In mid-March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s full arrival in North America, Townsquare Media delivered its Q4 and full-year 2020 financial results. On Wall Street, TSQ stock hemorrhaged, dipping to $3.95 after starting the month of February at $10.25.
With Tuesday’s closing bell on the NYSE, TSQ has now fully erased all of its COVID-19 stock woes.
On volume of 102,224 shares (average volume is 37,790 shares), Townsquare Media shares finished at $10.17; in early after-hours trading, TSQ was up to $10.18.
This marks a 157% improvement for TSQ, climbing from the depths of 2020, when the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic punctured media stocks severely.
Analysts have pegged a $13.33 1-year target estimate on Townsquare stock, and the latest growth is likely tied to an announcement 8 days ago that it would repurchase at least 10 million shares.
The growth further puts into question why Purcell Julie & Lefkowitz LLP, which describes itself as “a class action law firm dedicated to representing shareholders nationwide,’ is investigating “a potential breach of fiduciary duty claim involving the board of directors of Townsquare Media.”
The law firm made the announcement January 18.
Wall Street shrugged.
He’s been the Market Manager for NRG Media stations in Wausau-Stevens Point, Wisc. Most recently, he served as Market President for iHeartMedia in Wichita.
Now, this veteran radio station cluster leader has joined Cumulus Media to oversee its group of broadcast properties in Montgomery, Ala.
I’ve heard from plenty of folks who think the boat has left the dock not only for digital on AM but for the entire AM band. Business and technical challenges facing America’s AM broadcasters have been well documented here and elsewhere.
You certainly won’t hear CEOs of big broadcast companies proclaiming their excitement around AM radio strategies unless it’s to count the cash they got from selling tower sites.
Yet when you talk with the handful of people who have real experience with the MA3 mode of HD Radio, their enthusiasm is notable. They say the signal sounds great, that coverage is strong and that they love how station metadata displays on modern dashboard displays.
Our latest Radio World ebook explores the question of what’s next.
One of the people I interviewed is Neal Ardman, who activated the MA3 mode on WMGG in Florida in January, the first station to take the step since the commission approved the option.
“The MA3 is the great equalizer in terms of audio quality,” Ardman told me. “When we flipped the switch, the sound is incredible. The station sounds like an FM.”
He pointed out that about 30% of cars in his area have HD Radio receivers, then echoed a comment we’ve heard from Dave Kolesar of Hubbard’s WWFD: “Our thinking is, would we rather be in a third of the cars sounding phenomenal, or in all of the cars sounding sketchy and marginal? We chose to be in the cars sounding great,” Ardman said.
It’s worth noting that some AM owners are watching these developments to see if multicasting on the digital AM signal is viable and, if so, whether that might eventually give them another path to obtaining more analog FM translators — similar to how current FM hybrid digital stations can use an HD2 to feed an analog FM.
I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about that possibility. Note, though, that while existing digital AM receivers can receive MA3, they are not set up to receive multicasting, so this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
(Urban One tried unsuccessfully last year to obtain experimental authority to feed an FM translator from a digital AM multicast. For now the FCC has said, “Because the record does not establish that an audio stream on an HD-2 subchannel is currently technically feasible, we will evaluate requests to rebroadcast multicast channels on an FM translator on a case-by-case basis until a more fully developed record is available on this subject.”)
I hope you’ll read the free ebook and let me know what you think.
NATE is encouraged by the reintroduction of a bill in the Senate to promote development of a skilled telecom workforce.
NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association commented on introduction of the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act by Senators John Thune, Jon Tester, Roger Wicker, Gary Peters and Jerry Moran.
Those three Republicans and two Democrats are members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; they say they want to address a shortage of trained workers needed to fill jobs in the telecommunications industry. The bill was introduced a year ago but didn’t get out of committee.
Though proponents of the bill speak mostly about the need to build out 5G and broadband, the bill likely would have some benefits as well to the broadcast industry, which often draws on the same telecom workforce for tower work.
NATE President/CEO Todd Schlekeway said in a statement, “It is great to see this bipartisan group of U.S. senators come out of the gate strong in the 117th Congress through the introduction of this legislation.”
The organization says that if passed the law would be a springboard to greater collaboration between the federal government, state workforce boards, the higher education sector and industry “to accomplish the ultimate goal of developing a future pipeline of skilled technicians that the country sorely needs to meet its ambitious broadband and 5G deployment objectives.”
The bill would set up an interagency group led by the Federal Communications Commission that would work with the Labor Department and other government entities to push this issue. It would also require the FCC to publish guidance on how states can address the workforce shortage by using federal resources. And it would direct the Government Accountability Office to do a study into how many skilled workers will be required to maintain broadband infrastructure in rural areas as well as build the country’s 5G wireless infrastructure.
Schlekeway told Radio World that NATE “certainly feels like there is growing momentum behind support for telecom workforce provisions in a broadband infrastructure package that could emerge from Congress.” Last year, he said, was a difficult one for standalone legislation due to COVID-19 and the elections.
NATE formerly was called the National Association of Tower Erectors, but its name and mission have evolved. The nonprofit trade organization includes more than 1,000 member companies that construct, service and maintain hundreds of thousands of communications towers for broadcast and wireless, as well as distributed antenna systems, small cell networks and broadband.
Nearly one year after the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the U.S., it is clear that Chief Marketing Officers and media buyers and planners were hardly in unison with respect to how to react while protecting the brand.
What’s the impact on audio media, including radio and online streaming? We get fresh insight on the topic from Armando Guerrero, of digital ad agency Ntooitive, in the latest RBR+TVBR InFOCUS Podcast, presented by DOT.FM.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of bipartisan U.S. Senators has reintroduced legislation in the upper body of Congress designed to address “the shortage” of trained workers necessary to fill next-generation jobs in the telecommunications industry in communities throughout the country.
Audio startup Tula Microphones has unveiled its first product — the Tula Mic, a portable USB mic that doubles as a mobile recorder with added benefit of embedded noise reduction technology. The stylized microphone is intended for use by content creators and work-from-home professionals.
The Tula Mic includes dedicated cardioid and omnidirectional ECM capsules, Burr-Brown op amps, a Texas Instruments audio codec and a 3.5 mm headphone jack that doubles as an input for a lavalier microphone. Also, the microphone sports 8 GB of internal memory, and a rechargeable battery, enabling up to 14 hours of audio recording on the go. The Tula records in WAV file format. The mic connects to other devices such as computers via USB-C, and is also compatible with Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.
While the mic is designed for portable use, that inevitably means it will be used often in less-than-ideal acoustic environments. With that mind, Tula teamed up with Swedish music software company Klevgrand to create an embedded version of that company’s noise reduction algorithm, Brusfri, which gives users the option to reduce background noise onsite while recording, reportedly without unwanted artifacts.
The Tula Mic sports a retro-modern design developed by Red Dot Award-winning industrial designers in Barcelona, and math fans may note that Tula’s form factor features an exact Golden Ratio. The Tula is available in three colors: classic black, vintage cream and a vibrant red. The built-in base is detachable and the mic includes a universal adaptor for use on mic stands and arms.
“As a longtime musician and songwriter, I’ve spent countless hours in recording studios and have a great respect and appreciation for good audio.” said Tula Founder and CEO David Brown, previously of the Soyuz Microphones brand. “I’ve long dreamt of designing a microphone that would bring high-quality sound to the masses. With the rapid growth of podcasting and YouTube channels and the more recent shift to remote working, it feels like the timing couldn’t be better for a product like the Tula Mic.”
The Tula Mic is available to order at US$199.
SiriusXM posted a net loss in its most recent business quarter but the company describes its full-year financial results as strong and expressed excitement about its audio strategies as well as its satellite radio penetration in new cars.
SiriusXM lost $677 million in the fourth quarter; but for all of 2020 SiriusXM had net income of $131 million. Still, that latter number was way off of the $914 million of net income the prior year, thanks to a big “impairment charge” associated with Pandora, primarily related to royalty costs.
Overall in 2020 the company generated revenue of $8.04 billion, up 3% despite the pandemic.
CEO Jennifer Witz, who succeeded Jim Meyer on Jan. 1, said in a statement, “SiriusXM turned in strong operating and financial results in 2020: we grew SiriusXM self-pay subscribers, revenue, adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow despite the pandemic. Our new car penetration reached approximately 80% in the fourth quarter and is set to rise above 80% this year, and the incorporation of 360L, our next generation in-car entertainment platform, is accelerating.”
She said SiriusXM, Pandora and Stitcher, plus the company’s investment in SoundCloud, now reach an audience of more than 150 million. She said the company is “bolstering our position as North America’s leading audio entertainment company” through new shows and podcasts, streaming channels targeting younger consumers and deals with NBCUniversal News Group, The Masters, the NFL and NBA. The company also recently extended its agreement with Howard Stern.
SiriusXM added 909,000 net new self-pay subscribers for the full year, ending with 30.9 million. Total subscribers are now 34.7 million.
The company’s Pandora segment saw ad revenue decline 1% to $1.18 billion, but said this was notable in the context of significant weakness in the ad market during the pandemic. And fourth quarter Pandora ad revenue jumped 22% to $425 million compared to the prior year quarter.
The FCC has entered into an agreement with the National Science Foundation and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to support NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative.
NSF launched the initiative last year to seek innovative advancements in research and development on the biggest challenges facing the United States due to increased demand for electromagnetic spectrum access.
“This Memorandum of Agreement between the National Science Foundation, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission is one step toward revitalizing the interagency coordination process so that it once again is able to produce results for American consumers and the economy,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Better coordination between these agencies ultimately means more spectrum and more innovation to help restore American wireless leadership and build the 5G future.”
The Memorandum of Agreement between the agencies is intended to ensure that FCC and NTIA staff can provide their subject matter expertise to help ensure that NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative investments in spectrum research, infrastructure, and workforce development are in alignment with U.S. spectrum regulatory and policy objectives, principles, and strategies.
Key research areas include spectrum flexibility and agility, working towards near real-time spectrum awareness, and improved spectrum efficiency and effectiveness through secure and autonomous spectrum decision-making.
The first key goal will be establishing the U.S.’s first National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research.
Univision has joined the consortium of U.S. media companies created to establish a common technology for dynamic, addressable advertising management for TV.
The multimedia company superserving Hispanic audiences will serve as a member of the primary Steering Committee on Project OAR, dedicated to creating a standard by which all parties in the TV ecosystem can collaborate and unite on addressable advertising.
Advanced TV platform company Cadent has expanded its current agreement with the TEGNA-owned premium CTV/OTT advertising platform for regional and local advertisers.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Cadent Viewer Graph, the company’s proprietary and cookieless matching technology, will be employed to unify audiences across Premion’s inventory of branded networks and providers.
This, the TEGNA-owned Premion says, is being done so advertisers may activate cross-screen campaigns against custom segments.
Cadent Viewer Graph uses patented technology, as well as a combination of first- and third-party data, to connect multiple TV devices back to viewing households. This empowers TV advertisers to deduplicate and map any audience segment to television with minimal drop-off and maximum reach, as well as resolution and match rates.
Cadent Advanced TV Platform will provide Premion with a complete suite of audience solutions and tools, including first-party data onboarding, audience building, insights, analytics, reporting, and campaign deployment. Advertiser CRM files will be onboarded for direct matching with all the consumer TV devices within Cadent Viewer Graph’s 104 million household graph, allowing Premion to activate an advertiser’s first-party data and create unique datasets for targeting and lookalike modeling.
Premion will leverage Cadent’s proprietary, location-based, syndicated audience data as its primary dataset for targeting purposes. In addition, Premion will have access to other third-party behavioral datasets from leading data partners within Cadent’s Data Marketplace to help advertisers build a fully comprehensive view of their audiences.
“True audience-based targeting tied to real-world business outcomes is critical for marketers today,” said Tom Cox, President of Premion. “Our agreement with Cadent allows us to better understand the value of our audiences so that we can provide best-in-class solutions to advertisers.”
On January 29, word first surfaced that Cox Media Group — fresh off a victory in getting some of its broadcast TV stations restored to Suddenlink systems thanks to the signing of a new retransmission consent accord — would soon face a new retrans “blackout.”
Lo and behold, that has transpired. On Monday evening at 11:59pm local time, all CMG stations were blocked from viewers who get their TV services from AT&T‘s direct broadcast satellite service: DirecTV.
It marks the second retrans-related scuffle of 2021 for Cox, and puts a black mark on Apollo Global Management, the majority owner of CMG. Since the completion of Apollo’s takeover of CMG, CEO Kim Guthrie exited. Then, EVP of Radio Bill Hendrich announced his retirement — just as several high-profile programming and air personalities were no longer at some of CMG’s biggest station in Florida, WFEZ “Easy 93.1.”
To make matters worse for Apollo, its founder, Leon Black, is stepping down as Chairman?CEO due to his ties to one of the most infamous American financiers of the modern era, the late Jeffrey Epstein.
This dispute sees the prevention of all Cox-owned stations from reaching DirecTV users.
The stations potentially impacted include its legacy properties, and several properties once owned by Brian Brady‘s Northwest Broadcasting:
- WSB-2, the ABC affiliate in Atlanta
- WFXT-25, the FOX affiliate in Boston
- WSOC-9, the ABC affiliate in Charlotte, and independent sibling WAXN-64
- WHIO-7 in Dayton, the market’s dominant station and a CBS affiliate
- WFOX-30 in Jacksonville, the FOX affiliate along Florida’s First Coast, and the MyNetwork TV affiliate using WFOX-30.2
- WHBQ-13, the FOX affiliate in Memphis
- WFTV-9, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, and unaffiliated WRDQ-27
- WPXI-11, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh
- KIRO-7, the CBS affiliate in Seattle
- KOKI-23, the FOX affiliate in Tulsa, and MyNetwork TV sibling KMYT-41
- KIEM-3, the NBC affiliate, and low-powered KVIQ-14, the CBS affiliate, in Eureka-Arcata, Calif.
- KAYU-28 in Spokane, the FOX affiliate
The loss of KIEM and KVIQ, and of KAYU, from DirecTV is especially frustrating, as some local TV consumers switched to that service during Suddenlink’s blackout of those stations during the first three weeks of January 2021.
In a statement appearing on the website for KIEM — a statement mirroring one posted to all CMG TV station websites — Cox put all of the blame once again on AT&T and DirecTV.
CMG assailed DirecTV, which it said “refused to agree to a fair agreement.”
Then came a statement that’s simply untrue:
We cannot force AT&T/DIRECTV to keep retransmitting our stations – we are dark because AT&T/DIRECTV has chosen to remove KIEM and KVIQ from its service. We are hopeful that AT&T/DIRECTV will abandon its blackout of our stations to the detriment of viewers in favor of meaningful negotiations that lead to a mutually beneficial deal for all parties.
By law, a MVPD cannot bring a broadcast TV signal to its customers without a retransmission consent accord. And, it takes the cooperation of both parties to get it signed.
As such, CMG is taking a highly aggressive approach in its quest for much higher rates for its TV stations.
In a statement appearing across all Cox station websites, the company said, “During these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever that our viewers know their trusted local stations are there for them, providing the news and information they need to make critical decisions for their families. CMG stations take pride in being trustworthy resources for our communities, and we will fight to continue to fulfill this responsibility.”
Yet, they are not there if the viewers subscribe to DirecTV.
What does AT&T have to say? In a statement provided to consumer bog TV Answer Man, the DirecTV owner said in late January, while negotiations were still ongoing, “We’re disappointed to see Cox Media Group put our customers in the middle of a private business matter. We want to keep the Cox stations in their local lineups, but Cox alone has exclusive control over which homes are allowed to receive ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW in certain cities.”
AT&T then assailed Cox for its “long history of either threatening or pulling the Super Bowl and other important events from our customers and other providers.”
With the release early Tuesday (2/2) of Sirius XM‘s fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 results, specific data tied to its Pandora segment were shared.
How is Pandora performing? It is perhaps the weakest link in the Sirius XM family. But, it could be worse.
Full-year ad revenue at Pandora, which includes off-platform results such as the company’s AdsWizz business, declined by 1% year-over-year to $1.18 billion.
Sirius XM’s C-Suite is happy, as this small decline was registered “despite significant weakness in the advertising market” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in 2020.
Monetization of $79.24 per thousand hours at Pandora was down “just 1%” year-over-year, Sirius XM adds.
In Q4, Pandora ad revenue increased by 22% to $425 million from $348 million, on a year-over-year basis.
With its Pandora for Business arm likely hampered by shelter-at-home edicts in markets across the U.S., Monthly Active Users (MAUs) at Pandora were 58.9 million at the end of 2020, down from 63.5 million at the end of 2019. Total ad supported listener hours were 12.50 billion in 2020, down from 13.44 billion in 2019.
But, there’s some good news: Pandora added 133,000 net new self-pay subscribers to its Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium services in 2020, ending with nearly 6.3 million self-pay subscribers to those services.
Strong operating and financial results.
Adjusted EBITDA growth of 6% for the year, compared to 2019.
For an audio media company, such achievements could be the stuff of dreams, considering the battering COVID-19 and the pandemic, entering its 12th month, has brought to Radio.
Yet, that’s exactly what Sirius XM is touting, as its fourth quarter and full-year 2020 results released early Tuesday paint a rosy picture that will certainly make newly appointed CEO Jennifer Witz happy.
For the three months ended December 31, 2020, Sirius XM enjoyed growth in both its subscriber and advertiser revenue — incredible accomplishments given the pandemic and its initial impact on radio’s cume due to fewer in-car occurrences.
This speaks to Sirius XM’s ease of accessibility outside the vehicle, perhaps — exposing a weakness of Radio it has not fully come to terms with.
Q4 2020 subscriber revenue for Sirius XM grew to $1.62 billion, from $1.57 billion. Advertising revenue in the quarter grew to $474 million, from $403 million.
Along with an equipment revenue gain to $60 million from $46 million and “other revenue” of $40 million compared to $44 million a year ago, total consolidated revenue in Q4 grew to $2.19 billion, from $2.06 billion.
Sirius XM’s expenses ballooned to $2.69 billion, from $1.66 billion.
However, a $976 million impairment charge is a big reason for this increase. If not for that, there’s only one other category where the cost of services noticeably increase.
Thank you, artist advocates and recording industry royalty increase lobbyists.
Sirius XM’s revenue share and royalty fees grew to $662 million, from $607 million, in Q4.
Including the impairment charge, Sirius XM swung to a net loss of $662 million (-$0.16 per diluted share), from net income of $243 million ($0.05).
On an unaudited pro-forma basis, adjusted EBITDA increased to $660 million, from $587 million. That translates to EPS of $0.07, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.05.S
Also on an adjusted basis, Q4 Free Cash Flow grew to $448 million, from $408 million.
And, that’s what Wall Street watchers will likely cheer about across Tuesday’s trading on the Nasdaq GlobalSelect market. SIRI started the day at $6.26, and has largely been in the $6 range for the last 50 weeks.
On a year-over-year basis, FY2020 results show Sirius XM’s consolidated revenue at $8.04 billion, a 3% increase from FY2019. Adjusted EBITDA grew to $2.58 billion in 2020, an increase of approximately 6% from $2.43 billion in 2019.
SLOWING THE CHURN
For years, analysts and radio industry execs traditionally looked closely at Sirius XM’s subscriber count, and then ask the question, “How many subscribers did Sirius XM lose, compared to how many it gained?”
Here’s the answer: “ending subscribers” decreased 1% for the full year of 2020.
That’s correct: Sirius XM lost fewer subscribers in the pandemic-plagued year of 2020 than in the go-go days of 2019.
Wait, there’s more: As the percentage of paid promotional subscribers fell by 22% year-over-year to 3.83 million, the amount of self paid subscribers increased by 3%, to 30.89 million.
In Canada, however, where Sirius XM penetration has largely been seen in big markets such as Toronto and Calgary, subscribers decreased by 3% to 2.62 million; the Canadian economy, coupled with more stringent COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in Ontario, could be factors there.
Looking specifically at Q4, self-pay subscriber rolls surged by 19% year-over-year.
And, that all-important self-paid monthly churn is at 1.6%.
A FAMILIAR WORD FOR RADIO
In prepared comments, Sirius XM Chief Financial Officer Sean Sullivan, who landed the role on Oct. 26, 2020, used a word that broadcast radio has incorporated into dozens of quarterly earnings calls — reach.
“The tremendous reach of SiriusXM’s platforms, the company’s unique business model, and the quality of its people attracted me to join the company last fall as CFO,” he said. “All of these attributes have been affirmed in the past three months since I came on board, and it has been a pleasure to partner with Jennifer as she made the transition to CEO.”
That reach story seems to be working for Sirius XM.
SiriusXM increased its regular quarterly dividend by 10% in November for the fourth consecutive year; some radio companies have retained their deeply slashed or suspended dividends.
At the end of the fourth quarter, SiriusXM’s debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio was 3.3x.
And, Sullivan concluded, “We have tremendous liquidity to continue investing in the business and returning capital to stockholders.”
The company reiterated its 2021 guidance for SiriusXM self-pay net subscriber additions, revenue, adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow originally issued on January 7, 2021:
- SiriusXM self-pay net subscriber additions of approximately 800,000
- Total revenue of approximately $8.35 billion
- Adjusted EBITDA of approximately $2.575 billion
- Free cash flow of approximately $1.6 billion
The technology behind one of the most respected brands that helped ignite today’s streaming media landscape is back as an independent, sharply-focused company.
Newly formed Antix Digital Inc. has acquired the live streaming and compression solutions portfolio from Imagine Communications.
Led by Tony Huang, the former head of product management for the same product family at Digital Rapids, the new company will accelerate future development of the solutions while taking over service and support for existing customers and systems.
The transaction encompasses software-based compression, processing and streaming solutions that enable leading media enterprises to efficiently and profitably engage audiences across delivery platforms ranging from mobile and OTT services to linear broadcast and cable channels.
The foundation of the product line was developed by streaming solutions developer Digital Rapids, which Imagine Communications acquired in 2014. Imagine continued to evolve the portfolio with enhanced features and new products, but with streaming media delivery now deeply entrenched in today’s society far beyond commercial media and entertainment applications, it became clear that there are broader opportunities.
“Imagine Communications has been a great steward of the technology and solutions it acquired with Digital Rapids, but the ubiquity of multiscreen media consumption creates opportunities beyond Imagine’s core focus, from social media streaming to immersive, interactive training,” said Huang. “Transitioning the product family to Antix lets each company focus on their strengths, primary markets and best opportunities. We are excited to kick-start a new era for these solutions while bringing their powerful benefits to new customers and applications.”
The transaction also marks the return of the portfolio’s original “StreamZ” product branding.
Products making the transition to Antix Digital ownership include:
- The StreamZ Live family (previously re-branded by Imagine Communications as SelenioFlex Live) of multiscreen live/linear encoders for streaming and OTT applications
- The StreamZ Ingest (previously SelenioFlex Ingest) multi-format ingest and encoding platform for live-to-VOD and archive applications
- The StreamZ ONE (previously Selenio One) unified compression platform for traditional linear and multiscreen distribution
Imagine will continue to sell the Antix-acquired products to their customers as a non-exclusive Antix reseller, while Antix will honor Imagine Communications’ existing customer support contracts for these solutions.
Prior to Digital Rapids, Huang worked in product management for DTV compression products at broadcast vendor Evertz.
With nine television stations, 18 radio stations, and a multi-faceted website, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) strives to educate, entertain, and enrich the lives of its audience with programming that includes statewide radio news, current affairs, and educational resources.
Already using the SGrecast SaaS platform from StreamGuys to efficiently manage their podcast publishing workflows, the broadcaster recently leveraged SGrecast’s new development API for seamless integration with GPB’s website content management system (CMS).
The result has unified GPB’s audio publishing, storage, and delivery processes while further simplifying operations at a time when its digital media properties are seeing their highest traffic ever.
Prior to the new integration, GPB used two distinct workflows for different types of audio content. SGrecast was used only for pre-produced podcast episodes, which operators uploaded directly into SGrecast along with corresponding metadata for automated publishing and distribution. Non-podcast audio clips such as sound bites and story reads, which accompany articles on GPB’s news website, were handled separately. When the broadcaster merged its dedicated news portal into the main GPB.org site last year, the team took the opportunity to combine its behind-the-scenes audio processes.
“Our main GPB.org site wasn’t set up to serve audio files, so we needed a good place to host its new audio content,” said Carl Zornes, director of digital media, GPB. “We were already using SGrecast very successfully to host our podcasts, so we decided to expand its use to both content types. Bringing our podcasts and news audio clips together in our website CMS would also remove some manual steps for our podcast producers.”
GPB and its website developers, Lullabot, used StreamGuys’ just-released API to let producers and news reporters submit both podcasts and general audio content to SGrecast through the same CMS interface.
“Uploading audio clips to SGrecast is now fully automated through the CMS,” explained Zornes. “When creating an article, a user clicks to add audio just as if they were uploading an image to the website. If it’s only intended for the website, the user doesn’t need to go through any podcast-related steps – the audio is automatically sent to SGrecast for storage and hosting, and it will be rendered within the article on our site. However, if the user checks the option in the CMS to make the audio part of a podcast, they can also get a list of all the podcasts available in SGrecast. They select which podcast to attach the audio to, and once the content is approved by an editor and published in the CMS, an automated API call triggers SGrecast to add the content to the podcast feed and distribute it to our target outlets. The only time a podcast producer now goes manually into SGrecast is to insert ad markers.”
A second SGrecast integration simplifies the creation of website landing pages for GPB’s podcasts. When crafting such pages in the website CMS, an API call embeds an instance of StreamGuys’ SGplayer multimedia player using SGrecast’s unique ID for that podcast. When listeners subsequently visit the published landing page, the player appears automatically, including a dynamically updated episode list.
GPB’s new API-driven audio publishing workflow went live in June 2020, just as demand for their digital content took off. “With students learning from home because of the pandemic, our partnership with our State Department of Education is bringing more people to our website,” said Zornes. “We also stream live press conferences for our Governor and Secretary of State, and with Georgia’s key role in the 2020 elections, all eyes and ears have been on our state. It has been a banner year for our content.”
In addition to the time savings afforded by the new API integration, Zornes praises the rich metrics provided by StreamGuys’ software suite and the overall publishing efficiency of SGrecast. “I love the analytics we get from SGrecast and SGreports,” he elaborated. “I like to slice and dice our metrics to understand our audience better, and the data we get from StreamGuys is phenomenal. I also appreciate that we can build one podcast feed and identify all the different providers we want to send it to. We only have to do that once, and we’re covered everywhere, whether it’s five places or two dozen.”
GPB’s key initiatives for 2021 include further expansion of these distribution outlets, with plans to add Google News and Apple News alongside roughly 20 existing partnerships that include Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify. Zornes notes that as GPB’s digital reach continues to grow, so too will its use of SGrecast. “SGrecast makes it so easy for us to expand to new outlets,” he concluded. “My responsibility is to make our content available wherever our users expect us to be. Whatever’s next, we’ll be using StreamGuys to reach it.”
— Brian Galante
Evertz, the global leader in media and entertainment technology solutions, has rolled out its next-generation UHD/3G/HD streaming platform for contribution over IP networks.
The XPS Series is a software-defined HEVC and H.264 10-bit 4:2:2 real-time encoding/decoding platform that is ideal for live or cloud-based applications where secure, high quality and low-latency is essential.
The XPS can be used for live sports and entertainment events, where it provides reliable and cost effective contribution encoding over private IP networks. In cases of breaking news events and Esports competitions, the XPS provides reliable and low-latency encoding over public networks using Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) or Reliable Internet Stream Transport (RIST) protocols.
“In today’s COVID-19 environment, for remote or stay-at-home operations, the XPS provides low-latency remote monitoring of broadcast facilities or as an extension to production control room environments,” the company said.
Lastly, The XPS platform can be used as the on-ramp and contribution encoder for cloud production or playout hosted by public cloud providers.
“The launch of the XPS Video Streaming Platform comes at a critical time where the Sports, Media & Entertainment industry is experiencing a dramatic change due to the pandemic,” said Evertz Senior Director of Engineering Abdullah Merei. “Now, more than ever, companies need reliable solutions that enable remote production, remote operation and live production in the cloud.”
IP audio and control company Barix this month celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Over two decades, the Swiss company has grown from a control and automation upstart into a globally recognized Audio over IP innovator primarily serving the professional AV, broadcast and security industries, while supporting a variety of vertical markets within each.
Barix has shipped nearly one million devices to serve control, streaming and transport applications for end users, OEM vendors, service providers and systems integrators.
Chief Technology Officer Johannes G. Rietschel founded Barix in 2001. “I had spent too much time traveling to tradeshows doing ‘research’ with little to show beyond expense reports,” he said. “My vision was to build a product that would fit the market and adapt to customer requests from there, instead of overthinking. That’s the premise on which Barix was founded.”
Barix’s roots took shape in residential automation, an area the company remains active in through partnerships with Aiphone, Crestron and other companies. Rietschel soon added audio distribution to his vision, introducing products to move voice and music throughout homes. Commercial markets came calling in search of inexpensive ways to move audio and control signals over then-novel IP networks. Barix’s four core product lines were established before long, with proven hardware devices for voice and intercom (Annuncicom), automation and control (Barionet), and music/audio streaming (Instreamer encoders, Exstreamer decoders).
The broadcast industry was among the first to take interest. It wasn’t long before broadcasters adopted Barix to transport live program signals between studios and transmitter sites over IP networks. Around the same time, Barix saw quickly rising interest in its Annuncicom products for IP paging and intercom systems, and its Instreamer and Exstreamer systems for background music (BGM) delivery. Visionary integrators and service providers were soon moving BGM, paging, intercom and even control functions (HVAC, lighting and more) over a common IP architecture using Barix hardware.
By 2006, Barix had a global partner network — including the highly successful Barix Technology USA division, long managed by the late Andy Stadheim — and a worldwide presence in education, government, hospitality, medical, radio broadcast, retail, scientific, transportation and worship environments. Product developers, enthused by positive feedback, soon came to Barix requesting modular solutions to help them build their own products.
“Many of today’s primary Barix applications were discovered by chance, or developed through early enthusiasts,” said Rietschel. “That’s especially true in broadcast, where many AM and FM radio stations didn’t have the budget for STL systems that ran tens of thousands of dollars. We also saw strong interest from music service providers and retail operations that urgently needed to transition from expensive satellite systems, and transit companies that were replacing copper with fiber. Barix was in a perfect position to assist these customers with their IP transitions, as our devices offered the combination of price, reliability and performance they needed.”
He recounts one challenging period in this timeframe when RoHS environmental regulations forced a substantial product redesign. Barix ran low on cashflow, and one shareholder opted out of further investment. Rietschel worked for months without pay and invested more of his own money to redevelop products and meet regulations. Within months, Barix sold several thousand of the then-new Exstreamer 100 decoder — a product that remains available today.
While Barix continues to develop new IP audio and control hardware devices, the company’s focus has increasingly shifted to more software-defined and cloud-based architectures. These have led to recent game-changing, enterprise-level BGM streaming solutions like RetailPlayer and SoundScape; cloud-based radio signal distribution solutions like Reflector; and fully networked communications systems like Paging Cloud and Simple Paging.
Barix was also an early innovator of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) technology, first adopted by security customers for efficient VoIP connections and now gaining traction in broadcast; and among the first to merge digital signage and BYOD mobile applications with its AudioPoint solution. Meanwhile, the company’s OEM business continues to flourish; Barix is now on its fourth-generation IPAM Series module (IPAM400), and most recently introduced its IP Former solution to help loudspeaker manufacturers transition their legacy products to IP networks.
The unending innovative spirit and sense of creative freedom at Barix has been instrumental in the company’s global growth. The company continues to attract engineering talent from inside and outside their core industries, and recently opened a new “innovation center” in Portugal that focuses on research and development for new and existing markets.
Current CEO Reto Brader, who has accelerated the company’s transition to more cloud and SaaS solutions, jumped at the opportunity to join Barix after growing familiar with Rietschel’s continuously evolving vision. He finds Barix inescapable even while just going about his daily business.
One of Brader’s favorite stories is from a farmer in a rural northwest area of the United States who uses Barix to play music for 3000 cows on a 30-acre dairy farm. “It’s been running in a very harsh weather environment where the temperatures are very extreme and power issues abound, yet it all keeps running,” he said. “The creativity and innovation at Barix extends to our partners and customers that continue to find unique and compelling ways to use our products.”
Rietschel adds that the longevity of their installed products correlates with the longevity of Barix. “Our products are reliable and hold up well over years and even decades, and the more recent generations of our products will have even greater longevity through firmware updates,” he said. “While we have never been the biggest company, we remain profitable and have made it through 20 years and challenging business environments without ever laying off employees.”
— Brian Galante
Triton Digital is harping the addition of what it is calling “robust audit functionality” within its podcast platform, Omny Studio.
The new audit log within Omny Studio provides “an unprecedented level of tracking data that enables users to view who from within their organization or network have created, modified, or deleted a wide range of objects including chapter markers, clips, playlists, programs, and more,” Triton says.
Additionally, the audit log can be utilized to track network and organization activity, such as user settings, invites and permissions.
“We remain committed to providing our clients with powerful and innovative tools to support their enterprise podcast strategies,” said Sharon Taylor, Managing Director at Triton Digital. “Our in-depth audit log was purpose-built to provide both users and their development teams with the granular information they need to efficiently manage and troubleshoot changes to their content and within their network or organization, enabling them to spend less time manually tracking activity and more time creating great content.”
The Omny Studio platform is used by such companies as Cumulus Media and Canada’s Bell Media.
Telestream, known for its file-based media workflow orchestration, media streaming and delivery technologies, has brought to market the latest version of Wirecast, its live production and streaming platform.
“The new version is filled with features that users have asked for as Wirecast continues to be relied on for remote production and live streaming as well as a capture source for further postproduction and editing,” the company says.
Wirecast’s Rendezvous peer-to-peer remote conferencing and multi-site production feature now includes a back-channel chat feature enabling behind-the-scenes messaging between hosts and guests. “Replicating an on-set comms network, it helps keep programs organized and professional with no surprises during live events,” Telestream claims.
For Wirecast Pro, the new Shot ISO feature allows users to independently record any shot to disk including Rendezvous shots, audio-only shots, or any user-generated shots.
The latest version also supports Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) output using the Caller
method with either x264 or Apple H.264 encoding. SRT is an open-source video transport
protocol that enables the delivery of high-quality and secure, low-latency video across the
The release contains several new features and updates as requested by the user
community. These include ProRes encoding on Windows, for both ISO recording and record
to disk; performance and efficiency improvements for playback of PNG animations, and
restoring the ability to easily bring audio from any application into Wirecast on a Mac.
At the same time, an updated Blackmagic SDK adds new resolution options and improves capturing at certain resolutions. Additionally, Rendezvous connection improvements provide users with better reconnection if Rendezvous guests are disconnected.