KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the executive producer and co-host of the Chiefs Radio Network, I travel extensively to cover games for Entercom’s WDAF(FM) 106.5 The Wolf in Kansas City, the flagship station of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Throughout my three decades of broadcasting Chiefs games, we’ve been tasked with backhauling games from all over the world. The NFL schedule can send us to any of 31 other markets in the United States, plus the United Kingdom and Mexico.
To accomplish this, we need solutions that are compact and portable but have a tremendous amount of connection flexibility.
We own three rack-mounted Tieline Merlin Plus codecs: one at WDAF, one at Arrowhead Stadium (our home stadium) and one installed in our road kit. We also have a Tieline ViA — which I have found to be a perfect combination of power and portability.
An entire game day broadcast is nearly eight hours including pregame and post-game. Some of this content can occur simultaneously and requires multiple discrete audio routes. And because the content is live, its coordination demands real-time two-way communication.
We solved these needs by utilizing all six channels of the Merlin Plus.
Two channels send stereo program to the studio, and on the return path we receive a mix-minus and a communication feed from the network TV truck that is used to coordinate commercial breaks. Channel 3 is for IFB to and from our studio master control.
Channel 4 is for incoming Report-IT app calls for game updates from around the league. Channel 5 connects the ViA from its remote stadium location — or, because of COVID, an offsite location. Channel 6 connects the ViA in IFB mode for comms with the remote talent. As a setup it’s nuts. But it all works beautifully and reliably!SmartStream
For us, one of the most important aspects of the ViA is the ability to provision it to any type of network.
The setup allows us to configure a primary, secondary and tertiary network easily. And the SmartStream technology provides connection stability and redundancy by allowing us to utilize multiple networks at the same time seamlessly.
Using the dual SIM internal LTE module here in the U.S., we can choose between Verizon and AT&T LTE networks, or use both simultaneously. Internationally we use LAN and Wi-Fi networks in the same fashion. We have also streamed with USB air cards and USB tethering.
Having six bidirectional streams in a single rack space has made Merlin Plus an ideal choice as our primary codec for the studio, home and away stadiums. Over the years, the Report-IT app has become our primary method of feeding locker room interviews. Report-IT provides the convenience and mobility of a cellphone, with the quality and stability of a professional codec.
For the gameday backhaul we use a dedicated MPLS [Multiprotocol Label Switching] network installed and maintained at each NFL stadium by Brian Kassa at Sports Backhaul Network. It’s incredibly stable and has the bandwidth to support the full use of the Merlins.
For locker room and various feeds, we also use the ViA connected to the internet. We encode using Tieline’s Music Plus algorithm at 48 kHz/256 kbps or Opus voice at 64 kbps and always configure SmartStream Plus redundant streaming (even for our Report-IT users).
During the pandemic we’ve had limited access to stadiums due to the NFL’s COVID isolation and lockdown. For the 2020 regular season, we elected to broadcast from home and not travel. This required coordinating several fiber real-time video and audio feeds from each venue. The ViA became invaluable for allowing us to remote talent off-site while retaining the level of communication needed to coordinate segments in an extremely fast-moving live broadcast.
The need to socially distance or remote someone in quarantine was made possible by the variety of options that the Merlin, ViA and Report-IT apps provide. We had talent broadcasting from home and remote hotels. We even used the ViA to extend one individual across the room so we could meet the NFL’s social distance requirements while maintaining an IFB path for communication.
The codecs generally don’t require any user interaction — we simply load the setup and connect. And having remote access to the equipment has been a game-changer this year, whether using the built-in WebGUI or Cloud Codec Controller. My stadium engineer Nate Wetmore and studio engineer Ken Wolf are responsible for supporting everything from legacy Tieline G3 Commanders to Bridge-ITs to Merlin and ViAs. So the consistency of the user interface and configuration is a huge time-saver.
Post-pandemic, remote control will continue to be important as it can be especially difficult to access equipment physically in large stadiums. Remote engineering removes that obstacle.
The codecs perform incredibly. Setup is simple and the user interface is intuitive given the complexity of both the Merlin and ViA. The sonic quality and network stability make them well suited for critical broadcasts.
The ultimate compliment for a codec is when we hear people say they are surprised that a Report-IT or ViA user is not in the room with us. Combine that quality with the easy administration provided by having everything under one roof of the Tieline Cloud Codec Controller, including Report-IT users, is why the Chiefs Radio Network relies on this equipment to provide Chiefs games to more than 100 affiliates.
Radio World User Reports are testimonial articles intended to help readers understand why a colleague chose a particular product to solve a technical situation.
For information, contact Dawn Shewmaker at Tieline US in Indiana at 1-888-211-6989 or for international queries contact Charlie Gawley at Tieline in Western Australia at +61-8-9413-2000 or visit www.tieline.com.
The post User Report: Chiefs Network Streamlines With Merlin and ViA appeared first on Radio World.
iHeartMedia plans to acquire audio ad technology company Triton Digital for $230 million.
It said the agreement to buy Triton from E.W. Scripps Company “establishes iHeartMedia as the only company to provide a complete set of advertising technologies and measurement solutions for all forms of audio media.”
It highlighted benefits of the acquisition in expanding its “data and measurement capabilities, programmatic platform, self-service platform for small businesses and podcast capabilities.”
Providing some insight into where iHeart sees the greatest business opportunity, the headline of the press release emphasizes iHeart’s description of itself as a podcast publisher as well as its role in“ all forms of audio media.”
The agreement is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approval.
“With this acquisition, iHeartMedia will now be able to provide audio content to producers and advertisers with an industry-leading full ad service package for streaming and podcasting no matter their size, reach or distribution method,” it stated.
iHeart says it will be the first company in the audio market “to provide four distribution methods for audio, including on-demand, broadcast and digital streaming radio and podcasting, and to service all audio assets programmatically.”
This is the latest in a string of audio-related moves. IHM acquired podcast marketplace Voxnest late last year and, as it noted in the announcement, in the past two and a half years it also acquired buying platform Jelli Inc., social intelligence platform Unified and, through its subsidiary RCS, the cloud-based audio platform Radiojar.
The E.W. Scripps Co., which sold its podcast company Stitcher in October and nearly doubled its return on that investment, was an early entrant into podcasting and digital audio.
Now, it is selling Triton Digital, a divestiture the broadcast TV company says “reflects Scripps’ consistent invest-for-growth strategy that capitalizes on emerging media marketplaces to unlock shareholder value.
The buyer is iHeartMedia, and the price tag is a cool $230 million.
For Scripps, the deal represents a cash-on-cash return of 1.6x for a business Scripps acquired in late 2018.
Triton is a global technology and services leader for the digital audio and podcast industry. Scripps bought the company for $150 million, and it has been accretive to segment margins since then, it says.
Operating in more than 50 countries, Triton Digital is a global advertising technology SaaS platform for audio streaming, podcasting and metrics that, Scripps says, “enables publishers to monetize their audiences by providing digital audio measurement and advanced audio-focused infrastructure to maximize the yield of audio inventory.”
The company’s two lines of business focus on advertising infrastructure and measurement, including a content delivery system that distributes digital audio streams and podcasts to listeners while dynamically inserting ads and measurement business that tracks audience and creates ratings reports.
In addition to measuring audiences for customers, Triton Digital operates a programmatic marketplace for digital audio programmatic ad-buying and Yield-Op, a Supply Side Platform (SSP) that specializes in audio and enables programmatic audio advertising.Neal Schore
“We are thrilled to join the iHeartMedia family,” said Triton Digital CEO Neal Schore. “We remain deeply committed to providing the world’s broadcasters, podcasters, and online audio publishers with continuously innovated, best-in-class solutions and services for online audio management, advertising, and consumption data, and are well positioned to enhance iHeartMedia’s value proposition to audiences and advertisers.”
A CHAPTER CLOSES FOR SCRIPPS, AND IS WRITTEN FOR iHEART
“The sale of Triton creates significant value for Scripps’ shareholders and employees, as we close a chapter on our growth of digital audio businesses through a series of successful transactions and a focus on prudent operations, including our core TV business,” said Scripps President/CEO Adam Symson. “We believe iHeartMedia is a perfect fit for Triton Digital given their focus and position as the leader in audio solutions.”
For iHeartMedia, “Adding Triton Digital and its industry leading services to the iHeartMedia audio ecosystem establishes iHeartMedia as the only company with a total audio advertising technology and data solution,” said Bob Pittman, the company’s Chairman/CEO. “iHeart, with our strong leadership position in podcasting, digital radio and broadcast, already provides cutting edge audio management, programmatic and data solutions for the broadcast radio, digital audio and podcasting industries, and this acquisition further strengthens our position as the No. 1 audio company in America and provides unique — and critical — solutions for the industry and for advertisers.”
The company adds that with this acquisition, a significant investment in the podcasting business, iHeartMedia “will now be able to provide audio content to producers and advertisers with an industry-leading full ad service package for streaming and podcasting no matter their size, reach or distribution method.”
In particular, iHeartMedia claims it is now “the first and only company in the audio market to provide four distribution methods for audio, including on-demand, broadcast and digital streaming radio and podcasting, and to service all audio assets programmatically.”
Scripps Chief Financial Officer Jason Combs said the company would use proceeds from the Triton sale to pay down debt.
“We remain focused on bringing our debt back down to our company’s historical levels as quickly as possible while at the same time we reap the financial benefits of being a new leader in national television as we have been in local broadcast,” Combs said.
For iHeart, the Triton purchase follows post-bankruptcy emergence investments in the audio technology space for iHeartMedia. In October 2020, the company once known as Clear Channel Communications acquired Voxnest, a marketplace for podcasts and provider of podcast analytics, enterprise publishing tools, programmatic integration and targeted ad serving. This followed the purchases of Jelli Inc, purveyors of technology that offers marketers a digital-compatible buying platform for broadcast radio that includes programmatic buying, data targeting and creative optimization; Radiojar, which developed a cloud-based audio playout platform through iHeartMedia-owned RCS; and Unified, a social advertising data intelligence platform and solutions provider.
- Sale price of $230 million, representing an internal rate of return after taxes in the mid-20% range and a low teens EBITDA multiple
- Proceeds from the sale used primarily to pay down Scripps debt
- Tax liability effective rate of 5%
- The move of all Triton employees to iHeart
The Triton transaction is expected to close in the first quarter, pending Hart-Scott-Rodino clearance.
While the nation’s leading radio broadcasting companies have shunned it, TuneIn remains one of the leading live streaming and on-demand audio platforms on a global level.
As such, it is ramping up its C-Suite with the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer, a Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Product Officer — among other changes.
The moves see Paul Brody become CTO, Rob Deichert as CRO, and Joe King taking the CPO role.
At the same time, Yasmin Coffey has been elevated to Chief Legal Officer (CLO).
Kevin Straley will continue to serve as Chief Content Officer (CCO).
The news comes on the heels of the recent appointment of Richard Stern to Chief Executive Officer and a new investment in TuneIn led by Innovation Endeavors.
Additionally, six new members will join TuneIn’s Board and bring their deep expertise in the areas of business, technology, media and entertainment: Eric Botto, Steve Cakebread, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Greg Coleman, Rick Scanlon and Harpinder Singh.
Previously, Brody served as CTO at Rakuten Advertising, where he built and operated the technology for the company’s ad platforms and innovative e-commerce measurement business. Before that, he served as Chief Product Officer for CleverTap, co-founder and CEO of Sococo, and Vice President of Products for Yahoo!
Deichert was formerly CEO at Eyeview, where he refactored the product roadmap, business processes and developed a plan to continue scaled growth.
As CPO, King is responsible for TuneIn’s product management and interaction design. Previously, he served as Principal Product Manager, Kindle Content at Amazon.com.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Board of Directors for the company that owns such key NBC affiliates as WXIA-11 in Atlanta and WGRZ-2 in Buffalo has declared a dividend payable April 1.
The news came ahead of the Closing Bell on Wall Street, which saw TEGNA shares reach close to $18 in a positive trading session for the broadcast TV company.
This article appeared in Radio World’s “Trends in Codecs and STLs for 2020” ebook.
Working from home or remote studios is in “normal” times a challenge for broadcast and voiceover talent. When one factors in a pandemic lockdown and the ensuing scramble to move studio-quality audio back and forth, a service like ipDTL can make that task less of a challenge.
The ipDTL service has been enjoying more attention during the pandemic but has been around for several years. It comes from In:Quality, which “operates a worldwide network for the real-time transmission of professional audio.” The company says its users include the BBC, New York Public Radio, NPR and Global Radio.
The service is based on the open source Opus codec. Founding Director Kevin Leach, a former radio host and BBC sound engineer, says ipDTL runs smoothly on any modern computer: “If you can browse the internet smoothly on your computer, then you can run a stable ipDTL connection.”To send a link.
A subscriber of the service can send a link to another location, where that link is opened in a browser and a bidirectional studio quality audio link would then be established.
ipDTL has additional capabilities: With the proper configuration, the subscribing user can also connect to legacy ISDN codecs (where still available) and even connect to a voice grade telephone. With SIP protocols and using a sip.audio account from In:Quality, a subscriber can also connect to hardware codecs (e.g. Comrex, Tieline, Telos, JK Audio) that are configured for Opus connections.
It is also compatible with G.722 and G.711 over IP. There is a video angle as well, VP8 and H.264. And it lives on Windows, Mac, Linux and ChromeOS computers.
There are three levels of ipDTL annual subscriptions: Bronze users can send one connection link, Silver users two and Gold users may send up to four simultaneous connections. A version allowing six connections is in the late stages of testing. The Gold subscription also includes basic video functionality. Prices start at $15 per month. Subscribers get a sip.audio address (XXXXX@sip.audio), which allows SIP-enabled devices to talk to the subscriber.
How does this work in the real world? I tested the service recently during a virtual NAB Show demonstration with Leach.
There are some caveats from my experience.
All codec developers (software and hardware) caution users that sending a true mix-minus is vital for proper operation of the codec. For example: On a mixer like the Allen+Heath ZED 10, there are three ways to send a mix-minus (aux send, FX send and record bus). The best one that seems to work with USB connections is the record bus, where inputs other than the USB connections are selected (mics, etc.). The USB out can be fed from the record bus. If the main mix were fed to the USB out, that would create a feedback loop. A standalone codec could be fed mix-minus from the aux or FX send.Screenshot
During our demonstration, I fed the record bus with the USB output. When Leach talked about the importance of a mix-minus, I created a feedback loop (which happens when the codec or other receive channel is fed back to the other end of the connection).
Unless a laptop is within visual distance of a wireless router, and it is the only device on the network at that particular time, in:Quality strongly recommends a wired connection to the network router when using the ipDTL service. With a wired gigabit connection over Cat-6, I experienced no connection problems.
Leach says multiple SIP connections with ipDTL at the studio end provide maximum flexibility. He said devices such as Wheatstone SwitchBlade and Comrex Access MultiRack can receive multiple duplex real-time SIP streams from remote sites and guests. The studio so equipped can send a connection link to talent and guests so they can connect easily to the SIP hardware. There’s also an option to connect from one of the company’s range of SIP Opus Codecs.
Subscribers may opt to be listed in a database of ipDTL users around the world for an extra charge. That’s a useful resource for audio reporters and producers, and it could also help those producers and reporters to connect with newsmakers and subject matter experts.An online network map lets the user find a studio, search for voice talent or see which radios stations are “ipDTL ready.”
“For too long now, there has been uncertainty and trepidation about the migration from ISDN to IP codecs,” Leach said. “With SIP now, it feels like we’re finally past the point of no return, but there’s still some work to do. A newspaper journalist should be able to ask a radio producer what SIP address they should call for an interview, and get a confident reply. Looking at the messages in our support inbox, we’re not quite there yet.”
Paul Kaminski, CBT, is a longtime Radio World contributor, and host and producer of msrpk.com’s “Radio-Road-Test” program. Twitter: msrpk_com; Facebook: PKaminski2468
The author is president of WorldDAB.
Last year was a pivotal year for DAB+ radio — with a string of developments providing clear evidence of the standard’s progress:
- In October, Germany launched its second national multiplex — offering 16 new services to a potential audience of 67 million people;
- In December, Switzerland confirmed that it would be switching off FM radio — starting with the public broadcaster in 2022, followed by the private broadcasters in 2023;
- Also, in December, the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) came into force — requiring all new car radios in the EU to be capable of receiving digital terrestrial radio.
These market developments have been mirrored by strong consumer demand for DAB+ radios:
- DAB/DAB+ consumer receiver sales increased by 12% in 2020 (analog sales dropped by 21% over the same period);
- In Q4, the DAB/DAB+ performance was even stronger with sales up 22% year-on-year.
Consumers are moving away from FM-only devices to the more compelling offer available on DAB+ (increased choice, more consistent audio and, increasingly, color displays).
DAB’s Green Credentials
At the end of last year, a major advance was made when the BBC published its report into the energy footprint of its radio services. Presented at the WorldDAB General Assembly, this report broke new ground as, for the first time, it considered energy consumption across the whole of the radio full value chain: production, distribution, and consumer listening.A BBC report indicated that DAB was the most energy-efficient platform for radio distribution.
The conclusions highlighted the greater efficiency associated with DAB radio:
- 28% more efficient than FM (per listening hour);
- 59% more efficient than IP (per listening hour).
These findings are clear evidence of the critical role which DAB/DAB+ plays in creating a sustainable future for radio — a priority of increasing importance for broadcasters and policy makers.
Prospects for 2021
The next major development for DAB+ in Europe will be the launch of national (i.e. metropolitan) services in France.
The media regulator, the CSA, has given the green light for services to be on air beginning July 15. Two national multiplexes offering 25 services will be available, with the key focus on the major road networks — starting with the highways between Paris and Marseille.
The EECC directive, coupled with strong developments in key European markets including France and Switzerland confirms that DAB+ is established as the core future platform for radio in Europe.
The strong growth in DAB+ receivers in cars and consumer radios underlines this progress, and the significance of these advances should not be understated.
- Radio’s role as the most trusted source of news and information has rarely been more important;
- In times of emergency, broadcast radio consistently provides levels of service reliability unmatched by mobile networks;
- The environmental advantages of DAB radio are clearly evidenced in the BBC report into energy consumption.
The challenge for us now is to maintain this momentum. Digital broadcast platforms lie at the heart of radio’s future. Now is the time to ensure we have the policy frameworks and strategic focus to deliver on this promise.
On January 25, ten brands in the state of Michigan went live with sports betting.
To better understand the consumer reaction in Michigan to the launch of sports betting, Cumulus Media and its Westwood One national radio arm commissioned MARU/Matchbox to conduct a study of 700 Michigan adults aged 21 and older.
The research was conducted from Friday, Jan. 29-Monday, Feb. 1. The findings are now being shared.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has selected the agency’s next Press Secretary.
It’s an individual joining the Commission’s Office of Media Relations after having served as Communications Director for then-Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico.
Have you downloaded Discovery+ yet? If not, perhaps you’ve heard about the new OTT platform from the company behind some of cable TV’s most watched networks.
Or, maybe you haven’t — given the ad plan of action from the company.
The latest Media Monitors Spot 10 Radio report shows a big gap between the leading auto insurance brand and its closest competitor. Is this the start of a new trend?
It may be way too soon to make such predictions, but Progressive has a commanding lead by play count over GEICO in the latest report.
And, Progressive is the lone fully paid brand over 55,000 plays.
Otherwise, there’s little movement in the Spot Ten for the week ending February 14, 2021, with McDonald’s now at No. 10.
She began her career in 2011 as an intern at iHeartMedia/Milwaukee’s WKKV-FM.
Now, this sales talent has come full circle, as she’s been named VP of Sales for the company’s entire group of stations in Wisconsin’s largest market.
Jasmine M. Johnson has been named Vice President of Sales for the company’s Milwaukee stations, comprised of WISN-AM, WKKV-FM, WMIL-FM, WOKY-AM, WRIT-FM, and WRNW-FM.
Johnson reports to Nathan Tonarelli, Senior Vice President of Sales for iHeartMedia Milwaukee, and will be responsible for leading multicultural initiatives for broadcast, digital and iHeartRadio customers across the region.
“This for me is a full circle moment,” said Johnson. “To return to the company that gave me my first start – from an intern to my first job post-undergrad – as Vice President of Sales leading such an iconic brand in our community and serving such a loyal listenership base is a gift.”
Johnson’s resume includes roles as Diversity Programs Director for Manpower Group, a role she held until January 2021. Before that, she spent more than 12 years at Pfizer, serving as Senior Manager of Government Relations and Corporate Affairs. From May 2002-July 2006, Johnson was an account executive for iHeart predecessor Clear Channel Communications.
It continues to build momentum in sports audio, with a marketing alliance with FanDuel, an acquisition of sports data and iGaming affiliate platform QL Gaming Group and the launch of the BetQL Audio Network exciting investors of Entercom Communications of late.
Now, it is adding a Vice President of Sports who arrives at Entercom from regional NBC Sports Washington.
Starting today, Matthew Volk is Entercom’s Vice President of Sports.
Mike Dee, appointed President of Sports in May 2017, stays in that role.
However, an Entercom representative explains to RBR+TVBR that Dee’s focus is on revenue strategy and business growth, while Volk’s role is content-based. This explains why Volk reports to EVP/Programing Jeff Sottolano and not to Dee.
Nevertheless, Dee and Volk will collaborate on their respective sports-focused efforts at Entercom.
According to Entercom, Volk will collaborate with national and market-level leadership “to ideate and manage the integration of existing and new sports and sports-betting content and partnerships” across the company’s broadcast, podcast and on-demand sports audio portfolio. He will also be charged with expanding on Entercom’s sports betting content through the expansion of the BetQL Audio Network and additional broadcast and digital concepts.
“This is an incredible opportunity to build on the core assets of Entercom’s sports brands and its broadcast pipes to drive its premier content both locally and nationally across digital, editorial, audio, video and betting content on all platforms,” said Volk. “Our multiplatform first approach will enable us to leverage our market-leading talent, programs and access to bring our fans all of the content they crave on the devices they choose.”
Volk had been VP of Content Strategy for NBC Sports Washington since 2018. Before that, Volk held multiple roles for ESPN from 2003 to 2018, including Director of Programming and Acquisitions for its NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL content. From 2001 to 2003, Volk was a Coaching Assistant and Football Operations Assistant for the New England Patriots.
Former Entercom VP of Sales & Strategy James Ingrassia now serves as VP of Media Strategy of Oxford Road, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He’s held the role since June 2020.
The Alliance for Women in Media and its Foundation (AWM/F) has cemented its 2021 National Board of Directors.
New to the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) Board are:
- Kenetta Bailey, SVP/Marketing, Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO)
- Marsha Cooke, SVP/Global News and Special Projects, Vice Media
- Melissa Wright, Chief Content Officer, Twin Cities PBS
New to the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) Board are:
- Svetlana Gans, VP/Associate General Counsel, NCTA—The Internet & Television Association;
- Mike McVay, President, McVay Media Consulting
- Josie Thomas, former Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, CBS
- Christine Travaglini, President, Katz Radio Group
Officers of the board have been announced as The Weiss Agency EVP Heather Cohen, serving as chair; Crown Media Family Networks Chief Communications Officer Annie Howell, as incoming chair; Sutton Button Productions LLC VP/CEO Keisha Sutton-James, as immediate past chair; legal consultant Joyce Fitch, as treasurer; and Matrix Chief Revenue Officer Brenda Hetrick as incoming treasurer.
RBR+TVBR Publisher Deborah Parenti will continue to serve as a Director at Large of AWMF.
AWM/F board members Heather Cohen, Annie Howell and Mike McVay will continue to serve as chairs for the Gracie Awards.
On January 16, 2018, a radio station licensee headed by Jason Zinzilieta and Janice Derks reached a LMA agreement with an entity led by the COO of member-manager Farmworker Educational Radio Network.
That involved two fully licensed properties and an FM translator serving the Prescott Valley of Arizona. Now, Zinzilieta and Derks have struck a deal to partially convert the lease to a purchase.
It may be a little early for radio groups or SiriusXM to get worried, but they might want to take a close look at what Sinclair Broadcast Group is doing in Seattle.
This month the company is launching ATSC 3.0 over-the-air delivery of four Sinclair radio stations in the market as part of its STIRR XT digital audio service.
OTA simulcasts of KVI(AM), KOMO(AM), KOMO(FM) and KPLZ(FM) will complement 15 digital audio channels already being delivered “over the top” as part of STIRR XT.
When it announced the plan a couple of months ago, Sinclair VP of Technology Strategy Michael Bouchard was quoted in the press release saying the technology “lays the groundwork for our future plans of enhancing the reception of terrestrial over-the-air radio services throughout the country, as NextGen TV is deployed by broadcasters everywhere.”
From a strategic point of view, the rollout — while initially modest — demonstrates Sinclair’s commitment to delivery of more than better-looking and sounding television via ATSC 3.0, says Mark Aitken, senior vice president, advanced technology, for Sinclair and the president of its ONE Media 3.0 business.
“One of the reasons we are doing this is because the automotive guys always ask: ‘Is there an alternative to digital radio [and] to SiriusXM that can be delivered via the ATSC 3.0 standard?’” he says.
While acknowledging it is “early in the game,” Sinclair is hoping these “Seattle 3.0” radio simulcasts — the first of many to launch in the broadcaster’s ATSC 3.0 markets — will pique the interest of automakers as they plan for the future, he says.
Automakers need a minimum of three years to add anything to what’s on the drawing board. The launch of STIRR XT OTA today just might be enough to nudge them into including 3.0 receivers in future models, he says.
“We think there is a real compelling reason to consider the inclusion of ATSC 3 receivers in cars,” says Aitken. “Once you’ve done that, all of the other opportunities for what can be carried in that digital spectrum open up.”
Frequently cited use cases for ATSC 3.0 in vehicles include delivery of in-car entertainment, map and navigation data and fleet-wide software updates for computer-controlled automotive tech.NextGen TV hybrid service
Like ATSC 3.0 itself, the combined STIRR XT is a hybrid service — part OTA and part OTT, or “over the top.”
When the 3.0 radio simulcasts launch, only NextGen TV sets and gateway owners in Seattle will be able to receive them. However, in October 2020 Sinclair revealed early production samples of its Mark One smartphone with built-in 3.0 receiver. These phones and other expected 3.0 consumer devices will make mobile reception of OTA 3.0 digital audio a reality one day, says Aitken.
“We truly will be delivering radio broadcast content — just delivered over a different spectrum,” says Aitken. “It’s not FM; it’s television spectrum.”
Consumers access STIRR XT via the STIRR Radio broadcast app available universally on televisions labeled as NextGen TV sets. When consumers launch the app, they can navigate to STIRR Radio to begin enjoying OTT- and OTA-delivered digital audio channels, he says.
Sinclair has been in discussions with other broadcasters about simulcasting their radio stations over the air via ATSC 3.0 with STIRR XT in markets where the station group has no radio stations, says Aitken, who said the service at launch will be purely ad-supported.XHE-AAC codec and ATSC 3.0
STIRR XT audio channels delivered over the top are being encoded using the Dolby AC-4 audio codec, which is specified to be used in North America as part of the ATSC 3.0 standard.
However, Sinclair has other plans for STIRR XT channels delivered over the air. Rather than AC-4, the station group will encode OTA audio channels using the xHE-AAC (Extended High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding) codec.
“We are working on integrating a broadcast app-delivered highly efficient radio audio codec, which is not technically supported in the ATSC 3.0 standard,” says Aitken. “But because this is all IP — and this is the magic of IP — that broadcast app will deliver a player for an audio codec that does not exist in the ATSC 3.0 standard.”
Motivating Sinclair’s choice of xHE-AAC for OTA-delivered STIRR XT is bandwidth efficiency, says Aitken. With xHE-AAC, Aitken predicts significant bandwidth savings.
For example, a stereo audio channel encoded with AC-4 requires 96 kilobits per second, while the same channel needs just 24 kbps when encoded using xHE-AAC, he says.
The extra efficient codec also puts Sinclair’s STIRR XT OTA delivery in line with what’s going on around the world in digital radio, he says.
“xHE-AAC is the audio codec that is part of the digital radio standard called Digital Radio Mondiale,” says Aitken. “It is deployed globally, and it is in fact the most efficient commercially available codec.”
Adopting the Digital Radio Mondiale framework in the STIRR Radio broadcast app ensures that all of the tools for radio functionality are already available, he adds.
The Seattle rollout of STIRR XT follows Sinclair’s initial deployment in Oklahoma City. Sinclair plans to make STIRR XT available in all of its ATSC 3.0 markets.
“The whole point here is that we are using STIRR as a backbone piece of our OTT-OTA convergence strategy,” says Aitken. “We are bringing to bear all of the tools and all of the assets that we can to step forward with a competitive foot with the services we can offer.”
In our special Presidents’ Day edition of the RBR+TVBR Daily Headlines E-mail, readers first learned of a big transition at online music research pioneer TroyResearch.
Jonathan Little, the company’s longtime VP of Sales and Client Services, on Tuesday spoke with Editor-in-Chief Adam R Jacobson to share more about those changes in this new InFOCUS Podcast, presented by DOT.fm.
A low-power FM station in Marion, Ohio, has lost its license after failing to reply to Federal Communications Commission correspondence.
The station was WWGH(LP), which now has the dreaded “D” prefix added to its call sign, meaning deleted. For trivia buffs, the station call letters are a reference to Pres. Warren G. Harding, who lived in Marion.
The LPFM was licensed to the Marion Education Exchange. It had applied for license renewal, but after the commission sent the station a letter of inquiry requiring more information and never heard back, the license was deleted.
“Although the [letter] directed MEE to respond no later than Jan. 7, 2021, MEE has filed no response,” wrote Audio Division Chief Albert Shuldiner. Failure to respond to official correspondence is cause for dismissal of an application.
The Marion Star website has a news account of the dispute that led to this situation. It involves program manager Scott Spears and allegations about his role and the makeup of the station board.
The FCC’s revocation letter did not discuss the underlying allegations that had been made about the station, simply that the license was being pulled for lack of response.
The newspaper quotes Spears saying that Friday was the first the station had heard from the FCC, that it was working on a formal response and planned to work with the commission on its investigation. The newspaper reported that the station remained on the air this weekend.
Sennheiser is looking for a partner to invest in its consumer electronics business so it can better focus on its professional markets.
“In our Professional and Consumer Divisions, we have four business units in total: Pro Audio, Business Communications, Neumann and Consumer Electronics,” said co-CEO Andreas Sennheiser, who was quoted in a company announcement.
“In all of these areas we see great potential for growth. At the same time, they are characterized by different customer groups, customer requirements, product life cycles and market dynamics.”
Co-CEO Daniel Sennheiser said that the company wants to concentrate its own resources on the three business areas in the Professional division and “are looking for a strong partner to invest in our consumer business.”
The announcement essentially is a sales pitch to potential partners: “The headphone market and the soundbar business in consumer electronics offer great growth potential — despite a highly dynamic market and strong competitive pressure,” the company wrote. “This is especially the case for the true wireless headphone market.”
It seeks partners to work in segments like premium headphones, enhanced hearing, audiophile and soundbars segments.
When it comes to serving Greene County, Tenn., just west of the Johnson City-Kingsport market, there’s perhaps no media group more locally focused than Radio Greeneville.
Radio Greeneville is the licensee of three radio stations and two FM translators. Now, the properties are being involuntary transferred into an estate. The reason? The stations’ sole owner has passed away.