplex (MPX) using linear multiplex technology (for FM);
  7. Managed, wired IP link;
  8. Private, wireless IP link.

That’s quite a list of options we have now. And, yes, several sub-items regarding IP transport are duplicated. However, that’s to make a point: As our society’s reliance on IP connectivity grows, so also grow our options to acquire and use it on a reliable and professional level.

Key Criteria
We engineers generally have three key criteria for our studio-transmitter links:

  1. We’re seeking at least five 9s of reliability. That translates to about 26 seconds per month or 5 minutes and 15 seconds of downtime over an entire year;
  2. Audio quality. Every moment of audio that we broadcast to the public will traverse our STL. There’s no room for any compromise here; it really must be perfect;
  3. We should consider both capital expense and operational expense (cap-ex and op-ex).

Let’s consider each of these three criteria, comparing traditional and IP-based STL systems.

Purpose-Engineered STL Systems
Purpose-built RF STL radio systems are generally considered to be reliable. They tend to work well 24/7/365 throughout their service life expectancy of perhaps 10 to 20 years. They tend to be thoughtfully engineered and well-built.

They should be, as some of these STL systems cost well over $15,000 for just the radios. Add-ons may include additional audio channels, ancillary data, serial transport, etc. Add to this the cost of antennas and coax cable for effective service at 950 MHz and a full-featured, purpose-built radio STL system can top out at $30,000 or more, plus tower crew installation. A full backup system will likely double that capex expense. The good news is that there is likely little or no continuing operation expense (op-ex), unless tower space and/or building rooftop rental is required for a given installation.

Lower-end RF STL radio systems can cost far less than the example above. A basic FM MPX STL radio pair can be purchased for under $4,000, though the antenna/coax/placement expenses would be similar to those above.

Audio quality of RF STL systems can range from “acceptable” to “pristine.” Purely analog RF STLs balance between wideband system noise and demodulated distortion. Any distortion of any type in the system will end up being demodulated at the STL receiver and retransmitted by the main FM signal. Traditional digital RF STL systems deliver crystal-clear audio with a very low noise floor. However, many of them are limited to about 15 kHz of top-end audio transport. The brick-wall filtering required is, indeed, audible on some of these systems when A/B compared to 20 kHz STL systems in which only the FM audio processor is doing pilot-protection filtering.

Finally, unless the digital RF STL offers linear audio transport, there will be some kind of psychoacoustic coding algorithm involved. And most likely the aggressive, multiband FM audio processor will follow this coded audio in the chain. The net effect is exaggeration of any coding artifacts in the station’s audio.

Some key benefits of 950 MHz RF STL systems are:

  • Robust, reliable operation;
  • Independence from third-party service providers;
  • Op-ex costs ranging from “reasonable” to zero;
  • Excellent expected equipment lifespan;
  • Digital systems that offer very clean audio with low noise.

Some downsides to 950 MHz RF STL systems include:

  • RF congestion that implies interference potential;
  • Lack of RF coordination, which continues to result in occasional problems;
  • Susceptibility to malicious interference;
  • Higher capex costs, potentially much higher;
  • One-way communication — no inherent return path;
  • Psychoacoustic coding algorithms producing artifacts that are exaggerated by aggressive audio processing;
  • Audio sampling (bit depth) likely only 16 bits.

Purpose-built wired STL systems typically depend on an incumbent telco provider for T1/E1 service or some other tariffed connection. These have had some assurance of reliability from the telco and, at least in the past, were given priority for clearing any faults. Indeed, before telcos became more interested in providing IP connections, such dedicated circuits as T1s and the like were considered very reliable, with “backhoe fade” being the most prominent risk. These days, anecdotal evidence suggests that T1 and similar services are no longer a priority for incumbent carriers.

Some key benefits of purpose-built, wired STL systems are:

  • Robust, reliable operation;
  • Immunity from malicious interference;
  • A variety of user-end connection options — audio, data, POTS extension, etc.;
  • Excellent expected equipment lifespan;
  • Two-way communication with optional equipment.

Some downsides of purpose-built, wired STL systems include:

  • Dependence upon telco service providers;
  • Poorly-maintained telco cable plant that portends more faults;
  • Higher capex costs, potentially much higher with optional add-ons;
  • Psychoacoustic coding algorithms producing artifacts that are exaggerated by aggressive audio processing;
  • Audio sampling (bit depth) likely only 16 bits.

Similar to digital RF STL systems, the audio is often brick-wall filtered at 15 kHz, with the attendant audible coloration of such filters. Also, psychoacoustic coding algorithms deteriorate the audio slightly, with exaggerated effect after the FM processing that follows.

IP-Based STL Systems
IP-based STL systems can be generally divided into two categories — linear and “coded.” Another disambiguation of IP-based STLs could be “wired” and “wireless.” However, we can also use wired and wireless IP transport methods at the same time, or with one backing up the other.

Linear IP STL systems will transport digital audio perfectly with the same 1s and 0s that go into such an STL being delivered to the far end. Twenty-four-bit, 48 kHz-sampled linear audio typically requires about 2.5 Mbps to transport. While this audio delivery is basically perfect, it typically depends on having zero packet loss. This zero-error scenario is often provided through redundant IP paths between the endpoints.

Coded systems will use some kind of coding algorithm to reduce the bitrate required for transport. The audio codecs in such STL systems are generally configurable from a wide range of bit rates, and perhaps even a selection of coding algorithms. Bitrates that are appropriate for broadcast audio range from about 128 kbps up to 756 kbps, depending on the chosen codec. Modern coding algorithms offer some “error concealment.” For example, the AAC family of algorithms claims inaudible error concealment with up to 20% of random packet loss.

Linear IP STL systems are particularly good for broadcasters in that they are absolutely transparent to the audio. Every sample of audio data from the studio arrives exactly the same at the transmitter site. The IP transport path must provide excellent packet delivery performance in a linear IP audio system. Indeed, a common approach to implementation is to simply extend the audio over IP network at the studio out to the transmitter site. With this approach we assume the AoIP audio channels we need at the transmitter already exist on the studio’s AoIP network. By providing a qualified IP path to the transmitter site, we can “subscribe” to the desired audio channel(s) from the studio.

One example of such a system is at Delta Radio in Greenville, Miss. The studio and rack room were fully Livewire AoIP already. A robust 5.8 GHz IP-radio link was established to the transmitter site, 13 miles away.

The only audio equipment required at the transmitter site, apart from the IP radio, is an Axia xNode. Four linear stereo channels are received there via the Axia xNode. For remote monitoring, there are four linear stereo return channels over the same IP connection. All this audio is 20 kHz in bandwidth, using 48 kHz digital sampling and 24 bits per sample. The aggregate data rate across the IP radio link is about 10 Mbps in each direction. A thorough explanation of this system, including IP radio performance considerations, is available in this article.

Other examples of IP-radio STL systems are becoming more and more commonplace, from stations in rural Australia and small Pacific islands to the largest radio markets in the U.S.

IP radios may be licensed or unlicensed, depending on the RF band selected for operation. While not an absolute guarantee against interference, licensed IP radio paths tend to be secure and free from such interference. An RF path and interference study is required as part of the licensing process. Unlicensed IP radio pairs are likely to work well in rural or uncongested areas, but careful consideration and backup planning are suggested for unlicensed operation in built-up urban locales.

Coded IP STL systems offer several advantages in terms of bandwidth requirements and recovery from packet loss. While a linear IP STL, as discussed above, needs a near-perfect IP transport path to work properly, a coded-based IP STL is less stringent. Codecs generally offer more packet buffering, error concealment and reordering of packets arriving out-of-order than a linear system. While audio codecs themselves will cost more than, say, a simple “node” AoIP endpoint, they offer more flexibility in their IP connection’s requirements. For example, using audio codecs at each end, one may install an IP radio link pretty much “out of the box” and have a working STL. One may also use public internet for either the main or backup link between codecs.

Another IP-based STL method has appeared in the past few years. It’s an FM MPX transport codec over IP. This is similar in connection to the audio chain as an MPX RF STL; the FM audio processor is placed at the studio, and the full MPX signal is carried to the transmitter site where it’s wired to the FM exciter directly. These MPX over IP systems also appear in both linear and coded varieties.

Linear MPX STLs require anywhere from 3 to 7 Mbps to faithfully sample and transport an FM processor’s MPX output. These systems may not offer any error correction but usually do offer connections for dual-path redundancy.

An interesting application of MPX-over-IP technology is to use one FM audio processor to feed identical audio to several FM transmitter sites. There’s no need for separate FM audio processors at each site.

More recently, an interesting and useful method has arrived for coding the FM MPX signal to transport it at a much lower bitrate.

The trade name is µMPX (or Micro-MPX). This proprietary method does not use psychoacoustic coding. Rather, it’s a novel application of mathematical data reduction that is well suited for the FM MPX signal. It is “well-suited” because artifacts of the µMPX algorithm tend to fall in time and frequency where they don’t affect the perceived audio. And, unlike psychoacoustic codecs, precise peak control is maintained through a µMPX STL system. The minimum bitrate for µMPX systems is 320 kbps, with a maximum of 576 kbps. The algorithm also offers dual IP path redundancy as well as forward error correction to rebuild occasional lost packets.

(Click here to enlarge.)

The IP transport(s) for µMPX can be Public Internet, IP radios, Wireless ISP, etc. or any combination of those.

Some key benefits of IP STL systems are:

  • Highest audio quality using 20 kHz (48 kHz/24-bit) linear audio;
  • Lower-performance IP connections can use coded audio;
  • It’s likely the lowest cost option, even with redundant IP path cost;
  • Robust, reliable operation with redundant IP paths;
  • Additional uses thanks to IP connectivity, e.g. monitoring, backup, disaster recovery, etc.;
  • Two-way communication inherent in IP connections and AoIP;
  • One-to-many distribution for single-frequency networks;
  • µMPX distribution that offers excellent MPX performance at modest bitrates.

Some downsides of IP STL systems include:

  • IT networking skills are needed for most robust configurations;
  • Where applicable, psychoacoustic coding algorithms result in artifacts which are exaggerated by aggressive audio processing (does not apply to linear configurations);
  • Ultimate reliability is based on having at least two IP paths for redundancy.

IP-based STL systems easily offer the most flexibility in terms of connection options. If a private, high-quality IP link, using enterprise-grade IP radios, for example, can be obtained, then two-way linear audio is the best option for perfect audio transport. That same high-quality IP connection can also be used for remote transmitter control, remote backup, disaster recovery options, security video surveillance, remote telephony and so much more. If only public internet or lesser-grade IP radio paths are available, then coded audio at the highest available bitrate makes sense.

In either case, having more than one IP path is truly important for redundancy. We know that packet loss and occasional outages from internet service providers can be a problem.

(Click here to enlarge.)

The transactional business world, as well as the worlds of social media and entertainment, are now dependent on IP connectivity. For broadcast engineers this widespread dependency implies competitive low cost and wide availability of IP transport. Moreover, this active marketplace of IP equipment and services is delivering flexible system solutions; redundant systems and connections; and generally better audio performance that we’ve heard before.

Wrapping It Up
Radio broadcasters truly have more options than ever for their studio-to-transmitter link technology. Traditional 950 MHz RF links work well enough in most situations. Analog systems do exhibit some noise, while digital 950 MHz links may be constrained by filters and less bit-depth, or by audio coding artifacts. IP-based solutions afford engineers more options, including the possibility of the most pristine linear audio link they’ve ever experienced.

The post More Choices Than Ever for Radio STL appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

The FCC Will Explore Internet EAS

Radio World - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 05:00
A phone displays a presidential emergency alert test message in 2018 in New York City. (Photo Illustration by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Congress wants the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to improve emergency alerting around the country. So that will be on the agenda when the commission meets in March.

Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC will consider new rules to keep the public informed. This will implement the READI Act, which was part of the federal government’s defense authorization legislation for fiscal 2021 (the bill on which Congress overruled a veto by President Trump in January).

The READI Act instructs the FCC to take several steps, most of them in consultation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Notably, it tells the commission to examine the feasibility of updating EAS to enable or improve alerts to consumers through the internet, including through streaming services, and to report about this to Congress.

Given the ubiquitous nature of the internet in American lives, this stipulation could lead to the biggest change coming out of the bill.

“We’re proposing updates to the way Americans receive emergency alerts wherever they are — on their phones, on television and on radio,” Rosenworcel wrote in a blog post, previewing the March open meeting of the commission.

But also of interest to broadcasters is an instruction from Congress regarding State Emergency Communications Committees.

In the next six months, the FCC is supposed to encourage states to review the makeup and governance of their individual SECCs (and to establish an SECC if one doesn’t exist). Congress then wants each state committee to meet at least annually to review and update its state’s EAS plan and to submit an updated plan to the FCC, which the commission is supposed to review and approve or reject.

The FCC is also supposed to establish a “State EAS Plan content checklist” for SECCs to use when reviewing their EAS plans.

In addition to those two issues, the READI Act requires the FCC to establish a way to receive reports of false alerts under the Emergency Alert System or the Wireless Emergency Alerts System, so it can track them and study their causes.

And the commission was told to modify the Emergency Alert System to provide for repeating EAS messages while an alert issued by the president, head of FEMA or other appropriate parties is still pending. This applies to warnings about national security events such as missile threats, terror attacks or acts of war, not to typical local EAS events like weather warnings.

The post The FCC Will Explore Internet EAS appeared first on Radio World.

Categories: Industry News

For Radio, Audio Is the “New Now”

Radio World - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 03:00
Getty Images westend61

Consumer demand for one-to-one digital audio is a powerful economic force in the 21st century. Depending on your perspective, radio companies are either embracing the trend or being forced to do so. Either way, companies continue to diversify in the burgeoning audio marketplace.

The ongoing digital transformation is redefining how audio gets consumed in the home, the car and elsewhere, as Americans turn more often to their smartphones, tablets and connected speakers for audio content.

Observers who spoke to Radio World say all signs continue to point to continued growth of podcasts and on-demand content as personalized media plays a larger role in this overall audio ecosystem.

[Related: “So, Where Do We Go From Here?”]

The dramatic pivot in audio delivery is of critical interest to radio entities that engage consumers in the increasingly cluttered media environment. It leaves C-suiters searching for the latest accoutrement to accent their digital audio catalogs.

The trend is reflected in how “radio” companies now describe themselves.

Cumulus promotes itself as an “audio-first media company” that has broadcast, digital, mobile and voice activated options, including the Westwood One Podcast Network. SiriusXM — which owns Pandora and Stitcher and has an investment in SoundCloud — calls itself “North America’s leading audio entertainment company.”

iHeartMedia would probably contest that, given that iHeart lays claim to being “the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month,” with a quarter of a billion monthly listeners, “a greater reach than any other media company in the U.S.”

CEO Bob Pittman has pushed the company toward new audio offerings.

“Podcasting is wide open and the sky is the limit. It’s sort of an on-demand version of radio. We see it as an extension of radio,” Pittman said during a quarterly earnings report in 2020. Just this month the company announced another planned audio-related acquisition, that of Triton Digital.

The podcast business is thriving, with growth driven by consumers embracing on-demand audio; and radio firms have participated. Research from Borrell & Associates and the RAB shows that over 70% of radio stations produce locally-focused podcasts.

Entercom is another company emphasizing the power of audio. It released a study at the virtual CES 2021 show showing that the nature of audio content makes it more engaging for audiences than other media. The study tracked “immersion,” defined as “a scientific measure of emotional connection and attention,” and found that audio ranked highest in the test.

The proliferation of audio seems to be pushing radio broadcasters to adopt mobile apps and tech innovation to further their reach. And those efforts are expected to accelerate as hybrid radio in connected cars and voice activation tools like Amazon’s Alexa Auto proliferate. Understanding the “skills” required to integrate with new audio services will be critical for radio broadcasters, experts say.

“Every channel matters”

Jeremy Sinon, VP of digital strategy for Hubbard Radio, said the company is quickly moving to digital, as in its partnership with PodcastOne in the on-demand space.

“We have a strong focus on our mobile apps, web listening and smart speaker listening. We also continue to focus on consumption via video on platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Every channel matters and they all warrant attention,” Sinon said.

Hubbard Radio launched PodMN, a mobile app dedicated to local podcasting in Minnesota, recently. “The project has helped build a closer connection with podcast consumers in the state as well as local podcasters,” he said.

Beasley Media Group recently announced a partnership with Entercom to be included in the Radio.com platform.

“One of the most important benefits of these partnerships is incremental distribution. We engage our users where and when they are on our O&O assets — live over the air, live streaming, and time-shifted streaming,” said Todd Handy, chief digital officer for Beasley Media Group.

“By partnering with these platforms, we gain the opportunity to meet not only our current audience members where and when they are when they’re not on our O&Os, and also to be exposed to and engage with potential new audience members.”

Beasley Media Group, which has long been partners with the iHeartRadio app and the TuneIn app for streaming, has embraced podcasting; for instance it created the bPod Studios Networks where it’s innovating in other podcast-adjacent spaces, Handy said.

“The intent there is to not only meet current and potential audiences where they are, but also to bring them fresh, engaging content that in some cases is part of our general programming, and in other cases is more long-tail and niche focused.”

Finding ways to engage audiences through multiple distribution channels is what drives Beasley’s digital development, Handy said.

“Hybrid radio is the next evolution in that engagement. It combines the large reach of broadcast with online interaction, making radio even more powerful and dynamic. Hybrid radio will allow listeners to engage with content and marketing messages they hear in the car. This will increase radio attribution and overall advertising effectiveness,” Handy said.

Beasley Media Group also has invested in SpokenLayer, a leading provider of short-form voice and audio content for virtual assistant and connected devices, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Short bites, daily habits

National Public Radio continues to invest development resources in its digital platforms, including station streaming, the NPR One app, NPR podcasts and the Alexa skill, according to Michael Smith, chief marketing officer for NPR.

Smith says the nimbleness of audio and the ability present it through new technology is critical to NPR’s growth.

“The new platforms have allowed us to create different kinds of content because the format has changed. People today are listening to what I call short bite or daily habit podcasts. Just 10- and 15-minute shows. It presents new opportunities to present NPR audio,” Smith said. “Therefore you have these new podcasts that deal specifically with finance or politics.”

NPR’s short daily podcasts include “Up First,” which is produced by the “Morning Edition” team, and “Short Wave,” which comes from the NPR Science Desk.

Smith, who leads NPR’s business development team, says the lines between what is a podcast and what is an Instagram post are blurring. “People are even consuming podcasts on YouTube,” he said.

In addition, there is growth in interest among younger audiences finding NPR programming on the new distribution channels.

“Younger listeners are eager to engage in news and information presentations but on the platforms they are already comfortable with. On social media and smart phones. That opens up a whole new audience for us,” Smith said.

He said research shows that the median age of NPR’s podcast listening audience is at least 15 years younger than the traditional terrestrial radio audience.

NPR is firmly entrenched in the podcasting ecosystem. Podtrac says it had 20 million unique listeners in the U.S. in December, with nearly 193 million streams and downloads.

Findings from a study by NPR and Edison Research in 2020 showed spoken word audio in the United States had increased by 30% in the past six years. Some of the biggest growth is among 13- to 34-year-olds.

Meanwhile, digital advertising continues to accelerate for commercial broadcasters, according to AdsWizz, as the number of mobile devices accessing digital audio grows.

The digital audio advertising platform said in its annual Podcast Trends report there was an 81% increase in advertising impressions between January and September 2020 among the publishers it works with.

iHeartMedia’s digital revenue was up 16.5% year-over-year in Q3 2020 with most of that growth attributable to podcasting, which grew revenue 73.6% compared to the previous year. The iHeartPodcast Network remained the biggest podcast publisher in December 2020 among the entities measured by Podtrac.

The country’s largest radio group acquired Voxnest at the end of 2020 and is now able to provide podcast advertisers with additional targetable inventory by allowing the effective and efficient monetization across an entire range of podcast inventory on our programmatic platform, said Carter Brokaw, president of digital revenue strategy for iHeartMedia.

“This additional inventory and the application of Voxnest’s programmatic capabilities will increase the monetization of iHeartMedia’s full range of podcasts and advance the podcast marketplace for both buyers and sellers,” Brokaw said.

iHeartMedia’s SmartAudio project, Brokaw says, is a data-driven platform for the total audio marketplace, which includes broadcast, streaming and podcasting.

“We look to establish benchmarks of success by measuring results of radio campaigns with total iHeart universe delivery, insights and attribution data. This allows for a much more holistic view of campaign performance from demand generation to preference building to demand fulfillment.

“We can now look at cross-platform audiences and attribution as one and enable brands to connect with consumers across multiple content touch points,” Brokaw said.

Triton Digital is among the digital technology companies that provide audio publishers with streaming services and automated buying services. A company official reported during a presentation on Jacobs Media’s Virtual Tour of CES in January that programmatic digital ad sales have grown significantly in recent years.

The company reported total global spending on programmatic digital audio between 2018 and 2020 surged 213%. Triton’s exchange totals 13,000 live streams and podcasts.

[Subsequent to initial publication of this article, iHeartMedia announced plans to acquire Triton in a $230 million move to further broaden its acquisition of companies and technologies related to the wider business of audio. Other recent audio-related additions at iHeart include Jelli, Radiojar, Unified and Voxnest.]

Attribution is critical

Radio broadcast companies continue to search for ways to monetize their digital initiatives.

Bonneville International’s Audience in Motion (AIM) program gives advertising clients access to audiences across multiple digital properties. Those include display, video, audio streaming, social, native or sponsorship and programmatic opportunities.

The broadcaster is streaming audio over multiple outlets, said Jennifer Williams, director of digital media for Bonneville International, including Spotify, Pandora, Google Play and SoundCloud, in addition to the company’s owned and operated network.

And ad attribution is imperative, Williams says, now that clients expect it.

“In the past, we used to compete with budgets that had attribution, now we complement and extend the ad recall. We have been able to help prove ROI by including audio tactics in a traditionally digital campaign.”

Bonneville International is focused on an initiative to increase its video pre-roll and smart speaker options on its streaming services, Williams said.

“To be able to add a visual element to those initially logging on via web, and a catchy intro to those using at home devices in their new office set up will be a been a fun new way to show the evolution of audio,” Williams said.

 

The post For Radio, Audio Is the “New Now” appeared first on Radio World.

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Digital vs. Linear Advertising: Bridging Two Worlds Together

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 16:15

Comcast-owned FreeWheel Advisory Service’s latest research report, “The Definitive Guide to Video,” explores the differences between linear and digital TV advertising.

Author David Dworin examines the progress the industry has made in bringing these two worlds together, specifically across two dimensions, in this report.

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Jay Bunyard Gets Maxx-imum Value For Ark. Sale

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 16:15

Where Arkansas meets Oklahoma via U.S. Highway 412 sits a dormant broadcast tower that’s home to a transmitter for a 5kw daytime/31 watt nighttime AM that has been owned by regionally known licensee Jay Bunyard for nearly 13 years.

Most recently, this station was an ESPN Radio affiliate. Now, it’s being sold — and a change in language is most likely on the way for this forlorn station.

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TV Deals In 2020: ‘Relatively Good Results In A Challenging Year’

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 15:15

With the last broadcast transaction of the year — a $55.8 million TV deal — the broadcast deal volume for 2020 passed the $1 billion line, closing with a total of $1.02 billion.

That’s an 87% drop from 2019, Volker Mörbitz of S&P Global Market Intelligence notes, clearly highlighting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is, however, a volume 27% higher than that of 2010 when the deal market felt the full impact of the 2008-2010 financial crisis.

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Summit Integrates IPAWS in ATMOS

Radio World - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 14:27

Summit Technology Group says it has added features to its ATMOS Weather Reporting product, including an IPAWS integration that provides more natural-sounding emergency alerts.

“Stations that choose to ignore optional EAS alerts can instead provide an unobtrusive, natural-sounding announcement in its place to convey the same message,” the company said.

“Furthermore, users can use ATMOS’ advanced scripting language (known as ATMOS Markup Language) to create scripts that suit their station branding and include their station name or slogan. When integrated with automation, the product can produce an alert announcement and gracefully insert it into the playlist.”

ATMOS is used by radio and TV stations to automate weather reports in a natural-sounding manner. It uses customizable script templates and AI-powered synthesized speech.

Summit President Paul Stewart was quoted in the announcement saying the intent of the IPAWS integration was to improve public safety in creating alerts that deliver the message without a robotic voice and are delivered without preempting a station’s programming.

“We heard far too often that optional alerts were being ignored on account of the National Weather Service voice engines sounding too robotic and jarring,” he said.

Summit worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to implement the interface needed to receive IPAWS alerts, he said. The interface is built on a cloud-based process that is hosted by redundant, geographically-separated tier-3 data centers.

Also new, Sponsor Manager provides a tool to manage advertisers and underwriters and appending their messages to weather reports.

“The new tool allows a user to create a sponsor, write a script, schedule the message and even track the number of times the weather report was performed. This is important considering each weather report may be aired numerous times an hour as prescribed by a station’s format and audience behavior,” the company said.

While the concept isn’t new, Stewart said, the environment makes it easy to edit, synthesize and schedule messages.

Also, ATMOS can now integrate with EAS equipment manufacturers, providing the ability to automate Required Weekly Tests from within ATMOS or through most automation or playout software suites. “This functionality is especially useful when inserted into a playlist to provide graceful execution of RWTs that do not interfere with programming or traffic breaks.”

ATMOS can be configured to provide a linear PCM (wav) file for ingest into automation or can be configured to play out the audio report directly. Subscribers are delivered a desktop application compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, and Server 2014 or newer.

The post Summit Integrates IPAWS in ATMOS appeared first on Radio World.

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NAB Celebrates Broadcast Voices

Radio World - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 13:48

The National Association of Broadcasters announced a digital campaign called “Voices From the Field,” that is intended to highlight stories of broadcasters using first-person accounts.

The first segment features Shomari Stone, general assignment reporter for WRC-TV in Washington, who talks among other things about his experiences covering the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“The campaign, part of NAB’s ‘We Are Broadcasters’ initiative, will spotlight how broadcasters are using their expertise, experience and dedication to local broadcasting to serve their audiences and uplift their communities,” the NAB stated in a press release.

Subjects will share why they became broadcasters and what they are passionate about in their careers.

“The campaign will focus on local reporters, on-air radio talent, photojournalists, broadcast engineers, producers and editors to highlight the people responsible for delivering news, weather, emergency information and public affairs programming to local communities.”

NAB said the campaign will use podcasts, video interviews and Q-and-As.

 

The post NAB Celebrates Broadcast Voices appeared first on Radio World.

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The InFOCUS Podcast: Gordon Borrell

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 13:30

February 11 saw the release of the second in a series of Borrell Associates reports that examine 2021 spending plans for a dozen different types of local ad buyers.

This 14-page analysis, drawn from a survey of 373 local businesses that buy TV ads, shifts focus to Broadcast TV Advertisers.

To share additional insights into the findings, Gordon Borrell spoke exclusively with RBR+TVBR in this fresh InFOCUS Podcast presented by DOT.FM.


Listen to “The InFOCUS Podcast: Gordon Borrell” on Spreaker.

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NAB Effort Spotlights Broadcasters Through First-Person Storytelling

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 13:00

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The NAB has officially launched a new digital campaign highlighting stories of local broadcasters through first-person accounts.

The “Voices From the Field” campaign, part of NAB’s “We Are Broadcasters” initiative, is designed to spotlight how broadcasters are using their expertise, experience and dedication to local broadcasting to serve their audiences and “uplift” their communities.

Using first-person storytelling features such as podcasts, video interviews and Q&A dialogue, “Voices From the Field” seeks to provide a platform for subjects to describe why they became broadcasters, what makes them passionate about their career and what they love most about being a local broadcaster.

The campaign, the NAB says, will focus on local reporters, on-air radio talent, photojournalists, broadcast engineers, producers and editors to highlight the people responsible for delivering news, weather, emergency information and public affairs programming to local communities.

“Every day, thousands of local broadcasters work tirelessly on-air, online and behind the scenes to deliver invaluable service to their communities,” NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said. “This campaign will celebrate the real people who are providing vital information from the front lines to keep Americans safe, informed and engaged, even when they themselves are in harm’s way.”

The first “Voices from the Field” story focuses on Shomari Stone, the distinguished general assignment reporter at NBC O&O WRC-4 in Washington, D.C.

In the report, Stone shares the moment he knew he wanted to be a broadcaster, his insights into how he views his role as a journalist and his experiences covering the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.

New “Voices from the Field” segments will be regularly available at WeAreBroadcasters.com.

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DISH Shares Slide Following Pivotal Post-Q4 Results Downgrade

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 10:17

With some companies, focusing on net revenue and earnings per share Street beats is core to determining just how healthy a company is. But, that’s not the arbiter for investors of Dish Network stock.

In the case of Dish, subscriber gains or losses is key to where the company’s health is, even as it swiftly tilts away from DBS television services to 5G telephony player. And, with the revelation Monday that Dish lost more subscribers than financial analysts expected, the company’s stock slumped.

That dip in value will likely continue in the short term, as a key analyst just downgraded DISH on that poor subscriber report.

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Nexstar Shares Hit Record High On Smashing FY ’20, Q4 Results

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 09:38

Record performance. It’s a statement some companies may state, yet only tells part of a story that’s inclusive of some blemishes and bruises.

That’s not the case with respect to Nexstar Media Group. With founder and Chairman/CEO Perry Sook beaming as he discussed “another year of record financial performance” as he opened the company’s quarterly earnings call, Nexstar surpassed consensus expectation by delivering impressive Q4 and full-year 2020 results.

With CFO Tom Carter on the call, Sook reviewed the key Q4 highlights.

Net revenue jumped to $1.38 billion, from $1.1 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $1.34 billion.

Net income attributable to Nexstar soared to $364.25 million ($7.97 per diluted share), from $113.21 million ($2.36), thanks in large part to the addition of Tribune Media properties into the fold.

The EPS smashed the analyst forecast of $6.07.

Total funded debt declined in 2020, to $7.67 billion from $8.49 billion. However, Nexstar’s unrestricted cash also fell, to $152.7 million as of Dec. 31, 2020 compared to $232.1 million a year earlier.

The debt includes partner Mission Broadcasting, licensee of such stations as WPIX-11 in New York.

“Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, 2020 was a year of historic financial growth for Nexstar,” Sook said, noting that “sequential improvements in core advertising” — a story heard across the radio industry — is also a tale being told by Nexstar’s broadcast media properties and its WGN America TV network, soon to be rebranded as NewsNation.

Those challenges are reflected in a 9.9% Q4 core ad revenue dip to $473.5 million, from $525.5 million. That said, political displacement was significant, with political advertising revenue of $298.27 million against Q4 2019 political dollars of $36.53 million. Ownership of stations such as NBC affiliate WSAV-3 in Savannah, Ga.; the CBS affiliate in Columbus, Ga.; and the ABC affiliate in Augusta, Ga., helped in achieving this feat.

Then, of course, there is retransmission fee revenue, noted in the Q4 and full-year 2020 report as “Distribution Fee Revenue.”

For Q4, this increased by 18.4% to $527.99 million from $445.83 million.

What’s in store for Nexstar in the months ahead?

“While we continue to operate in a dynamic environment, full year 2020 free cash flow was in line with our pre-pandemic expectations and 2021 is off to a solid start,” Sook said. “As a result, we are reinstating guidance and expect to generate pro-forma average annual free cash flow of approximately $1.27 billion over the 2021/2022 cycle which supports our view that Nexstar’s path to growth, expanded returns of capital and enhanced shareholder returns remains on plan.”

How did investors respond to the results? Nexstar shares started Tuesday’s trading session with a 6.5% rise, to $136.81 as of 9:37am Eastern.

No matter where Nexstar finishes, it will be a new record high.

With the growth seen this morning, Nexstar has now surpassed its 1-year target estimate set by financial analysts. And, it marks a return to strong, steady growth that began at the start of 2013 and was only briefly squelched by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On that note, Nexstar shares have grown by roughly $85 per share since March 30, 2020.

 

 

Categories: Industry News

NBC, Telemundo O&Os To Join RSNs In Full Impressions Buying Move

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 09:30

In September 2019, NBCUniversal first announced a move to impressions. But, clients and agencies who were not trading on impressions were granted additional time to transition while they evaluated the impact the change would have on their business and clients.

That evaluation period is coming to an end very soon.

With the close of the transition period at the end of Q1, all of NBCUniversal’s owned TV stations and regional sports networks will be measured using CPMs only.

This means that as of April 1, all 42 NBC and Telemundo owned-and-operated broadcast TV stations and seven NBCUniversal-owned regional sports networks will officially move to 100% impressions-based buying for all local advertising campaigns.

Our local businesses were among the first to put a stake in the ground around the move to impressions-based ad buys more than a year ago, giving local marketers a better currency for measurement,” said Frank Comerford, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations’ Chief Revenue Officer. “Utilizing impressions puts local TV on a level playing field with digital, since advertisers will no longer need to convert ratings to impressions in order to evaluate an overall ad buy. As always, our teams are ready to work hand-in-hand with local advertisers to deliver successful campaigns across all DMAs.”

The move to 100% use of impressions, instead of traditional ratings points, by stations and RSNs will, in NBCUniversal’s view, “enable marketers to plan holistically across platforms and screens, and will more accurately showcase the increase in viewers as a result of the addition of BBO households.”

As it turns out, Nielsen‘s introduction of broadband-only (BBO) homes into local market samples begins on April 1, answering questions one may have about Nielsen’s involvement or perhaps that of rival Comscore.

“Moving to impressions brings the added benefit of eliminating zero cell quarter-hours, which had previously resulted in a reduction in inventory,” EVP of NBC & Telemundo Owned Television Station Sales Michael Chico said. “Ratings, unlike impressions, are held to Nielsen’s minimum reporting standard thresholds. Ratings that do not meet these minimums are reported as zero viewership, while impressions are reported when viewing occurs in all quarter hours, effectively adding back anywhere from 5-20% of viewers depending on the daypart. This provides additional inventory for agencies and clients to reach their impressions goals on buys.”

NBCUniversal in December 2020 said it would expand its available digital inventory, addressable products, and advanced targeting by scaling NBC Spot On across One Platform. As a result, sales teams at NBC and Telemundo owned stations gained greater access to digital inventory from both NBC owned and operated properties and third parties.

That came following the February 2020 launch of advanced video advertising business NBC Spot On, which the company says is designed to give local, regional Connected TV and OTT access to premium video inventory.

Categories: Industry News

A Pride-Filled CEO Reveals Downbeat Cumulus Financial Report

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 09:00

“Given 2020’s extenuating circumstances, I am extremely proud of the company’s performance and the efforts of the entire Cumulus team to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19.”

That statement from Cumulus Media President/CEO Mary Berner set the tone for the audio media company’s release of its year-end and fourth quarter 2020 financial bill of health.

Just how healthy is Cumulus and all of its divisions, including Westwood One?

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Categories: Industry News

RadioDNS Implementation Complete For A Streamer

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 08:59

Listeners that have been seeking a hybrid radio experience now have the ability to do so, thanks to the implementation of “RadioDNS” services for radio stations by SurferNETWORK.

The features dynamically switch between broadcast and internet radio, and include enhanced “now playing” information.

“RadioDNS offers an enhanced listening experience by combining the technologies of both
broadcast radio and the internet,” SurferNETWORK notes. “This technology can add an app-like functionality to radio broadcasts, allowing listeners with a RadioDNS Hybrid Radio enabled device to experience their favorite radio stations in a new and interactive way.”

SurferNETWORK President and Co-Founder Bill Grywalski notes that Vox-owned WEZF-FM “Star 92.9,” serving the Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y. market, is the first station using the technology.

Since its establishment as a not-for-profit organization in 2010, RadioDNS has served as a link between Broadcast Radio and IP-delivered web services.

 Learn more at https://www.surfernetwork.com/

Categories: Industry News

Quicklink Opens A U.S. Office

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 08:23

Quicklink, which provides hardware and software platforms for video and audio media, has opened its first U.S. office.

It’s in response to “immense growth” for the company stateside in recent months.

The office is located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, in Hackensack, N.J.

By opening the office, Quicklink says it is strengthening its sales, services and support operations in North America.

“Quicklink is now able to provide local support to customers with repair and service facilities,” the company says.

Support team hours have been extended.

Furthermore, inventory will be housed in warehouse space in both California and New York.

U.K.-based Quicklink CEO Richard Rees said, “We can now provide more localized support and services with inventory available for immediate access in the United States. We have experienced astronomical growth, and as a result, it was very important for us to expand our operations to service the requirements of this region.”

 

Quicklink’s U.S. operations are now open for business and can be reached via telephone by dialing 1-551-587-7692, or by emailing sales@quicklink.tv.

Categories: Industry News

Visually Integrated Display Symbology for Emergency Alerts Arrive

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 07:59

The NextGen Video Information Systems Alliance (NVISA)has introduced its first recommended practice document: Visually Integrated Display Symbology (VIDS). The VIDS recommended practice represents an industry breakthrough — a powerful and impactful new way of displaying emergency alerts based on easily discernable graphical elements.

The VIDS recommended practice is intended to enhance the impact, usability, and accessibility of emergency information by incorporating graphical elements. NVISA’s objective is to contribute to a more inclusive reach of emergency information that works for all audiences, regardless of visual media, language, ability, or culture.

NVISA is a worldwide coalition of developers and manufacturers working to help accelerate the industry’s evolution toward next-generation broadcast and OTT television systems. Alliance members are pooling their cross-industry expertise to collaborate, implement standards, and create best practices to help broadcasters accelerate their transformation toward advanced ATSC 3.0 systems.

VIDS is the first-ever recommendation for integrating universally understood graphical elements, including symbols and dynamic elements, into emergency alerting information for broadcast. Until now, visual displays of public warnings have been typically text-only, and usually limited to a single language. VIDS creates a commonly defined relationship between the type of alert, the message text, and any graphical elements.

The VIDS recommended practice lays out a compelling new approach, providing a standard look and feel for advanced multimedia alerts that is fully compatible with national emergency alert requirements. The VIDS recommended practice explicitly accommodates the requirements of emergency alert systems in the United States and Canada, while providing the flexibility to be applied anywhere else in the world.

VIDS can be adopted across all manner of display technologies including broadcast media, cable and IPTV systems, and digital signage. The VIDS visual presentation is based on a set of display directives for integrating alert information in which specific icons or symbols graphically represent an emergency event. Each symbol is presented with the alert text in a highly accessible manner.

For broadcasters and cable operators, systems using the VIDS recommended practice will deliver an integrated look and feel for advanced emergency alerts, with enhanced accessibility and appeal for viewing audiences. For manufacturers and developers, the recommended practice offers a standardized method to integrate, package, and display alert text and graphics.

“Associating graphics with the audio and visual components of an alert is highly meaningful to audiences,” said Bill Robertson, chair of the NVISA VIDS Working Group 2 and vice president of business development at Digital Alert Systems. “The symbology communicates the context of the alert without requiring viewers to read the text or even understand the language. Leveraging well-known symbols and unifying them in a presentation makes it far easier for users to engage and understand the message, ultimately bringing greater impact to broadcasters’ mission of public awareness and safety.”

Integrating a range of technical and regulatory requirements, the NVISA VIDS document makes recommendations for visual presentation of emergency information on display systems, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Advanced Emergency Information (AEA) applications in ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV, OTT applications, digital signage, mobile applications, and other visual media. The set of graphical display elements in VIDS is derived from public policy and social science research conducted by FEMA IPAWS, the DHS Geospatial Management Office, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation.

“A significant strength of VIDS is that it provides a common, recognizable, and informative alerting and warning methodology that transcends the display device,” said Jim Altemose, President of DigIt Signage Technologies. “Whether the alert is targeted for EAS television broadcast, AEA applications, NextGen TV platforms, digital signage, or personal devices, the common symbology conveys the nature of the emergency as well as the severity in a visual way that viewers easily understand, even those with barriers such as language or color recognition.”

“NVISA created the VIDS recommended practice to benefit the entire industry, including consumers,” NVISA Chairman and executive director Edward Czarnecki said. “VIDS showcases what can be done to enhance the accessibility and visibility of emergency information in current broadcast and cable technologies, and advances what could be included in next-generation technologies like ATSC 3.0 and advanced cable applications.”

The NVISA Recommended Practice for Visually Integrated Display Symbology (VIDS), NVISA-WG-1-001.01, is freely available from NVISA for download and review at www.nvisa.org/documents

Categories: Industry News

PMG Hires A Head of Cloud and Software Infrastructure

Radio+Television Business Report - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 07:34

Technology infrastructure company PMG has selected a new EVP to leading its software and cloud platforms.

And, in connection with the hire, PMG has acquired the media management and workflow orchestration software that this new executive developed over the past seven years in anticipation of ATSC 3.0.

With the addition of Azita Manson and her software platform, PMG believes it can provide broadcasters with a “comprehensive, end-to-end orchestration solution to manage content workflows across platforms.”

As such, PMG says is now engaged to design, build and operate the Public Media Education Platform (PMEP) on behalf of public broadcasters across five states.

The PMEP is a national education datacasting service that will be initially deployed in ATSC 1.0 but is already optimized for ATSC 3.0. PMG’s software and cloud architecture will ingest educational content from stations, content producers and educators, and then deliver that targeted content to students across the country, with a focus on students that lack broadband connectivity.

As PMEP affiliates transition to ATSC 3.0, PMG’s software and cloud architecture will allow stations and educators to leverage new interactive and addressable features to further enhance the service.

“Bringing Azita and her software to PMG added another crucial piece to the PMG platform,” says PMG CEO Joe Chinnici. “Her software combined with the reach of our Single Frequency Networks allows us to provide both our commercial and public broadcast clients with an end-to-end solution to drive new ATSC 3.0 innovation and revenues.”

In the coming months, PMG will be announcing the launch of an open architecture application layer to allow for greater ATSC 3.0 innovation and use cases.

“By powering edge devices with PMG’s open architecture middleware and application software, the industry will benefit from a more entrepreneurial environment in which a greater number of businesses and industries participate in ATSC 3.0, driving greater value to, and demand for, broadcasters’ spectrum,” PMG says.

As part of this open architecture, PMG will make its application authoring tools available so that stations can customize their own NextGen TV apps.

Earlier in her career, Manson was the Director of Technology at TiVo and Senior Director of
Architecture at SeaChange International. For Comcast, TimeWarner and CableLabs, Manson
designed the first connected home protocol, and the security for the first downloadable
microchip software.

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