Friday, 24 January 2014 at 10:36 in Advanced Web Services, Broadband, Broadcasting Economy, Cable|IPTV, Consumer Electronics, DTV, HDTV, Information Technology, Innovation|Change, Legal, Management, Media Economy, Mobile Content, Mobile DTV, On-demand|VOD, Public Media, Social Media, Spectrum, Technology, Television, Web Content, Web Economy, Web/Tech | Permalink
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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
Recently, I’ve found myself tweeting more from @haarsager and blogging less. Most of the tweeting has the same media economics and technology content as I normally put in the blog, so thought I’d share them here. So I invite you to scan my January tweets (those off topic have been deleted for length) for some interesting and, in some cases, important links. --Dennis
gleonhard “Content is no longer king. Its throne has been taken by experience” http://instapaper.com/zRx3x612B a snippet from Midem 2011 about 4 hours ago via Instapaper Retweeted by haarsager and 7 others
Some web browsers have had trouble accessing the link I posted in various places for a pdf document containing all four essays in the series on radio innovation that I wrote for NPR, so here is another try. If you're typing in the first address, TypePad requires the file name to be case sensitive. If you can't make it work, try the Dropbox link.
Previous white papers in this series:
AKT Number 1: Introduction
AKT Number 2: Prospects for IP Radio
AKT Number 3: Prospects for Broadcast Radio
Radio Platform Innovation Strategies – “All Known Thought” Number 4
“I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.”
– “Hal,” the HAL 9000 computer, voiced by Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
– Attributed to John Wanamaker, 1838-1922, retailing and advertising pioneer
I was in 6th or 7th grade when I built my first radio: a primitive “crystal set” similar to the one illustrated here from the 1920s. The coil was wound around a Quaker Oats can, the detector was a galena (lead ore) crystal with a stiff “cat whisker” wire used to probe the crystal for a sensitive spot. It picked up one station – weakly (no audio amp) – no matter where I tuned. In consumer electronics economics, “dumb” is often a good thing and a crystal set is as dumb as it gets. More on this under “Consumer electronics economics” below.
On the other hand, the HAL 9000 computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey claimed to be a “conscious entity,” the ultimate contra-example to dumb radios. That film opened in May 1968, seven months before astronauts left Earth’s orbit for the first time on Apollo 8. The guidance computer on Apollo 8 was primitive – holding only 76,000 bytes of memory and weighing 70 pounds – and so was the kludgy radio network which relayed the “burn for the Moon” order via my Air Force squadron on Guam. Now, 42 years later, a pleasant female voice (I call her “Claire”) from my 2008 Jeep’s navigation/audio system gives me turn-by-turn instructions. Its computer, rather small by today’s standards, can store 10 billion bytes – and there’s a whole separate computer to run the vehicle.
Today’s smartphones and computers can perform radio functions and are a lot closer to “Hal” in sophistication than to the simple combination of resonant circuit, detector and sound reproducer which began radio receiver technology. Radio, at its essence, is content not the delivery device. This white paper will explore strategies that stations and their organizations might follow to keep us in the game.
For seven years I’ve been doing a media economics blog disguised as a technology blog (technology360.com), which might help explain why I’m starting this white paper with economic assumptions for both the consumer electronics industry and station economics.
Consumer electronics economics. When a consumer electronics company is trying to sell millions of units of something, the more it can “dumb it down” by minimizing the component count within a defined functionality specification, the more price-competitive it can be. Arguably, price-competitive sells more units than feature-competitive. Components can be integrated circuits, connectors, even buttons. As we saw with the story of David Sarnoff, Edwin Armstrong and Philo Farnsworth in the second AKT white paper, intellectual property is also a component cost – and not an insignificant one since today it drives the costs of the chips that are used in these wonderful gadgets.
Because of the component cost of making radios smarter, devices like smartphones that can do radio plus do other things will have an advantage. Handheld devices, in particular, need to pass the test of being compelling enough to justify space in a purse or briefcase.
Media economics. The second quotation at the top might seem odd for a public radio audience, but I don’t think that’s the case if you share these assumptions:
Two of the earlier white papers have looked at the state of play for Internet Protocol and broadcast radio. I would like now to place those aspects of innovation off to the side and continue this survey with what’s happening on the software side of innovation – all of them enabled by metadata.
Never Metadata I Didn’t Like: Software Innovations
Metadata are simply data which describe other information in a useful way – data about data. An old-fashioned 3x5 library card is a good example. Use of metadata permits search, retrieval, manipulation and dissemination of information.
Metadata are used (though with different standards) across all media. Digital cameras record metadata about pictures you take. Radio stations and Sirius|XM use metadata to transmit Program Service Data (PSD), also called Program-Associated Data (PAD), to listeners via HD Radio® or analog Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS). The following innovations all employ metadata magic.
iTunes and Song Tagging. An example of the use of metadata for radio interactivity (though not in real time) is iTunes Tagging on HD Radio. An HD Radio receiver that is enabled for this capability will have a small amount of on-board storage that, when a listener likes a tune, simply pressing a Tag button records the station’s metadata including station identity and tune. The information is syncs with the listener’s iPod and then with iTunes on the listener’s computer. The listener can then purchase the song, giving the station a commission from Apple. iTunes Tagging is supported by a sizable number of receivers. Microsoft’s Zune HD Radio Song Tagging is a similar feature. No station is going to get rich on this, but it’s a good illustration of non-real-time interactivity.
Personalized Audio Information Service (PAIS, pronounced “pace”) is federally-funded project developed by NPR Labs (partnering with the International Association of Audio Information Services, iBiquity Digital Corp. and Towson University) to provide millions of print-disabled people access to audio programming in a personalized way. Like iTunes and Song Tagging, it uses program-preference tags sent over the internet to a program source. These tags trigger the recording of programming sent over an HD Radio transmitter on a PAIS-compatible HD Radio receiver where it’s recorded for playback by a listener, effectively creating a custom podcast. A technical document describing the system is available at NPR Labs web site.
RadioDNS is an international non-profit collaboration developing a standard for converting station metadata (PSD/PAD) for radio stations already transmitting to valid web addresses in the internet Domain Name System (hence, RadioDNS). It works with analog FM, HD Radio and other digital stations, and on internet streams. The receiver needs to have either an occasional or permanent IP connection.
Although most of the RadioDNS board participants are from Europe, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has a seat on the board and Clear Channel and Cox are members of the consortium.
The station registers its domain name with the RadioDNS database and consumer devices query a look-up table using those metadata to perform useful tasks (see below). Consumer electronics and software companies can use RadioDNS services for free, while broadcasters pay a small charge per entry in the DNS lookup table.
Receivers for it are already available in Europe and the RadioDNS technology is built into a number of iPhone and Android apps.
Within the RadioDNS rubric, there are three principal areas of development underway:
Addressability is a close cousin of what many multi-transmitter radio operators already do. Northwest Public Radio, which I managed until early 2008, is a network with two program services over 13 stations that stretches some 550 miles from west to east. By using addressable satellite receivers at our transmitters with on-board storage, and with memories fed through a separate channel, we were able to set up station zones for customized information. The listener in Grangeville, Idaho, no longer has to listen to underwriting credits for the Volvo dealer in Bellingham, Washington. We multiplied our underwriting inventory and gained a more rational pricing structure. Although it was used then only for underwriting and station IDs, it could do weather, news updates, and even whole programs – transmitter by transmitter rather than zone by zone. The next generation of NPR’s ContentDepot software will enable this for national underwriting – a concept known as “split copy.”
Persona Radio. Imagine yourself getting into your car one morning in Leesburg, Virginia, ready for a 40-mile commute to work in DC. On turning the key, your radio comes on, tuned to WAMU, and says (imagine the voice of “Hal” from 2001, or perhaps Carl Kasell):
“Good morning and happy birthday, Dave. There are some celebration coupons in your account with our compliments. Your retrieve button has current weather and traffic for Leesburg to Washington. It will update again in ten minutes.”
You retrieve your weather and traffic (underwritten by a Leesburg business), and then the radio begins playing Morning Edition, which it’s been storing since you turned the key. Ten miles down the road, you hit that button again to hear the updates. While it’s playing out, the radio is again buffering Morning Edition so you won’t miss anything. It’s pledge week, but as a sustaining member of WAMU, you bypassed the pledge drive “yada yada” with the normal Morning Edition segments arriving over a separate feed.
Persona Radio would provide these capabilities and more, coupled with an enabled radio. iBiquity has published a 40-page technical report on Persona Radio that you may ask an engineer to interpret. In short however, this will allow the listener to personalize radios, normally through a station’s web site or smartphone app. The user’s preferences are derived from a profile stored in the receiver (age, gender, etc.) or from the “user’s current state” (GPS location, stated activity, etc.). The following items could be personalized based on this profile:
Persona Radio is what its developers call a “smart radio concept.” It’s being undertaken by iBiquity Digital Corp. and the NAB FASTROAD program using HD Radio. Since the term “smart radio” has several other meanings (e.g., for so-called cognitive radios which can change frequency to avoid interference), perhaps it would be better to call it “smarter radio.” That notwithstanding, compared to the “dumb” radios we have today, these would be pretty darn smart. Some Persona Radio functions would not be available until more advanced HD Radios are on the market. With radios that can support it (as can DMB receivers in Europe) your radio can get even smarter through software updates you push to the receivers.
Sounds great. So what’s the hitch? Well, unless someone comes up with a hybrid HD Radio/IP radio (see below) or hybrid HD Radio/Mobile DTV receiver, Persona Radio will take some of your digital capacity for the customized information, reducing the number of discrete program channels, not to mention traffic and visual information, you can carry via HD Radio technology today. We might see stations within a market pooling their digital capacity to provide additional bandwidth.
Hybrid radios are ubiquitous – nearly every cellular telephone incorporates more than one radio, and nearly every consumer radio incorporates separate AM and FM radios. My 2008 Jeep has a Sirius radio as well – so that’s three radios – plus a 10 GB hard drive and a video display. There’s no reason why one couldn’t build a radio that combines FM HD Radio with either on-board 3G or 4G services or with it built into a 3G or 4G USB card or tethered smartphone.
At the risk of reprising something that I posted to my blog in March 2007, check out a concept drawing here: A many-to-many radio using HD + IP. It would be a breeze to program using HD Radio’s “operating system,” Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL – a markup language somewhat similar to HTML). Brilliant or not – apparently it was the latter – the idea has gone nowhere though it’s been brought up in conversation with executives from two consumer electronics companies who might have made it happen.
I’d venture a guess that the best way to contribute to the growth and value of HD Radio would be an iBiquity-provided Software Development Kit (SDK) opening the platform for developers. Of course, we would need receivers that accepted the resulting applications, but the availability of such platforms would contribute to a competitive marketplace for features.
Are there other ways to make hybrid radios? Fortunately, yes. Well, in this case, “fortunate” depends on whether you view this as an opportunity or a threat. Some of your station’s competitors are moving into your sanctum sanctorum – the family car – by permitting the car’s sound system to interact with a smartphone. There are multiple efforts underway.
Thewhite paper I wrote on the Prospects for IP Radio mentioned one of them – the Ford/Microsoft SYNC® collaboration on a dozen current Ford Motor Company models. SYNC With MyFord Touch™ connects with your mobile devices (smartphones, iPods, etc.) and lets you control them through the dashboard in a safe and intuitive way. Radio providers will likely want to customize their mobile apps for this platform as will happen with Pandora (65 million registered users) by the end of the year (source: Variety, which also reports that Mercedes-Benz and General Motors are also adding Pandora).
In mid-November 2010, Toyota and Clear Channel announced that Clear Channel’s iheartradio would be incorporated into some Toyota models beginning in 2011. Listeners will have access to 750+ radio stations “and other exclusive content.” Clear Channel has been remarkably active in mobile and online platforms, and their iheartradio app is available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, Chumby, and Sonos platforms. It has, according to the Wall Street Journal, 10.5 million users. Technical and user interface details are scarce so far.
Top 10 List for Radio Strategies
First, some cautions. Though this white paper is written under NPR auspices, the following recommendations are mine alone and are influenced more by my 38 years in stationland than my three years at NPR. NPR (in particular, NPR Labs under Mike Starling’s leadership) has done a lot of radio innovation over the years and continues to do so, but nothing here should be construed as a plan to move forward on these ideas. Another caution is that strategy is as much about deciding what you aren’t going to do as it is what you are going to do – I’ve (mostly) ducked that one in this list. Lastly, I can almost guarantee that everyone will find something in the list with which to disagree.
Number 10 – Audio Over Mobile DTV (national organizations and stations). Work with television broadcasters and program aggregators that are launching audio services over the mobile DTV (ATSC M/H) standard to advocate for inclusion of public radio in market bundles (guide to MDTV stations). Although the (so-far) encouraging Digitial Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) experience in Europe, which it most closely resembles, isn’t necessarily transferrable to the U.S., and there is rational skepticism about whether consumers will accept yet another device primarily to get local TV, this technology does have investment momentum in the television industry and there are plans to add audio bundles to the mix. It also is a plausible solution to IP media scaling issues. Rob Pegoraro has a hands-on report in the Washington Post.
Number 9 – Web Integration/Radio Personalization (national organizations and producers). Influence developments in HD Radio, RadioDNS and Persona Radio with an eye toward ensuring that new features can be adapted to public radio’s mission and economy. Although public radio probably has a small but important role, this has a big impact on viability of the radio medium in a media economy increasingly driven by the accountability and granularity of results that internet advertising provides. Producers and distributors need to add descriptive metadata to their programming and develop means to distribute PSD/PAD along with program feeds for stations to use in multiple platforms (RBDS, HD Radio, RadioDNS, Persona Radio, web pages, API-accessible archives, mobile apps).
Number 8 – Spectrum Priorities (national organizations). Follow the spectrum battle and respond as appropriate. Radio has interests here. First, we should support additional spectrum allocations for 4G wireless since our listeners expect to find us there with reliable services. Secondly, the FM band, in the wake of LPFM crowding, translator proliferation, “Franken FMs,” and inadequately-funded FCC enforcement of interference and even piracy rules, is becoming an interference mess. Radio has a good public service case (problematic business case notwithstanding) for additional spectrum immediately adjacent to the noncommercial band: channel 6 or even channels 5 and 6. Maybe that’s where digital-only radio should go in the longer term. It sure makes more engineering sense than putting ATSC DTV down there.
Number 7 – HD Radio (stations). This will annoy both the “analog foreverists”and the digital media advocates: Give HD Radio more time. Its acceptance will accelerate as more stations use the higher digital power authorizations and the more sophisticated features (album art and station/sponsor logos are in at least one radio shipping now). HD Radio has decent momentum with consumer electronics and automotive companies. If you haven’t done so already, you should increase your digital power by the time Persona Radio rolls out (25% of public radio stations aren’t even on the air with digital yet). True, it’s a capital expense; sometimes mostly “forgiven” by the need to replace an aging analog transmitter. There are no guarantees, but many smart people were skeptical of FM into the early 1970s but FM listening equaled AM by the end of that decade. Broadcast still scales much better than IP radio.
Number 6 – Automotive Integration (national organizations). Work with mobile device, automobile and automobile electronics manufacturers to incorporate mobile apps and interfaces featuring public radio programming, including station streams.
Number 5 – Build Community Around Mission (stations). Many, if not most, stations are using Facebook, Twitter and blogging to engage audiences around their programming. But too often these social media efforts are primarily promotion vehicles for programs and pledge and not as a medium to engage audiences in the mission. Twitter is particularly valuable for news, as Paul Balcerak of Seattle’s KIRO-TV describes (source: Lost Remote):
“Twitter’s huge for us. It’s like a police scanner voiced by the general public that also allows us to get info to people who need it.”
Your web and mobile platforms enhance your station’s immediacy and are a flexible solution to the tyranny of a broadcast schedule. You should be thinking of your station as a way to promote your local mission on your digital platforms, not the other way around (the math is more favorable). If the digital media department of your station isn’t growing – even at the expense of all others – something is wrong.
Number 4 – “There’s an app for that” (national organizations and stations). Launch applications for as many platforms as possible – at a minimum forApple’s iOS and Android devices, but there a number of darker horses that should be monitored (Windows Phone 7, Symbian, WebOS). Stations should be aware that, for iOS apps, Apple has begun rejecting radio apps that appear to be clones, changing only logo and feed addresses. Your station is a unique reflection of your mission in your community – your apps should be also.
Number 3 – Make Radio Easy to Find (stations). This is a no-brainer. Making it easy for listeners to find your radio streams should be your top web and mobile priorities. If you’re a joint licensee where radio is one of a half dozen tabs, insist on having a “Listen now” button on your home page. You’re a radio station, for goshsakes, give them radio! Way too many public broadcasting web sites make the listener really work to find the audio. This is even more important for mobile apps where poor design can turn away listeners.
Number 2 – Distributed Distribution (stations). Follow a “distributed distribution” strategy. Your transmitter reaches everywhere and your web presence should do the same. Generally, it doesn’t. Place links to your content (all of it or curated; streams and archives) with as many places in the communities you serve aspossible. Treat each such opportunity in the same way you would a translator. In the past, I’ve called it an “Easter egg” strategy – “hide” your content in plain sight all over the web.
Number 1 – Radio + Digital is Powerful (for everyone). Recalibrate your thinking about who we are. Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired and author of the new book, What Technology Wants, has the following comments in New Rules for the New Economy blog about the place of radio:
On the new mess media, rumor, conspiracy, and paranoia run rampant
.... Capitalizing on these disadvantages, broadcast will thrive symbiotically within the network economy. Sometimes real-time signals en masse are needed and wanted. Broadcast's flyover will be used, or material will be directly pushed to users. The web needs broadcast to focus attention, and broadcast needs the web to find communities. ... [emphasis added]
If our strategy mirrors thinking that it’s either broadcast or digital platforms, and if economics are the driver, we should be prepared for an either/or result that may not favor us. To reiterate Kelly: The web needs broadcast to focus attention, and broadcast needs the web to find communities. It’s the combination that’s powerful.
-- Dennis Haarsager
Last Tuesday, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Link: FCC 10-196) with the title above. Here is the Introduction, with some highlighting and a link added.
1. In this Notice, we initiate a process to further our ongoing commitment to addressing America’s growing demand for wireless broadband services, spur ongoing innovation and investment in mobile and ensure that America keeps pace with the global wireless revolution, by making a significant amount of new spectrum available for broadband. Through this Notice, we take preliminary steps to enable the repurposing of a portion of the UHF and VHF frequency bands that are currently used by the broadcast television service, which in later actions we expect to make available for flexible use by fixed and mobile wireless communications services, including mobile broadband. At the same time, we recognize that over-the-air TV serves important public interests, and our approach will help preserve this service as a healthy, viable medium. The approach we are proposing is consistent with the goal set forth in the National Broadband Plan (the “Plan”) to repurpose up to 120 megahertz from the broadcast television bands for new wireless broadband uses through, in part, voluntary contributions of spectrum to an incentive auction. Reallocation of this spectrum as proposed will provide the necessary flexibility for meeting the requirements of these new applications.
2. The specific bands under consideration are the low VHF spectrum at 54-72 MHz (TV channels 2-4) and 76-88 MHz (TV channels 5 and 6), the high VHF spectrum at 174-216 MHz (TV channels 7-13), and the UHF bands at 470-608 MHz (TV channels 14-36) and 614-698 MHz (TV channels 38-51); for purposes of this Notice, we will refer to this spectrum as the “U/V Bands.” This Notice proposes three actions that will establish the underlying regulatory framework to facilitate wireless broadband uses of the U/V Bands, while maintaining current license assignments in the band. First, we are proposing to add new allocations for fixed and mobile services in the U/V Bands to be co-primary with the existing broadcasting allocation in those bands. The additional allocations would provide the maximum flexibility for planning efforts to increase spectrum available for flexible use, including the possibility of assigning portions of the U/V Bands for new mobile broadband services in the future. Second, we are proposing to establish a framework that, for the first time, permits two or more television stations to share a single six-megahertz channel, thereby fostering efficient use of the U/V Bands. Third, we intend to consider approaches to improve service for television viewers and create additional value for broadcasters by increasing the utility of the VHF bands for the operation of television services.
3. By taking these important steps to facilitate wireless broadband uses in the U/V Bands, this Notice is the first in a series of actions that will allow us to make progress toward our goal of improving efficient use of the bands and enable ongoing innovation and investment through flexible use. We intend to propose further actions consistent with other of the Plan’s recommendations for the U/V Bands, including, but not limited to, the process of voluntarily returning broadcast licenses to the Commission and the licensing process and service rules for new fixed and mobile wireless communications services. As part of that process, the Commission will address the Plan’s proposal for channel re-packing, the band plan for recovered spectrum and other related issues and will provide full opportunity for public comment on those issues at that time.
Doug Lung has an analysis of the NPRM in TV Technology.
Update: So does Harry Jessel in TVNewsCheck. --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.
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:
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 playing the 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.
Twelve broadcast groups (Fox, ION, NBC, Belo, Cox, Scripps, Gannett, Hearst, Media General, Meredith, Post-Newsweek, and Raycom) have announced plans to roll out at least two broadcast stations offering mobile DTV (ATSC M/H) in 20 DMAs in 2011. They say that 40% of the U.S. population will be covered.
Now, all they have to do is convince the consumer electronic industry to manufacture more than the very few devices available or nearly so and, of course, convince consumers that they want this enough to carry another gadget -- and do this while hoping no one notices the bad start that FLO TV had.
Here is the coverage and commentary:
Two weeks ago, I posted here a white paper called “Prospects for IP Radio” that I wrote for NPR. Jon Schwartz, GM of Wyoming Public Media although living in Eugene, Oregon (hence the examples below), responded with some questions that I’ve attempted to answer. He’s given me permission to quote his email and my responses are embedded in it.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thanks for this comprehensive overview Dennis. Just went back and read a little more closely as I am a fan of "Lute Athletics". You were quite clear about a number of tech matters and that's an achievement.
Wonder whether you might elaborate on what competitive factors are on your mind regarding a reversal of upward costs for data plans for emerging 4G service unlike 3G which has gone up not down with increased usage, and what examples in the industry outweigh the upward trend. Certainly increased demand has not lowered cable TV bills.
Unlike wireless services, cable is for most purposes a monopoly. For wireless services there is supply and demand model of price determination. For example of that, in broadcast advertising, it’s often said that if your inventory in a daypart is consistently sold out, your rates are too low. Spectrum is a regulated resource, but with the rapidly ascending popularity of smartphones, demand for those bits has increased faster than regulators can clear spectrum (42.5 MB per wireless line in Q1 2009 to 182.5 MB per line in Q1 2010 per Validas LLC). As the sole iPhone carrier, AT&T was in a particularly acute pinch which led the move new pay plans. Clearing spectrum is the top priority of not only the current FCC but also very likely for future FCCs as well. Ditto, of course, with the carriers. As spectrum is freed up and built out, and as 4G services populate it, we’ll see competitive factors engage. At least until the next demand explosion.
Also, there is a lot of space between the new metered pricing rates and unlimited data service. Competition *might* reduce pricing but that could include lowering the price per unit as opposed to elimination of demand pricing. Of course either way we have been dealing with elite pricing for data regardless of the method. Cell phone service billing PLUS unlimited data has been costing me a little over $70 a month and that level of billing makes the argument at least reasonable that such service will always remain an option for elites in government and corporate sectors given it by their employer, and elite private subscribers who can and choose to afford it. In that world, IP radio and TV cannot be considered "public".
True enough, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, audio is always going to be at a substantial spectrum advantage to video, and video, not audio, will be the bigger driver of scarcity. As I said in that white paper, we are already seeing technology-driven responses such as MediaFLO that move streaming out of the cellular spectrum and into the former TV spectrum (the European DVB-H and U.S. ATSC-M/H standards are also candidates for this – more of this in the next white paper, “Prospects for Radio-Radio”). Go to the FCC’s “spectrum dashboard” and check out the 700-MHz spectrum already licensed to cellular carriers. For example, in Lane Co., Oregon, AT&T has two such licenses.
Second, whether it’s broadcast spectrum or cellular spectrum, listeners do pay for it now. For us it’s because they’ve voluntarily donated, or involuntarily donated (tax $), or we’ve rented their attention (underwriting $). It takes some mental gymnastics, but those same revenue sources could subsidize wireless services. SafeLink Wireless is now operating as a tax-supported service. That’s admittedly a stretch for public media, but I’d argue that the more important value to protect in the “public = free equation” is that we should be free-as-in-journalistically-unfettered, not necessariliy free-as-in-free-beer.
The other question you could elaborate on is coverage. I get good Verizon cell phone reception here in Eugene. But neighbors and friends in the same neighborhood or elsewhere in town complain about inability to get cell phone reception from the other providers in their home or office. They also complain about shadow areas throughout town while driving that result in dropped calls and no service. More towers from more providers? Zoning problems? What about suburban and rural service? These questions would be interesting to see from your perspective. [splitting your paragraph…]
Yes, cellular services are pretty poor many places. My son works in Manhattan and I work in Washington, both with iPhones. At any time of day for him, and during rush hours for me, communication is pretty pathetic – especially between us. On the other hand, in less congested hours I’ve driven at distances in the 45-75 mile range listening to Pandora through my sound system on that same iPhone with no dropouts at all. I’ll just say that it’s a work in progress, and the reliability problems we spot in pure-digital wireless are also shared by pure-digital HD2 and HD3 radio which generally have less coverage. I believe we’re a lot more likely to be able to one day drive I5 and I84 across Oregon or I25 and I80 across Wyoming with seamless IP radio coverage than we are to drive those same stretches with seamless HD Radio coverage.
Cellular systems today operate in a variety of bands from 700-2700 MHz. Much of the spectrum being cleared now is in the UHF TV band, lower than these frequencies so will have somewhat better penetration.
Also in these new bands will be new kinds of wireless services, what’s been billed as a sort of super Wi-Fi covering a whole campus or small town. Look for these to be interlinked just as regular Wi-Fi has in many community – often with “free-as-in-free-beer” services. These services will provide additional rate-moderating competition to 3G and 4G providers.
[…resuming your paragraph] Do you see IP radio remaining a niche albeit it a significant one or lean towards Vivian's view that mobile IP radio will replace current broadcast radio inevitably?
Oh gee, thought I’d duck this one. Actually, I think that neither one of these are likely – that is, IP radio will be more than a niche but less than a replacement. IP radio has advantages in terms of rural coverage (as long as you’re along an interstate highway) and listener choice in content (especially for satellite radio), but its big advantage is that it’s inherently two way, which provides an important advantage in advertising. Its big problem is scaling difficulty, but I tried to show in the white paper that there are ways to mitigate this for video and radio will go along for the ride. On the other hand, radio-radio has advantages of scale, established local branding, and adaptability proven over nine decades. The broadcasting industry will figure out how to make a back channel work (for example, see discussion on RadioDNS in the next white paper), and I’m also convinced we will eventually have hybrid HD-IP radios with seamless tuning between broadcast and IP favorites – a pretty trivial engineering effort.
Thanks again for this effort Dennis. I look forward to your future pieces.
Thank you for the close read and thoughtful questions, Jon. We’ll miss you in public radio. Oh, hold it, they’ll miss you in public radio – since we’re both retiring at the same time. ;-) --Dennis
Michael Grotticelli has a report on the several station experiments underway with mobile TV in the U.S., all using the ATSC-M/H standard and all “in search of a business model.” He reports that WSB-TV in Atlanta is offering radio, but I wasn’t able to find it on an otherwise interesting looking wsbtv.com Mobile tab. Link: Broadcast Engineering.