HD Radio's Electronic Program Guide

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Insight to IBOC, Feb 2010

Figure 4. Cydle HD Radio tuner display with EPG feature

Project results

Some preliminary conclusions from this field work were drawn.

  • EPG services, delivered over the air and (more immediately) via networked devices, hold the promise of engaging more listeners more often, in the face of competitive media choices, by presenting the listener's local radio dial as a single service with many choices. In addition, EPG services provide an opportunity to supply continuous forward promotion to the current listener, in parallel to whatever is on the air at the moment.
  • The highest and best use of EPG is to present all stations' listings as if the local radio dial were a single service. The listener would see listings for all stations available at the listener's location, similar to listings for a satellite radio or satellite/cable TV service.
  • The service bureau has been shown to be an effective model for generating and delivering EPG services. The service bureau is responsible for aggregating EPG data from numerous stations for presentation in a unified user interface and publishing it over multiple distribution platforms.
  • The classic chicken-and-egg problem is resolved by immediately delivering EPG services via the Internet, while waiting for growth in the market adoption of EPG-capable radio receivers.
  • Chicken-and-egg problem
    The chicken-and-egg problem is the situation where broadcasters are reluctant to launch a new service if there are no receivers to receive it, while CE manufacturers are reluctant to develop devices to receive a service that broadcasters are not yet broadcasting. The slow adoption of FM stereo, RBDS and color TV are examples of this challenge.

    Reaction to the research gathered from these Radio EPG trials has been cautiously positive. Broadcasters have confirmed by the manner in which they participated in the trial that radio station programming, operations, engineering and IT time is precious. The trial worked out the kinks on how to set up EPG on an HD Radio transmission system so it can be executed efficiently. Once EPG transmission is established, stations would be well served by their software vendors (e.g. automation and/or traffic) if the vendors develop easy-to-use interfaces that incorporate EPG activity into the existing workflow.

    Figure 5. Cydle HD Radio EPG display

    What's next?

    What remains is more research and development to define and test the business and operational models that make sense for U.S. radio broadcasters. We see the radio broadcast industry making strong moves toward serving its audiences not only over the air using its traditional broadcast infrastructure but also to devices connected to the wired and wireless Internet. Connected devices typically offer a rich user experience, including a lot of program information. It may pose a competitive risk to radio broadcasters if a similar user experience is not provided over the air.

    Rick Ducey is the chief strategy officer for BIA Advisory Services, BIA/Kelsey; David Maxson is the owner of Broadcast Signal Lab; Skip Pizzi is a media technology consultant; Adrian Cross is the software development team leader at Unique Interactive.

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