On four different occasions since early 2004, I’ve used information from the Television Bureau of Advertising web site (click “Cable & ADS” on the right navigation) to determine the number of households that use over-the-air reception (OTA) exclusively (that is, not counting antenna reception by secondary and tertiary receivers in wired cable and ADS homes). The term ADS refers to SMATV, MMDS, large-dish satellite, and DBS, and currently 30.6% of the 30.9% total ADS households are DBS subscribers.
On a tab labeled “ADS and Wired-Cable Penetration by DMA,” you’ll find for May 2011 a table of the 210 Nielsen DMA’s which contains a column labeled “% Cable and/or ADS” (there being a small percentage of homes that have both). If you subtract the numbers in this column from 100, you’ll get the OTA numbers for each market. No need to use some lame telephone survey to estimate this as the Consumer Electronics Association did in December 2010; TVB.org has it for just a little copy/paste work in Excel.
The first time I did this using November 2003 data, OTA-exclusives came up to 19.7M households. My most recent effort prior to this week used September 2006 data, and that showed 14.6M households (13.1% of TVHH). The one I did yesterday showed 11.1M households (9.6% of TVHH). ADS is now at an all-time high, so the addition of local channels to DBS has resulted in another decline in OTA.
So, yes, it’s falling and, yes, it’s gotten pretty low as a nationwide average. That’s some higher than the 8% in the CEA’s phone survey mentioned above that’s gotten some circulation (e.g., “Spectrum Reform Now” in The Technology Liberation Front blog).
From a public policy standpoint in a democracy, a national average of doesn’t mean a lot if there is a high “standard deviation” in the numbers that make up the average – and that’s the case here. There are 535 members of Congress who get to weigh in on what to do with spectrum policy, and when the Boise DMA has 30% OTA usage (antennas exclusively), four members of Congress get to have a vested interest. Ditto, when Los Angeles has 720,000 antenna-only households (13%), about 30 members of Congress have a vested interest. As L.A. proves, it’s not just rural markets – 15 of the top 50 DMA have 12.5% or greater OTA-exclusive usage. On the other hand, Congress members in New York City, Connecticut and Massachusetts might wonder what the fuss is about.
It’s that political complexity, fueled by the fact that OTA homes have a greater economic impact to stations (especially for public television which has underwriting and individual giving driven by viewing) than do homes with multi-channel programmers – perhaps double the value per household by my own guesstimate.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that freeing up additional wireless spectrum from broadcasters and others – voluntarily and properly compensated – ultimately is a good thing because services on multipurpose devices wireless and wired internet provides will be at least as important to broadcasters in the not too distant future as broadcast spectrum services will be. We broadcasters need it as much as anyone.
But let’s get our data right and make decisions based on understanding complexities, not over-simplifying for political expediency. Thanks to the TVB for their goldmine of information. --Dennis
The following is the third in a series of “All Known Thought” white papers that NPR President & CEO Vivian Schiller asked me to write for internal use and for the public radio system. A fourth one, tying together “Prospects for IP Radio” and this paper in a strategic way is in the works and will follow shortly. --Dennis Haarsager
“… The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know May just be passing fancies and in time may go But oh, my dear, our love is here to stay…” – Ira Gershwin, 1938
I love radio. We love radio. Broadcast radio. The kind with a big tower, a big transmitter, and big romance. Ever see the 1973 George Lucas film, American Graffiti, where Wolfman Jack spun records from a radio shack under the blinking AM tower? Yes, that kind of romance.
Our love is here to stay. But is broadcast radio? The beginnings of an answer to this were addressed in AKT Number 2, “Prospects for IP Radio,” which took a look at developments and technology constraints for IP radio. This AKT looks at what’s happening to innovation on the broadcast side. AKT Number 4 will attempt to tie these together into a plausible strategic direction for radio broadcasting.
There’s a lot of innovation happening in broadcast radio – especially on a global scale – but does the inherently slower development cycle put broadcast at a fatal disadvantage to faster IP radio innovation? Will software people in t-shirts and sneakers beat hardware people in lab coats?
All of the innovation in this space is digital in one way or another, some of it broadcast over traditional broadcast spectrum allocations, and some of it over spectrum that’s new to radio. However, since so many things are going on across the globe, I’ll need to be selective, glossing over innovations in the “whatever happened to” category (e.g., AM stereo and FMX) as well as innovations that lack receiver support and/or are in limited, alpha or beta status.
IBOC and HD Radio®
HD Radio is in a family of radio technologies called “in-band on-channel” (IBOC, pronounced I-bock). Although for some, including HD Radio, “on-channel” is a bit of a misnomer; in IBOC schemes, the digital information accompanies the analog AM or FM signal. In addition to HD Radio, IBOC systems include Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM, DRM+), an open standard used by some shortwave broadcasters and by some long- and mediumwave stations in the Eastern Hemisphere; VuCast (formerly known as FMeXtra), which transmits high speed digital information, and multicast channels, over FM subcarriers; and CAM-D, intended for hybrid analog and digital on AM stations. I'll skip these three for the reasons cited in the previous paragraph.
HD Radio is a standard controlled by iBiquity Digital Corp. The board includes directors from four major commercial groups as well as capital investment firms. Available in both AM and FM flavors, HD Radio has enjoyed good adoption by broadcasters (especially public radio) and consumer electronics manufacturers in this country. iBiquity reports that 10,000+ retail outlets offer HD Radio products from many manufacturers. Use by auto makers is growing but not universal. It’s also in use in Mexico and Brazil with limited operation or testing elsewhere. Canadian stations are authorized to use HD Radio but none have taken advantage of the technology yet.
Stations actively programming and promoting their HD2 and HD3 channels are beginning to show up in Arbitron data. HD3 listening on one NPR Member station is a bit larger than the station’s same program service streamed online. Based on the limited data available, I don’t think I’m too far out on the limb in estimating that HD Radio listening to HD2 and HD3 is roughly on a par with online listening to same-programming station streams. Since HD1 listening is receiving the benefits of branding, familiarity, and program investments, it may exceed HD2 and HD3. Unfortunately, HD1 listening is rolled up with the main FM channel in Arbitron reporting and the same is true for streaming, so it’s not possible to allocate them between sources. When an HD2 or HD3 channel is rebroadcast by a translator, the translator listening will be rolled up also.
It’s important now to ask, how does HD Radio's progress compare to other rollouts in the broadcast and IP worlds? Let’s take a look at the take-up of other media innovations. These aren’t strictly apples-to-apples, but give a general indication of time span to acceptance.
FM radio from its 1945 reboot on the current band to significant consumer take-up: about 20 years, then about 10 more years until its listening eclipsed AM.
Color TV from first modern color receiver (1954) to wide adoption, due to drops in receiver prices and production of most programing in color: about 14 years.
Internet development from internet ancestor ARPANET (1969, running a blazing 50 kbps) to establishment of internet Domain Name System (.com, .edu, .org, et al.): 15 years.
Web from establishment of the internet DNS (1984) to development of Mosaic (soon renamed Netscape) web browser: 9 years. Then, hockey stick growth: three years later, in 1996, 30 million were using the internet in North America and 45 million worldwide. By 2003, ten years later, an estimated 2.6 billion illegal downloads of music files were taking place each month.
Digital TV in the U.S. from 22 “early builder stations” on the air (1998) to ubiquitous consumer DTV receivers and analog shutdown: 11 years. During the 22 years from 1987, when the FCC created a committee to come up with a U.S. DTV standard, to when analog broadcasting ceased, cable and satellite substantially replaced over-the-air television for viewers. Disruption happens.
Smartphones from the first one sold (IBM/BellSouth in 1993) to the first smartphones (Nokia’s N82 and N95) with media and connectivity capabilities comparable to today’s phones: 14 years. Then, again, hockey stick growth: 139.3 million smartphones of all kinds were sold globally in 2008. As of Sep. 2010, Apple and Google claim they’re activating 430,000 devices per day.
HD Radio from first station on the air (2002) to first measurable (in some markets) audiences: 8 years.
So, in this context, the pace of HD Radio's uptake seems fairly normal. Compared to other hardware-centric media innovations– even of non-media smartphones – we see that HD Radio is not doing too badly and may even be somewhat ahead of the curve.
There are a lot of HD Radio innovations already here or in the works:
iTunes Tagging (iPod) and Song Tagging (Zune)
Traffic system integration
Electronic program guides
Sponsor logos and album art
Text display and Program-Associated Data (PAD), also known as Program Service Data (PSD)
Pause and “TiVo”-like features
“Enhanced Other Network” switching (automatically follows your multi-station network from transmitter to transmitter)
To me, the most interesting and promising thing about HD Radio technology is that it uses a standard XML markup language called Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL), so applications are limited only by imagination, bandwidth, and what the consumer electronics industry will support.
There are even more interesting innovations on the horizon. RadioDNS provides a way to mate radios with the web, and it’s compatible with HD Radio. The recently-announced Persona Radio project, from the National Association of Broadcasters’ FASTROAD program and iBiquity, would give HD Radio a very detailed level of personalization. More on these important developments in the next AKT paper.
“Pure” Digital Broadcasting
Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB, DAB+) and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB), are members of a family of broadcast standards known as “Eureka 147” and maintained by the WorldDMB organization. A European effort dating from the late 1980s (but incorporating the Korean DMB innovation), these broadcast standards have spread worldwide. Some take place in “Band III” (we in North America use for VHF TV channels 7-13), others in new-to-broadcast spectrum like “L-Band” (near 1.5 GHz). Eureka 147 systems multiplex several stations on one radio carrier. These are called a “multiplex” or, more properly, “DAB ensemble.” DAB audio quality is in the FM-to-HD Radio range.
Eureka 147 systems enjoy decent receiver support and market penetration, especially for the original DAB flavor. WorldDMB lists 330 receiving devices – the vast majority of them operating in Band III. In Denmark and the United Kingdom, nearly one-third of listeners are using these services, and substantial numbers of users exist elsewhere in Europe, Asia and Australia. As the name implies, DMB incorporates video but DMB Audio has been chosen as the digital radio standard in France where some interesting receiver development is underway.
Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB) and its mobile version, 1seg, are the Japanese standards for digital television and radio broadcasting. In addition to Japan, it’s been adopted by the Philippines and by a number of Central and South American countries (though in operation only in Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru). The terrestrial version operates in the UHF TV spectrum. As with DAB/DMB and DVB (see below), it is a multiplexed system with multiple services riding on one radio carrier.
Reportedly, all mobile telephones sold in Japan can watch 1seg television – clearly, it’s being used as a solution to the scaling problems of running multimedia programming over cell phone systems in much the same way as Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology is used for certain cell carriers in the U.S. (see discussion on this in the last AKT paper).
Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) is a family of standards originally developed in Europe and maintained by the Digital Video Broadcasting Project. Think of it as the television counterpart to DAB, though there is now some overlap in capabilities between DVB and DMB (above). A large number of the countries that use DAB for radio use DVB for television. It seems to have the widest adoption of any digital broadcasting scheme with a claimed 500+ million receivers.
Radio people should be interested in DVB because of its DVB-H (handheld) standard. As with ISDB 1seg and MediaFLO, it’s a way to move multimedia to cellular handsets at large scale. A wide variety of companies are making DVB-H products. ICO mim (Mobile Interactive Media) is a satellite service that will offer live television in the U.S. via satellite using the DVB-SH (satellite handheld) standard in addition to navigation and two-way messaging. One of its partners is Delphi (a company active in HD Radio), which will provide auto receivers.
Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is a set of standards that are America’s entries in this space, competing with DVB and ISDB. Although primarily designed for television, they also support broadcasting at audio data rates and the new ATSC M/H (mobile/handheld) standard is of particular interest. Through regulatory intervention, ATSC receivers are now included in new television receivers, so they are widely available even though that capability is not widely used due to consumer reliance on cable and satellite programming.
The ATSC standard has been the “Rodney Dangerfield” of digital multimedia standards (I’ve taken shots at it myself over the years), but today’s receivers are finally producing acceptable results. The ATSC M/H standard is designed to be even more robust, though at the cost of a significant amount of capacity.
The Open Mobile Video Coalition is promoting applications for the ATSC M/H standard, including proposals to group as many as 50 radio channels into a multiplexed audio service.
In my view, no radio technology is going to compete for ad dollars in an increasingly interactive world unless we figure out how to build some sort of back-channel in real or synchronized time so radios can be personalized, ads and other information can be targeted, and listeners can control their radio experiences. The bulleted enhancements for HD Radio above are enticements for listeners to acquire devices, but the economic engine for this externally attractive vehicle still amounts to a few of Click and Clack’s raccoons running on a treadmill. Interactivity should be our top priority whatever the platform.
The western hemisphere has been a tough sell for “pure digital” radio. DAB has been authorized and on the air in five Canadian cities for a decade, and there is some testing in Mexico. Because VHF TV uses Band III in Canada, its implementation there has been L-Band where receiver availability is sparse. Additionally, broadcaster engagement has been minimal and Canada has Sirius|XM competition (in Europe, where DAB is successful, there is no mobile satellite radio). Consequently, consumer take-up there has been minimal. The result has been that the dismantling of their DAB system this year – the only country which has reversed course. They are now said to be awaiting some future pure digital play for the United States – possibly a replacement of analog (and IBOC) as the Europeans are doing.
In my view, the same things that have contributed to DAB’s failure in Canada would do the same in the U.S. Plus, there’s new spectrum pressure, so it’s unclear where it would even go. Band III (our high VHF TV) has limited possibilities since, although there are hundreds of available receiver models for it, we’d have to weave radio in between digital TV channels in some unproven non-interfering way – and if that isn’t enough, as this is written the FCC is trying to get UHF TV to move back to VHF where possible. Ain’t gonna happen.
For the kinds of interesting things that DVB, ISDB/1seg, and DAB+/DMB can do, Americans are going to have to look to ATSC and ATSC M/H.
The next AKT white paper on strategy for radio broadcasting will talk about playingthe cards we’re dealt: IP radio because it’s inherently interactive, HD Radio because it would make it interactive is not rocket science (some efforts already underway), and, though it may be a longshot from a radio perspective, ATSC because TV broadcasters are hungry for new ways to justify and monetize the spectrum they use.
Special thanks to NPR’s Mike Starling and DAVID Systems’ Vincent Beneviste for valuable help on this white paper.
NB: I’ve always tried to keep my work and this blog separate (see About), but this is an exception -- the first in a series of white papers that I’m doing for my employer, NPR, and cross-posting here. They’re consistent with the theme of this blog. Although written for a public radio audience, readers from television or commercial radio may also be able to pull some takeaways from this series. Hope you’ll read on. --Dennis ______________________________________
“In 1920, we discovered we could get more listeners with voice than with Morse code, and we’ve been selling out to the audience ever since.” -- Jack Mitchell, NPR’s first employee and former board chair, to a Public Radio Conference meeting, of 9XM (now WHA), America’s first public radio station in Madison, Wisconsin
NPR President & CEO Vivian Schiller asked me to write a series of mini-white papers for the public radio community that she calls “All Known Thought.” That’s a weighty, though tongue-in-cheek title but as a longtime student of public radio technology since vacuum tube and razor blade days and a station GM for nearly 30 years, I’m committed and challenged to provide an objective overview on various topics that at the frequently changing intersection of technology trends and public radio economics.
As such, please consider this an attempt to bracket this moving intersection within a plausible and actionable space. As one who has been influenced by Clayton Christensen, I believe we need to pay particular attention to disruptions at that intersection.
As the opening quote observes, public radio began some 90 years ago when the physics and engineering departments at a bunch of universities discovered they could attach modulators to their former Morse code stations and transmit voice and music. Radio has proven to be one of the most adaptable forms of communication in both technology and business practices ever since.
I’ve been writing about this in my Technology360.com blog since 2003, a blog that grew out of an earlier email list that I ran for six more years. Both were efforts to force a discipline to keep up with my professional reading, so this assignment renews that and I’m happy to take it on. The blog, which has always been light on opining and heavy on encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions, will continue but its readers will recognize some themes here.
I have a great group of tech-and-strategy-savvy colleagues here at NPR who I’ll ask for advice along the way. I’ll take responsibility for what gets written, but in the spirit of seeking “all known thought,” those colleagues will be free to write op-eds, which I’ll append if they wish.
Up front, I defined my focus as the intersection of two areas of importance to our future (technology and economics) and observed that these were not static. If not, where are they moving?
The pace of technology change has increased dramatically in the last couple of decades, and along with it the choices listeners have in how and when to consume radio programming. We will assume that this pace will not slow down and may increase. Regulatory constraints, the need for auto manufacturer take-up, and the inherently expensive nature of broadcast technology all contribute to our second assumption that the pace of change for traditional broadcasting will continue to be slower than change in the software-driven web and mobile domains.
As listeners have more media choices, yet finite time, we will assume that some of the attention of some of our current listeners will moveto web and mobile platforms. It seems sensible to assume that most stations will try to serve listeners through the web and mobile platforms; in the process picking up new listeners, likely with a wider demographic array.
The other line through the intersection is public radio economics. Assumptions here may attract some debate, but here goes: The public radio economy is impacted unfavorably by the recession, by increased operating costs, by loss of attention to other platforms (and the perception by advertisers of the efficacy of these new platforms), and by the economic conditions of closely-associated institutions (public TV for joint licensees, supporting universities, and government agencies).
Recessions are cyclical and the economy will eventually recover. Depending on how long the recovery takes, the movement of resources from radio to greater-stressed television at some joint licensees and the loss of tax-based revenue will exacerbate public radio’s economy. Entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and government pensions are eating up discretionary spending for state and federal governments. A more favorable economy will accelerate technology change and spur increases in operating costs.
On the other hand, public radio has the ability to slow or even, if only for a time, reverse the “gravity pull” of unfavorable economics through station acquisitions, investments in emerging platforms and smarter radios, better programming and fundraising practices, cost-reducing collaborations and mergers, and stronger governance.
So, overall, while movement of this intersection will vary, we will assume that the “if we do nothing” direction will be “southeasterly” (see sketch below), and public radio will decline. Our challenge is to make smart moves at this intersection that “fight gravity” and move our mission forward.
Before I present a list of the likely topics, here’s what won’t be included in these white papers. We read a lot in the trade and popular press about death – the death of radio, of television, of newspapers. X will kill Y. The September cover of Wiredheadlined the death of the Web. A friend of mine, tech journalist Steve Gillmor, has, with a scythe in hand, declared the impending death of many technologies. Death. Death. Death! Death is a word to grab headlines, not one to use for thoughtful discourse. Let’s move past that word! Even Morse code has survived modulators in the ham radio community.
That’s not to say change won’t happen. It’s good to distinguish between the future of what we do and the future of how we do it.
Since the talk of death is off the table what is most important about this intersection between technology and economics is its effect on our margin. The late non-profit hospital director, Sister Irene Kraus, was famous for saying, “No margin, no mission.” Our primary focus needs to be on producing and delivering quality content, but to do that, we need to be financially healthy. Disruptive technologies don’t have to kill us to harm our mission; they just need to erode our margins, which are thin or nonexistent already.
Here are white paper topics we’ll start with, in no particular order:
What can trends in mobile and other device-based platforms tell us about future media consumption?
HD Radio, RadioDNS, and other advanced radio systems. What are consumer electronics companies cooking up next that could impact our business?
Mobile providers—are they a threat, an opportunity, or a little of both?
The auto manufacturers are talking about in-car internet availability. How will that work and when?
What's the latest on impending changes in spectrum allocations and how they will impact us?
Is social media something we can use effectively? Should stations make a long-term commitment to it or is it a fad?
Reconciling web metrics and broadcast metrics. Why your web cume is less than you think and your web time spent metrics are greater than you think.
This series of “All Known Thought” will be most successful with your input, and the input of your colleagues (please feel free to share these papers). This will be a platform to generate discussion on the impacts and influences on the public radio community. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
As I posted here back in January, user-customized audio stations like Pandora, et al. are being added to automobile sound systems. Here is more on it from John R. Quain, who writes,
… But using … a service [like Pandora, Slacker and Last.fm] on a phone in the car usually meant looking away from the road to switch channels or skip a song on the phone — a major distraction. So companies are marrying these services to existing in-car controls, essentially making it no different than switching between 1010 WINS and Q104.3. ¶ Alpine, a car stereo maker, for example, offers the $400 AlpineiDA-X305S Digital Media Receiver with Pandora Link. Using a special iPhone-compatible cable, the in-dash receiver lets listeners skip through their customized stations and even give songs a thumbs up or thumbs down by pushing in and turning the receiver’s front dial. …
Back in February, at a conference in Munich, I saw a fascinating short presentation on HbbTV, an recent initiative by European broadcasters and CE partners. It’s a mash-up between broadcast and internet technology that capitalizes on the advantages of each. Here is Wikipedia’s entry. The links above provide descriptive information and a block diagram, but you really need to see it demo’d. I went looking for them on YouTube. Unfortunately, the best one I could find isn’t that good, this video of a video showing Wedison’s HbbTV Project. --Dennis
I'm midway through a two-week loan of an iPad. While I'm not likely to buy one based on that week of use, it is a beautiful machine. I've downloaded a page full of apps designed for the iPad, and therein came a surprise. I use the iPhone daily and have a serious app jones there. I assumed that the iPad apps would be just bigger screened versions of the iPhone apps, but in most cases they really are a new experience. The Apple multitouch gestures, which are so essential to the iPhone screen, are very often unnecessary on the iPad, particularly those needed to expand certain portions of the screen for visibility.
The takeaway from this realization is that you wouldn't really need an iPad to take advantage of the great design paradigm of the iPad apps (check out, for example, the NPR iPad app which is much nicer than the iPhone app, and the Evernote app, which is not only nicer to look at but much easier to use than the Evernote apps I use on Windows, Windows Mobile, Mac and iPhone platforms.
So, I'll bet that we see this great application interaction/industrial design spread from the iPad to the desktop. Who says that all desktop apps have to follow the standard File|Edit|View, etc. menus found on Windows and Mac desktop apps today? There's not much in an iPad app that needs to change for the desktop.
I’ve posted previously on this topic here and here, the latter a personal experience. Now, R. Colin Johnson reports on recent research at UC Berkeley that provides some guidance to videographers and cinematographers who are shooting in 3D. He writes:
… According to [professor Martin] Banks, when viewers direct their eyes at nearby objects or scenes, their gaze converges. When they gaze into the distance they, diverge, or what optometrists call "vergence." Conversely, focusing the eye muscles to bring something into sharp focus is called "accommodation." ¶ In the real world, vergence and accommodation are synched to the same distance, but in the world of 3-D stereoscopic glasses decouple the two, forcing the brain to cope with a disparity between the vergence and accommodation distances. …
Tore Nordahl makes a very interesting case in his Executive HDTV Report for moving over-the-air broadcasting from 1080 interlaced to 720 progressive, with benefits for mobile DTV (ATSC 8VSB M/H) and 3D. Link: coax.tv. --Dennis