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Digital Radio Update - January 21, 2009
World Space Up for Bid
The world's first satellite radio firm, currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, will be sold to the highest bidder on Jan. 26. Washington, DC-based World Space is scheduled for a bankruptcy court-ordered auction just ahead of a key debtor-in-possession (DIP) loan due date on Jan. 29.
World Space has been operating under debtor-in-possession provisions since last fall. Although it maintains some programming via a South Africa uplink, much of its operation has been curtailed and much of its former staff has since been laid off.
From a business standpoint, the auction couldn't come at a worse time. Both the U.S. and European Union are experiencing economic contraction and the commercial credit markets are extremely tight. Compounding the problem is the fact that satellite radio has yet to yield a profit.
World Space maintains possession of its satellites and ground station assets, along with licenses for L-band spectrum in Italy and Germany.
Kia to Add HD in 2010
Kia Motors America says it will begin offering factory-installed HD Radio receivers in select models sometime in 2010. Although press releases from the Korean-based car maker and Ibiquity Digital did not specify whether the factory installed radios would be available as options or standard equipment, Kia indicates they'll be available in select sedans and SUVs across its 11-model line.
Kia joins Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes, Mercury, Mini, Scion, Volvo, as well as Ford and its associated product lines, in offering HD Radio technology in their automotive products.
AT&T Cruisecast Joins Mobile Satellite Delivery A/V Fray
Sirius XM satellite radio has some unexpected competition from AT&T, as the telecom giant rolls out its new Cruisecast mobile TV/radio service. Developed in collaboration with Dallas-based Raysat Broadcasting, the Ku band delivered service will use spectrum and transponders leased from Intelsat to deliver 22 TV channels from such familiar networks as Disney, Nickelodeon, CNBC, Bravo, Comedy Network, Cartoon Network and others.
The new system will also provide 20 radio channels, scheduled to launch later in 2009, though AT&T has not yet specified a programmer.
Subscription involves the purchase and installation of a $1,200+ equipment package and an ongoing $28 per month service fee.
Observers note that the move may cast a shadow on Sirius XM's recent "Backseat" venture that delivers three mobile TV channels at an additional subscription cost of $6.99 per month.
Frontier Silicon Targets U.S. Internet Radio Market
Still more online audio news trickling down from CES 2009 concerns Frontier Silicon's announcement that it plans to work with a number of manufacturing partners to bring new Internet radio appliances to the market at a price point of less than $150.
While Wi-fi-based Internet radio appliances are no longer a novelty, Frontier claims its Venice 6.2 hardware/software-based platform will allow a new generation of products to retail well below current prices that average above $200.
Frontier launched the Venice 6.2 module in European markets as a single solution for receiver manufacturer looking for an integrated approach to build DAB/DAB+, FM-RDS, and Internet streaming functionality into their audio products. The platform is said to provide support for AAC+, MP3, Real, WMA and FLAC codecs.
Frontier Silicon CEO Anthony Sethill said at a CES press conference that his company has worked closely with popular online content providers such as Pandora, Last FM, Rhapsody, and Sirius XM online to assure complete support for those services.
IBOC Across America
IBOC by State: New Jersey
Ibiquity has a list of stations with licensed HD Radio technology and notes those on the air now. IBOC by state looks at various states and lists the stations making the transition. There are 10 stations in the Garden State broadcasting 13 HD Radio channels.
|Market||Station||HD1 Format||HD2 Format||HD3 Format||Owner|
|Atlantic City-Cape May||WSJO-FM 104.9||Hot AC||-||-||Millennium Radio Group|
|Atlantic City-Cape May||WRTQ- -FM 91.3||Classical/Jazz||-||-||Temple University|
|Medford Lakes||WVBV-FM 90.5||Christian||-||-||Hope Christian Church of Marlton|
|Middlesex-Somerset-Union||WAWZ-FM 99.1||Christian Contemporary||Teaching and Preaching||Music - The Energy||Pillar of Fire|
|Monmouth-Ocean||WBJB-FM 90.5||AAA/NPR||-||-||Brookdale Community College|
|Monmouth-Ocean||WJLK-FM 94.3||Hot AC||Classic Rock / WCHR||-||Millennium Radio Group|
|Monmouth-Ocean||WJRZ-FM 100.1||Classic Hits||-||-||Greater Media|
|Monmouth-Ocean||WRAT-FM 95.9||AOR/Classic Rock||-||-||Greater Media|
|Morristown||WDHA-FM 105.5||AOR||-||-||Greater Media|
|Trenton||WWFM-FM 89.1||Classical||-||-||Mercer County Community College|
Eye on IBOC
Ibiquity Pares Staff
Some may call it just another sign of the times, but HD Radio technology developer Ibiquity Digital has significantly reduced its staff, issuing layoffs to an undisclosed number of employees last week.
An Ibiquity spokesperson contacted by Digital Radio Update confirmed the layoffs, but declined to comment regarding the number and work location of those involved. One published report pegged that number at 20, which, if true, would constitute a significant percentage of the firm's workforce.
A statement issued by Ibiquity Digital's President and CEO, Robert Struble, noted that his company was making the move to conserve resources. He went on to say, "We are saddened to see these good people go. The company is continuing its strong forward movement: expanding the implementation of HD Radio broadcasting, bringing portable radios to market, expanding the technology's factory installation on vehicles and increasing HD Radio product visibility and sales."
Ibiquity currently maintains offices in Maryland, New Jersey and Michigan.
HD Radio Terminology
The New Language of Digital Radio
DFT: discrete fourier transform
DSP: digital signal processor, digital signal processing
DST: Daylight Saving Time
DTPF: data transport packet format
D/U: desired-to-undesired (ratio)
EASU: exciter auxiliary service unit
Slacker App Arrives for Iphone, Blackberry
Among the notable radio-related items debuting at CES 2009 were two new applications for the popular Slacker online radio service for both the Iphone and latest Blackberry platforms.
For those not familiar with Slacker, the service provides its registered users access to a variety of formatted and customizable radio streams, including a comedy channel. Depending on the platform, streams can connect directly or be synched and cached via Wi-fi or mobile broadband, and users can selectively adopt or ban particular cuts on the fly.
Itunes released its free custom Iphone Slacker application for download during CES, as did Slacker for its Blackberry app. Interestingly, reviewers indicate that the Blackberry version actually allows users with mini-SD flash cards to cache much of their music for later playback, something the Iphone version does not.
First Interoperable Sirius/XM Receiver Arrives - Finally
After a series of delays, it appears that Sirius XM has managed to make good on one of its pre-merger promises to federal regulators -- the availability of a single, fully interoperable receiver capable of spanning both Sirius and XM channels.
Offered at a $250 price point, the new hybrid receiver platform sports a less-than-subtle name. The Sirius XM Mirge is essentially a reworked Xpress RC produced by Delphi that includes chipsets for both systems. While the new product doesn't allow users to view one service's schedules while listening to another, switching between the two services is said to be instantaneous, with full access to a full array of channels from both.
To take advantage of the combined network functionality, Xpress RC subscribers will be asked to pony up a monthly fee of $19.99.
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