Congress wants the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to improve emergency alerting around the country. So that will be on the agenda when the commission meets in March.
Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC will consider new rules to keep the public informed. This will implement the READI Act, which was part of the federal government’s defense authorization legislation for fiscal 2021 (the bill on which Congress overruled a veto by President Trump in January).
The READI Act instructs the FCC to take several steps, most of them in consultation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Notably, it tells the commission to examine the feasibility of updating EAS to enable or improve alerts to consumers through the internet, including through streaming services, and to report about this to Congress.
Given the ubiquitous nature of the internet in American lives, this stipulation could lead to the biggest change coming out of the bill.
“We’re proposing updates to the way Americans receive emergency alerts wherever they are — on their phones, on television and on radio,” Rosenworcel wrote in a blog post, previewing the March open meeting of the commission.
But also of interest to broadcasters is an instruction from Congress regarding State Emergency Communications Committees.
In the next six months, the FCC is supposed to encourage states to review the makeup and governance of their individual SECCs (and to establish an SECC if one doesn’t exist). Congress then wants each state committee to meet at least annually to review and update its state’s EAS plan and to submit an updated plan to the FCC, which the commission is supposed to review and approve or reject.
The FCC is also supposed to establish a “State EAS Plan content checklist” for SECCs to use when reviewing their EAS plans.
In addition to those two issues, the READI Act requires the FCC to establish a way to receive reports of false alerts under the Emergency Alert System or the Wireless Emergency Alerts System, so it can track them and study their causes.
And the commission was told to modify the Emergency Alert System to provide for repeating EAS messages while an alert issued by the president, head of FEMA or other appropriate parties is still pending. This applies to warnings about national security events such as missile threats, terror attacks or acts of war, not to typical local EAS events like weather warnings.
Consumer demand for one-to-one digital audio is a powerful economic force in the 21st century. Depending on your perspective, radio companies are either embracing the trend or being forced to do so. Either way, companies continue to diversify in the burgeoning audio marketplace.
The ongoing digital transformation is redefining how audio gets consumed in the home, the car and elsewhere, as Americans turn more often to their smartphones, tablets and connected speakers for audio content.
Observers who spoke to Radio World say all signs continue to point to continued growth of podcasts and on-demand content as personalized media plays a larger role in this overall audio ecosystem.
[Related: “So, Where Do We Go From Here?”]
The dramatic pivot in audio delivery is of critical interest to radio entities that engage consumers in the increasingly cluttered media environment. It leaves C-suiters searching for the latest accoutrement to accent their digital audio catalogs.
The trend is reflected in how “radio” companies now describe themselves.
Cumulus promotes itself as an “audio-first media company” that has broadcast, digital, mobile and voice activated options, including the Westwood One Podcast Network. SiriusXM — which owns Pandora and Stitcher and has an investment in SoundCloud — calls itself “North America’s leading audio entertainment company.”
iHeartMedia would probably contest that, given that iHeart lays claim to being “the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month,” with a quarter of a billion monthly listeners, “a greater reach than any other media company in the U.S.”
CEO Bob Pittman has pushed the company toward new audio offerings.
“Podcasting is wide open and the sky is the limit. It’s sort of an on-demand version of radio. We see it as an extension of radio,” Pittman said during a quarterly earnings report in 2020. Just this month the company announced another planned audio-related acquisition, that of Triton Digital.
The podcast business is thriving, with growth driven by consumers embracing on-demand audio; and radio firms have participated. Research from Borrell & Associates and the RAB shows that over 70% of radio stations produce locally-focused podcasts.
Entercom is another company emphasizing the power of audio. It released a study at the virtual CES 2021 show showing that the nature of audio content makes it more engaging for audiences than other media. The study tracked “immersion,” defined as “a scientific measure of emotional connection and attention,” and found that audio ranked highest in the test.
The proliferation of audio seems to be pushing radio broadcasters to adopt mobile apps and tech innovation to further their reach. And those efforts are expected to accelerate as hybrid radio in connected cars and voice activation tools like Amazon’s Alexa Auto proliferate. Understanding the “skills” required to integrate with new audio services will be critical for radio broadcasters, experts say.“Every channel matters”
Jeremy Sinon, VP of digital strategy for Hubbard Radio, said the company is quickly moving to digital, as in its partnership with PodcastOne in the on-demand space.
“We have a strong focus on our mobile apps, web listening and smart speaker listening. We also continue to focus on consumption via video on platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Every channel matters and they all warrant attention,” Sinon said.
Hubbard Radio launched PodMN, a mobile app dedicated to local podcasting in Minnesota, recently. “The project has helped build a closer connection with podcast consumers in the state as well as local podcasters,” he said.
Beasley Media Group recently announced a partnership with Entercom to be included in the Radio.com platform.
“One of the most important benefits of these partnerships is incremental distribution. We engage our users where and when they are on our O&O assets — live over the air, live streaming, and time-shifted streaming,” said Todd Handy, chief digital officer for Beasley Media Group.
“By partnering with these platforms, we gain the opportunity to meet not only our current audience members where and when they are when they’re not on our O&Os, and also to be exposed to and engage with potential new audience members.”
Beasley Media Group, which has long been partners with the iHeartRadio app and the TuneIn app for streaming, has embraced podcasting; for instance it created the bPod Studios Networks where it’s innovating in other podcast-adjacent spaces, Handy said.
“The intent there is to not only meet current and potential audiences where they are, but also to bring them fresh, engaging content that in some cases is part of our general programming, and in other cases is more long-tail and niche focused.”
Finding ways to engage audiences through multiple distribution channels is what drives Beasley’s digital development, Handy said.
“Hybrid radio is the next evolution in that engagement. It combines the large reach of broadcast with online interaction, making radio even more powerful and dynamic. Hybrid radio will allow listeners to engage with content and marketing messages they hear in the car. This will increase radio attribution and overall advertising effectiveness,” Handy said.
Beasley Media Group also has invested in SpokenLayer, a leading provider of short-form voice and audio content for virtual assistant and connected devices, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.Short bites, daily habits
National Public Radio continues to invest development resources in its digital platforms, including station streaming, the NPR One app, NPR podcasts and the Alexa skill, according to Michael Smith, chief marketing officer for NPR.
Smith says the nimbleness of audio and the ability present it through new technology is critical to NPR’s growth.
“The new platforms have allowed us to create different kinds of content because the format has changed. People today are listening to what I call short bite or daily habit podcasts. Just 10- and 15-minute shows. It presents new opportunities to present NPR audio,” Smith said. “Therefore you have these new podcasts that deal specifically with finance or politics.”
NPR’s short daily podcasts include “Up First,” which is produced by the “Morning Edition” team, and “Short Wave,” which comes from the NPR Science Desk.
Smith, who leads NPR’s business development team, says the lines between what is a podcast and what is an Instagram post are blurring. “People are even consuming podcasts on YouTube,” he said.
In addition, there is growth in interest among younger audiences finding NPR programming on the new distribution channels.
“Younger listeners are eager to engage in news and information presentations but on the platforms they are already comfortable with. On social media and smart phones. That opens up a whole new audience for us,” Smith said.
He said research shows that the median age of NPR’s podcast listening audience is at least 15 years younger than the traditional terrestrial radio audience.
NPR is firmly entrenched in the podcasting ecosystem. Podtrac says it had 20 million unique listeners in the U.S. in December, with nearly 193 million streams and downloads.
Findings from a study by NPR and Edison Research in 2020 showed spoken word audio in the United States had increased by 30% in the past six years. Some of the biggest growth is among 13- to 34-year-olds.
Meanwhile, digital advertising continues to accelerate for commercial broadcasters, according to AdsWizz, as the number of mobile devices accessing digital audio grows.
The digital audio advertising platform said in its annual Podcast Trends report there was an 81% increase in advertising impressions between January and September 2020 among the publishers it works with.
iHeartMedia’s digital revenue was up 16.5% year-over-year in Q3 2020 with most of that growth attributable to podcasting, which grew revenue 73.6% compared to the previous year. The iHeartPodcast Network remained the biggest podcast publisher in December 2020 among the entities measured by Podtrac.
The country’s largest radio group acquired Voxnest at the end of 2020 and is now able to provide podcast advertisers with additional targetable inventory by allowing the effective and efficient monetization across an entire range of podcast inventory on our programmatic platform, said Carter Brokaw, president of digital revenue strategy for iHeartMedia.
“This additional inventory and the application of Voxnest’s programmatic capabilities will increase the monetization of iHeartMedia’s full range of podcasts and advance the podcast marketplace for both buyers and sellers,” Brokaw said.
iHeartMedia’s SmartAudio project, Brokaw says, is a data-driven platform for the total audio marketplace, which includes broadcast, streaming and podcasting.
“We look to establish benchmarks of success by measuring results of radio campaigns with total iHeart universe delivery, insights and attribution data. This allows for a much more holistic view of campaign performance from demand generation to preference building to demand fulfillment.
“We can now look at cross-platform audiences and attribution as one and enable brands to connect with consumers across multiple content touch points,” Brokaw said.
Triton Digital is among the digital technology companies that provide audio publishers with streaming services and automated buying services. A company official reported during a presentation on Jacobs Media’s Virtual Tour of CES in January that programmatic digital ad sales have grown significantly in recent years.
The company reported total global spending on programmatic digital audio between 2018 and 2020 surged 213%. Triton’s exchange totals 13,000 live streams and podcasts.
[Subsequent to initial publication of this article, iHeartMedia announced plans to acquire Triton in a $230 million move to further broaden its acquisition of companies and technologies related to the wider business of audio. Other recent audio-related additions at iHeart include Jelli, Radiojar, Unified and Voxnest.]Attribution is critical
Radio broadcast companies continue to search for ways to monetize their digital initiatives.
Bonneville International’s Audience in Motion (AIM) program gives advertising clients access to audiences across multiple digital properties. Those include display, video, audio streaming, social, native or sponsorship and programmatic opportunities.
The broadcaster is streaming audio over multiple outlets, said Jennifer Williams, director of digital media for Bonneville International, including Spotify, Pandora, Google Play and SoundCloud, in addition to the company’s owned and operated network.
And ad attribution is imperative, Williams says, now that clients expect it.
“In the past, we used to compete with budgets that had attribution, now we complement and extend the ad recall. We have been able to help prove ROI by including audio tactics in a traditionally digital campaign.”
Bonneville International is focused on an initiative to increase its video pre-roll and smart speaker options on its streaming services, Williams said.
“To be able to add a visual element to those initially logging on via web, and a catchy intro to those using at home devices in their new office set up will be a been a fun new way to show the evolution of audio,” Williams said.
Comcast-owned FreeWheel Advisory Service’s latest research report, “The Definitive Guide to Video,” explores the differences between linear and digital TV advertising.
Author David Dworin examines the progress the industry has made in bringing these two worlds together, specifically across two dimensions, in this report.
Where Arkansas meets Oklahoma via U.S. Highway 412 sits a dormant broadcast tower that’s home to a transmitter for a 5kw daytime/31 watt nighttime AM that has been owned by regionally known licensee Jay Bunyard for nearly 13 years.
Most recently, this station was an ESPN Radio affiliate. Now, it’s being sold — and a change in language is most likely on the way for this forlorn station.
With the last broadcast transaction of the year — a $55.8 million TV deal — the broadcast deal volume for 2020 passed the $1 billion line, closing with a total of $1.02 billion.
That’s an 87% drop from 2019, Volker Mörbitz of S&P Global Market Intelligence notes, clearly highlighting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is, however, a volume 27% higher than that of 2010 when the deal market felt the full impact of the 2008-2010 financial crisis.
“Stations that choose to ignore optional EAS alerts can instead provide an unobtrusive, natural-sounding announcement in its place to convey the same message,” the company said.
“Furthermore, users can use ATMOS’ advanced scripting language (known as ATMOS Markup Language) to create scripts that suit their station branding and include their station name or slogan. When integrated with automation, the product can produce an alert announcement and gracefully insert it into the playlist.”
ATMOS is used by radio and TV stations to automate weather reports in a natural-sounding manner. It uses customizable script templates and AI-powered synthesized speech.
Summit President Paul Stewart was quoted in the announcement saying the intent of the IPAWS integration was to improve public safety in creating alerts that deliver the message without a robotic voice and are delivered without preempting a station’s programming.
“We heard far too often that optional alerts were being ignored on account of the National Weather Service voice engines sounding too robotic and jarring,” he said.
Summit worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to implement the interface needed to receive IPAWS alerts, he said. The interface is built on a cloud-based process that is hosted by redundant, geographically-separated tier-3 data centers.
Also new, Sponsor Manager provides a tool to manage advertisers and underwriters and appending their messages to weather reports.
“The new tool allows a user to create a sponsor, write a script, schedule the message and even track the number of times the weather report was performed. This is important considering each weather report may be aired numerous times an hour as prescribed by a station’s format and audience behavior,” the company said.
While the concept isn’t new, Stewart said, the environment makes it easy to edit, synthesize and schedule messages.
Also, ATMOS can now integrate with EAS equipment manufacturers, providing the ability to automate Required Weekly Tests from within ATMOS or through most automation or playout software suites. “This functionality is especially useful when inserted into a playlist to provide graceful execution of RWTs that do not interfere with programming or traffic breaks.”
ATMOS can be configured to provide a linear PCM (wav) file for ingest into automation or can be configured to play out the audio report directly. Subscribers are delivered a desktop application compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, and Server 2014 or newer.
The National Association of Broadcasters announced a digital campaign called “Voices From the Field,” that is intended to highlight stories of broadcasters using first-person accounts.
The first segment features Shomari Stone, general assignment reporter for WRC-TV in Washington, who talks among other things about his experiences covering the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“The campaign, part of NAB’s ‘We Are Broadcasters’ initiative, will spotlight how broadcasters are using their expertise, experience and dedication to local broadcasting to serve their audiences and uplift their communities,” the NAB stated in a press release.
Subjects will share why they became broadcasters and what they are passionate about in their careers.
“The campaign will focus on local reporters, on-air radio talent, photojournalists, broadcast engineers, producers and editors to highlight the people responsible for delivering news, weather, emergency information and public affairs programming to local communities.”
NAB said the campaign will use podcasts, video interviews and Q-and-As.
February 11 saw the release of the second in a series of Borrell Associates reports that examine 2021 spending plans for a dozen different types of local ad buyers.
This 14-page analysis, drawn from a survey of 373 local businesses that buy TV ads, shifts focus to Broadcast TV Advertisers.
To share additional insights into the findings, Gordon Borrell spoke exclusively with RBR+TVBR in this fresh InFOCUS Podcast presented by DOT.FM.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The NAB has officially launched a new digital campaign highlighting stories of local broadcasters through first-person accounts.
The “Voices From the Field” campaign, part of NAB’s “We Are Broadcasters” initiative, is designed to spotlight how broadcasters are using their expertise, experience and dedication to local broadcasting to serve their audiences and “uplift” their communities.
Using first-person storytelling features such as podcasts, video interviews and Q&A dialogue, “Voices From the Field” seeks to provide a platform for subjects to describe why they became broadcasters, what makes them passionate about their career and what they love most about being a local broadcaster.
The campaign, the NAB says, will focus on local reporters, on-air radio talent, photojournalists, broadcast engineers, producers and editors to highlight the people responsible for delivering news, weather, emergency information and public affairs programming to local communities.
“Every day, thousands of local broadcasters work tirelessly on-air, online and behind the scenes to deliver invaluable service to their communities,” NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said. “This campaign will celebrate the real people who are providing vital information from the front lines to keep Americans safe, informed and engaged, even when they themselves are in harm’s way.”
The first “Voices from the Field” story focuses on Shomari Stone, the distinguished general assignment reporter at NBC O&O WRC-4 in Washington, D.C.
In the report, Stone shares the moment he knew he wanted to be a broadcaster, his insights into how he views his role as a journalist and his experiences covering the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.
New “Voices from the Field” segments will be regularly available at WeAreBroadcasters.com.
With some companies, focusing on net revenue and earnings per share Street beats is core to determining just how healthy a company is. But, that’s not the arbiter for investors of Dish Network stock.
In the case of Dish, subscriber gains or losses is key to where the company’s health is, even as it swiftly tilts away from DBS television services to 5G telephony player. And, with the revelation Monday that Dish lost more subscribers than financial analysts expected, the company’s stock slumped.
That dip in value will likely continue in the short term, as a key analyst just downgraded DISH on that poor subscriber report.
Record performance. It’s a statement some companies may state, yet only tells part of a story that’s inclusive of some blemishes and bruises.
That’s not the case with respect to Nexstar Media Group. With founder and Chairman/CEO Perry Sook beaming as he discussed “another year of record financial performance” as he opened the company’s quarterly earnings call, Nexstar surpassed consensus expectation by delivering impressive Q4 and full-year 2020 results.
With CFO Tom Carter on the call, Sook reviewed the key Q4 highlights.
Net revenue jumped to $1.38 billion, from $1.1 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $1.34 billion.
Net income attributable to Nexstar soared to $364.25 million ($7.97 per diluted share), from $113.21 million ($2.36), thanks in large part to the addition of Tribune Media properties into the fold.
The EPS smashed the analyst forecast of $6.07.
Total funded debt declined in 2020, to $7.67 billion from $8.49 billion. However, Nexstar’s unrestricted cash also fell, to $152.7 million as of Dec. 31, 2020 compared to $232.1 million a year earlier.
The debt includes partner Mission Broadcasting, licensee of such stations as WPIX-11 in New York.
“Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, 2020 was a year of historic financial growth for Nexstar,” Sook said, noting that “sequential improvements in core advertising” — a story heard across the radio industry — is also a tale being told by Nexstar’s broadcast media properties and its WGN America TV network, soon to be rebranded as NewsNation.
Those challenges are reflected in a 9.9% Q4 core ad revenue dip to $473.5 million, from $525.5 million. That said, political displacement was significant, with political advertising revenue of $298.27 million against Q4 2019 political dollars of $36.53 million. Ownership of stations such as NBC affiliate WSAV-3 in Savannah, Ga.; the CBS affiliate in Columbus, Ga.; and the ABC affiliate in Augusta, Ga., helped in achieving this feat.
Then, of course, there is retransmission fee revenue, noted in the Q4 and full-year 2020 report as “Distribution Fee Revenue.”
For Q4, this increased by 18.4% to $527.99 million from $445.83 million.
What’s in store for Nexstar in the months ahead?
“While we continue to operate in a dynamic environment, full year 2020 free cash flow was in line with our pre-pandemic expectations and 2021 is off to a solid start,” Sook said. “As a result, we are reinstating guidance and expect to generate pro-forma average annual free cash flow of approximately $1.27 billion over the 2021/2022 cycle which supports our view that Nexstar’s path to growth, expanded returns of capital and enhanced shareholder returns remains on plan.”
How did investors respond to the results? Nexstar shares started Tuesday’s trading session with a 6.5% rise, to $136.81 as of 9:37am Eastern.
No matter where Nexstar finishes, it will be a new record high.
With the growth seen this morning, Nexstar has now surpassed its 1-year target estimate set by financial analysts. And, it marks a return to strong, steady growth that began at the start of 2013 and was only briefly squelched by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On that note, Nexstar shares have grown by roughly $85 per share since March 30, 2020.
In September 2019, NBCUniversal first announced a move to impressions. But, clients and agencies who were not trading on impressions were granted additional time to transition while they evaluated the impact the change would have on their business and clients.
That evaluation period is coming to an end very soon.
With the close of the transition period at the end of Q1, all of NBCUniversal’s owned TV stations and regional sports networks will be measured using CPMs only.
This means that as of April 1, all 42 NBC and Telemundo owned-and-operated broadcast TV stations and seven NBCUniversal-owned regional sports networks will officially move to 100% impressions-based buying for all local advertising campaigns.
“Our local businesses were among the first to put a stake in the ground around the move to impressions-based ad buys more than a year ago, giving local marketers a better currency for measurement,” said Frank Comerford, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations’ Chief Revenue Officer. “Utilizing impressions puts local TV on a level playing field with digital, since advertisers will no longer need to convert ratings to impressions in order to evaluate an overall ad buy. As always, our teams are ready to work hand-in-hand with local advertisers to deliver successful campaigns across all DMAs.”
The move to 100% use of impressions, instead of traditional ratings points, by stations and RSNs will, in NBCUniversal’s view, “enable marketers to plan holistically across platforms and screens, and will more accurately showcase the increase in viewers as a result of the addition of BBO households.”
As it turns out, Nielsen‘s introduction of broadband-only (BBO) homes into local market samples begins on April 1, answering questions one may have about Nielsen’s involvement or perhaps that of rival Comscore.
“Moving to impressions brings the added benefit of eliminating zero cell quarter-hours, which had previously resulted in a reduction in inventory,” EVP of NBC & Telemundo Owned Television Station Sales Michael Chico said. “Ratings, unlike impressions, are held to Nielsen’s minimum reporting standard thresholds. Ratings that do not meet these minimums are reported as zero viewership, while impressions are reported when viewing occurs in all quarter hours, effectively adding back anywhere from 5-20% of viewers depending on the daypart. This provides additional inventory for agencies and clients to reach their impressions goals on buys.”
NBCUniversal in December 2020 said it would expand its available digital inventory, addressable products, and advanced targeting by scaling NBC Spot On across One Platform. As a result, sales teams at NBC and Telemundo owned stations gained greater access to digital inventory from both NBC owned and operated properties and third parties.
That came following the February 2020 launch of advanced video advertising business NBC Spot On, which the company says is designed to give local, regional Connected TV and OTT access to premium video inventory.
“Given 2020’s extenuating circumstances, I am extremely proud of the company’s performance and the efforts of the entire Cumulus team to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19.”
That statement from Cumulus Media President/CEO Mary Berner set the tone for the audio media company’s release of its year-end and fourth quarter 2020 financial bill of health.
Just how healthy is Cumulus and all of its divisions, including Westwood One?
Listeners that have been seeking a hybrid radio experience now have the ability to do so, thanks to the implementation of “RadioDNS” services for radio stations by SurferNETWORK.
The features dynamically switch between broadcast and internet radio, and include enhanced “now playing” information.
“RadioDNS offers an enhanced listening experience by combining the technologies of both
broadcast radio and the internet,” SurferNETWORK notes. “This technology can add an app-like functionality to radio broadcasts, allowing listeners with a RadioDNS Hybrid Radio enabled device to experience their favorite radio stations in a new and interactive way.”
SurferNETWORK President and Co-Founder Bill Grywalski notes that Vox-owned WEZF-FM “Star 92.9,” serving the Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y. market, is the first station using the technology.
Since its establishment as a not-for-profit organization in 2010, RadioDNS has served as a link between Broadcast Radio and IP-delivered web services.
Learn more at https://www.surfernetwork.com/
Quicklink, which provides hardware and software platforms for video and audio media, has opened its first U.S. office.
It’s in response to “immense growth” for the company stateside in recent months.
The office is located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, in Hackensack, N.J.
By opening the office, Quicklink says it is strengthening its sales, services and support operations in North America.
“Quicklink is now able to provide local support to customers with repair and service facilities,” the company says.
Support team hours have been extended.
Furthermore, inventory will be housed in warehouse space in both California and New York.
U.K.-based Quicklink CEO Richard Rees said, “We can now provide more localized support and services with inventory available for immediate access in the United States. We have experienced astronomical growth, and as a result, it was very important for us to expand our operations to service the requirements of this region.”
Quicklink’s U.S. operations are now open for business and can be reached via telephone by dialing 1-551-587-7692, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NextGen Video Information Systems Alliance (NVISA)has introduced its first recommended practice document: Visually Integrated Display Symbology (VIDS). The VIDS recommended practice represents an industry breakthrough — a powerful and impactful new way of displaying emergency alerts based on easily discernable graphical elements.
The VIDS recommended practice is intended to enhance the impact, usability, and accessibility of emergency information by incorporating graphical elements. NVISA’s objective is to contribute to a more inclusive reach of emergency information that works for all audiences, regardless of visual media, language, ability, or culture.
NVISA is a worldwide coalition of developers and manufacturers working to help accelerate the industry’s evolution toward next-generation broadcast and OTT television systems. Alliance members are pooling their cross-industry expertise to collaborate, implement standards, and create best practices to help broadcasters accelerate their transformation toward advanced ATSC 3.0 systems.
VIDS is the first-ever recommendation for integrating universally understood graphical elements, including symbols and dynamic elements, into emergency alerting information for broadcast. Until now, visual displays of public warnings have been typically text-only, and usually limited to a single language. VIDS creates a commonly defined relationship between the type of alert, the message text, and any graphical elements.
The VIDS recommended practice lays out a compelling new approach, providing a standard look and feel for advanced multimedia alerts that is fully compatible with national emergency alert requirements. The VIDS recommended practice explicitly accommodates the requirements of emergency alert systems in the United States and Canada, while providing the flexibility to be applied anywhere else in the world.
VIDS can be adopted across all manner of display technologies including broadcast media, cable and IPTV systems, and digital signage. The VIDS visual presentation is based on a set of display directives for integrating alert information in which specific icons or symbols graphically represent an emergency event. Each symbol is presented with the alert text in a highly accessible manner.
For broadcasters and cable operators, systems using the VIDS recommended practice will deliver an integrated look and feel for advanced emergency alerts, with enhanced accessibility and appeal for viewing audiences. For manufacturers and developers, the recommended practice offers a standardized method to integrate, package, and display alert text and graphics.
“Associating graphics with the audio and visual components of an alert is highly meaningful to audiences,” said Bill Robertson, chair of the NVISA VIDS Working Group 2 and vice president of business development at Digital Alert Systems. “The symbology communicates the context of the alert without requiring viewers to read the text or even understand the language. Leveraging well-known symbols and unifying them in a presentation makes it far easier for users to engage and understand the message, ultimately bringing greater impact to broadcasters’ mission of public awareness and safety.”
Integrating a range of technical and regulatory requirements, the NVISA VIDS document makes recommendations for visual presentation of emergency information on display systems, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Advanced Emergency Information (AEA) applications in ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV, OTT applications, digital signage, mobile applications, and other visual media. The set of graphical display elements in VIDS is derived from public policy and social science research conducted by FEMA IPAWS, the DHS Geospatial Management Office, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation.
“A significant strength of VIDS is that it provides a common, recognizable, and informative alerting and warning methodology that transcends the display device,” said Jim Altemose, President of DigIt Signage Technologies. “Whether the alert is targeted for EAS television broadcast, AEA applications, NextGen TV platforms, digital signage, or personal devices, the common symbology conveys the nature of the emergency as well as the severity in a visual way that viewers easily understand, even those with barriers such as language or color recognition.”
“NVISA created the VIDS recommended practice to benefit the entire industry, including consumers,” NVISA Chairman and executive director Edward Czarnecki said. “VIDS showcases what can be done to enhance the accessibility and visibility of emergency information in current broadcast and cable technologies, and advances what could be included in next-generation technologies like ATSC 3.0 and advanced cable applications.”
The NVISA Recommended Practice for Visually Integrated Display Symbology (VIDS), NVISA-WG-1-001.01, is freely available from NVISA for download and review at www.nvisa.org/documents.
Technology infrastructure company PMG has selected a new EVP to leading its software and cloud platforms.
And, in connection with the hire, PMG has acquired the media management and workflow orchestration software that this new executive developed over the past seven years in anticipation of ATSC 3.0.
With the addition of Azita Manson and her software platform, PMG believes it can provide broadcasters with a “comprehensive, end-to-end orchestration solution to manage content workflows across platforms.”
As such, PMG says is now engaged to design, build and operate the Public Media Education Platform (PMEP) on behalf of public broadcasters across five states.
The PMEP is a national education datacasting service that will be initially deployed in ATSC 1.0 but is already optimized for ATSC 3.0. PMG’s software and cloud architecture will ingest educational content from stations, content producers and educators, and then deliver that targeted content to students across the country, with a focus on students that lack broadband connectivity.
As PMEP affiliates transition to ATSC 3.0, PMG’s software and cloud architecture will allow stations and educators to leverage new interactive and addressable features to further enhance the service.
“Bringing Azita and her software to PMG added another crucial piece to the PMG platform,” says PMG CEO Joe Chinnici. “Her software combined with the reach of our Single Frequency Networks allows us to provide both our commercial and public broadcast clients with an end-to-end solution to drive new ATSC 3.0 innovation and revenues.”
In the coming months, PMG will be announcing the launch of an open architecture application layer to allow for greater ATSC 3.0 innovation and use cases.
“By powering edge devices with PMG’s open architecture middleware and application software, the industry will benefit from a more entrepreneurial environment in which a greater number of businesses and industries participate in ATSC 3.0, driving greater value to, and demand for, broadcasters’ spectrum,” PMG says.
As part of this open architecture, PMG will make its application authoring tools available so that stations can customize their own NextGen TV apps.
Earlier in her career, Manson was the Director of Technology at TiVo and Senior Director of
Architecture at SeaChange International. For Comcast, TimeWarner and CableLabs, Manson
designed the first connected home protocol, and the security for the first downloadable
Telestream, a provider of workflow automation, media processing, quality monitoring and test and measurement products for the production and distribution of video, says its Telestream Cloud Stream Monitor and Wirecast streaming solutions have each achieved “SRT Plugged” status by successfully completing interoperability testing at the SRT InterOp Plugfest.
SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) is an open-source video transport protocol, developed by Haivision and driven by the SRT Alliance, that enables the delivery of high-quality, secure, low-latency video across the public Internet. This allows for optimized streaming performance across unpredictable networks, bringing the best quality live video over the worst network connections. SRT represents an alternative to costly satellite links, purpose-built fiber networks, or proprietary transport solutions.
Telestream Cloud Stream Monitor and Wirecast live production and streaming software participated in the SRT Alliance’s recent “InterOp Plugfest” kick-off event. The event is held annually for developers to test interoperability and compatibility between different technologies and vendors using the SRT protocol. Stream Monitor now enables users to monitor live video quality from streams transported via SRT. By repeatedly demonstrating compatibility and interoperability with other SRT Alliance members, SRT Plugged status was validated. Tests confirmed interoperability with over 20 different SRT enabled devices from a variety of market-leading encoding and content delivery systems. The latest Wirecast release was used as a live video contribution source via the SRT protocol.
“This is great news for customers looking to either monitor or contribute video over SRT, which has become an emerging standard for anyone delivering live video over public internet and cloud backplanes,” said Kenneth Haren, Director of Product Management at Telestream.
Qligent, the provider of cloud-based media delivery quality assurance products, has appointed a 30-year broadcast industry veteran to serve as its Vice President of Sales.
Reporting to CEO Brick Eksten, Ken Dillard will lead all sales and business development initiatives in North American and the CALA region, and collaborate with Qligent sales representatives and partners worldwide.
Dillard brings a diverse range of broadcast experience industry to his new role. He spent nearly 15 years as a broadcast engineer for radio and television stations before transitioning to sales. He has since held roles of increasing responsibility with Harris Corporation, Dejero, Avid and TVU Networks, working his way up from regional to executive-level positions. His vast sales and engineering experience gives him strong knowledge and expertise across the entire media production and delivery workflow, including Qligent’s core monitoring and analysis business.
Dillard joins Qligent at a time of broadening horizons for the company. While Qligent remains an active force in the traditional broadcast space, the company continues to evolve its vision for emerging opportunities and a broader customer base of content providers. For example, Qligent’s core QoS, QoE and compliance monitoring strengths have been applied to event-based monitoring with Dymos, a SaaS-based cloud solution ideal for event-driven OTT originators and DTC content providers. Qligent has also put a stronger emphasis on data-driven analysis to help all customers better understand and service viewing audiences.
“Broadcast is an important staple of our business, and we see strong opportunities to help broadcasters leverage a very rich and granular level of data to monetize their OTA and OTT services,” said Dillard. “We are also working very closely with content creators and their distribution partners to bring core Qligent competencies in QoS/QoE monitoring to their services.”
Dillard is especially bullish on Dymos, which allows Qligent customer to spin up event-based streams and temporary channels in the cloud for sports, live events and special broadcasts, among other creative programming requirements. “The ability to offer our customers a way to spin up, monitor and spin down these channels on a consumption-based cost structure without an investment in on-premise equipment opens an entirely new wealth of programming and revenue-generating opportunities for broadcasters and content providers,” he said.
Dillard also sees opportunity to extend Qligent’s reach beyond the media and entertainment landscape, noting that Qligent’s Foresight solution can provide valuable data analytics for corporate AV, digital signage and other audience-driven video services.
“Ken joins Qligent at a time of growth and expansion into new and exciting business areas for the company,” said Eksten. “He brings a detailed understanding of how media enterprises are accelerating toward DTC business models, which represents the direction of where the broader media and entertainment industry is headed. These skillsets, along with his strong track record of successful sales and business development initiatives for leading industry vendors, makes him an ideal fit for helping Qligent customers monetize their content and improve client satisfaction.”
The author is owner-engineer of AM Detuning Service.
Currently there are more than 4,500 AM broadcast stations on the air in the U.S. These stations still rely, to a limited degree at least, on a technology that, at its heart, hasn’t changed much in over 80 years.
One area that uses well-established and core electronic techniques is the AM antenna system.
AM broadcast antenna systems rely heavily on the use of L/C (that is Inductor/Capacitor) networks to accomplish things like impedance matching, phase shifting, broadbanding, frequency trapping, harmonic filtering and numerous other applications.
The most common configuration of L/C components in an AM antenna system is the ubiquitous “T” Network, so named because of the circuit configuration.
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Nearly every AM antenna system uses one of these networks to match the complex impedance of the antenna to the impedance of the transmission line feeding it. We remember from early electronics training that when the source impedance (the impedance of the transmission line) equals the load impedance (the impedance of the antenna), we get the most efficient power transference to the load. Getting every last watt of power to the antenna is usually good thing!
AM antenna systems have a resistance value (R) and a reactive value (X). Most often, this is expressed as a complex number R+jX.
This complex number is the “impedance” of the antenna system and is measured at the operating frequency of the antenna.
When an engineer designs an AM antenna, its complex impedance can be estimated with a good degree of accuracy using empirical data gathered decades ago, or it can be even more accurately estimated using moment-method modeling. However, ground conductivity at the antenna, variations in the ground radials configuration and nearby structures may have some effect on that value.
The best way to determine the exact AM antenna base impedance is to use an impedance bridge or network analyzer and measure the impedance on the frequency of operation.Fig. 1: Schematically, the components form the letter “T,” thus the descriptor “T network.” (Click here to enlarge.)
As noted, the “T” network gets its name from the schematic arrangement of the components in its makeup. As Fig. 1 shows, the components Xa, Xb, Xc are electrically connected in a way to form the letter “T.”
For those just getting into radio engineering, I’d like to mention that the components do not have to physically form the letter “T” when they are mounted in place, though they can if you desire. It is wise, though, to mount inductors perpendicular to each other, so they don’t inductively couple energy and do unpredictable things.Fig. 2: The physical layout for an AM antenna tuning unit “T” networks. Note that the layout doesn’t exactly resemble a letter “T,” but it could if desired. Also note that coils are physically mounted at right angles to one another to minimize mutual coupling. (Click here to enlarge.)
Fig. 2 shows a layout for a commercially-built ATU. You will notice the input component Xa is a capacitor-coil series combination. This coil in series with a capacitor “subtracts” from the capacitive reactance to allow a wide range of adjustment. Xc is the shunt coil of this “T” network, and one end is grounded through a paralleled pair of capacitors. Again, the series coil provides for adjustment of this leg. At the top right is Xb, which is the output inductor. Notice this inductor is mounted at a 90-degree angle to Xc, and in a different plane, to Xa. This is done to minimize mutual coupling between the coils. The component layout may not form the letter “T” mechanically, but electrically it does.
One function of the “T” network is impedance matching, that is, taking a high or low value of antenna impedance and transforming it to the same value as its transmission feedline.
Along with the impedance transformation, the “T” network also has some inherent shift of the current from the input to the output of the network. It’s possible to design either a phase-lagging or phase-leading network.
In many, but certainly not all, AM broadcast antenna tuning units, the “T” network is designed for a 90-degree phase shift. The focus of this article will be limited to 90-degree “T” networks.
One of the reasons for choosing a 90-degree phase shift is that this value simplifies the component calculation. The reactance values for Xa, and Xb are the same and Xc is the same numerical value but of opposite sign. Typically, in a phase-lagging network, Xa and Xb are equal value inductors and Xc is a capacitor of the same, but negative, reactance value. The opposite is true of phase-leading networks. But as we shall see, that’s not always the case.Fig. 3: 90-degree “T” network equation and example calculation. (Click here to enlarge.)
To calculate the values for an example “T” network, the follow the equations in Fig. 3. For the moment, we will ignore the reactive part of the antenna’s impedance and use only the antenna resistance and the characteristic impedance of the transmission line.
In the example shown in Fig. 3, all three component reactances are calculated to be 70.7 ohms, but that doesn’t take into account the reactive component of the antenna impedance. What we need to do is to make that reactive part go away by adding an opposite sign reactance in the output leg of the “T” network.
To do this, we must add a negative 250-ohm reactance to the output leg of the “T” network. This gives us a network that looks like the one shown in Fig. 4.Fig. 4: Block diagram of a complete “T” network, including a reactance to cancel antenna reactance. (Click here to enlarge.)
Now we can combine the two reactive components in the output arm of this network into one component by adding Xb + (– jX ) together to get –j 179.3 ohms, which changes this arm of the network from inductive to capacitive. We calculated the capacitor value to replace both of these components to be 888 pF. This isn’t a standard value of transmitting capacitor, so we can either use a vacuum variable capacitor adjusted to that value or employ a standard-value capacitor with a slightly lower capacitance value and put an inductor in series with it. The value of the inductor is then adjusted to achieve the exact net let reactance that we need.
For example, using a 750 pF capacitor and a 10 µH coil, we would adjust the coil for a net combined reactance of –j 179.3 ohms in the output arm of the “T” network.
“T” networks with phase shift values different than 90 degrees require a bit more math. We’ll explore that in a future article.
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The author started his radio career as an amateur radio operator in his teens and worked for various AM and FM stations in the Chicago region. After 30 years as a chief engineer he retired from radio, got bored shortly thereafter and started AM Detuning Service to mitigate wireless tower effects on AM antennas.