IBOC Update - Jul 6, 2005


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Stay up to date on the latest IBOC news, business and technology information with the twice-monthly newsletter from Radio magazine.


Index:

  • IBOC Multicasting on the March
  • Radiosophy Adds USB Port to Multistream HD
  • Uncle Sam May Hitch a Ride on XM's Stars
  • XM Eyes 5 Million Mark
  • HD Radio License Fees Rise
  • HD Radio Promotional Wave Set to Roll, But how Far?
  • An Introduction to the New Language Surrounding HD Radio
  • IBOC by State: South Carolina

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    News

    IBOC Multicasting on the March
    In a move that provides a taste of the strategic role HD Radio multicasting will play in major markets, Infinity Broadcasting has announced that WJMK Chicago will become the second Infinity FM to multicast in that market. The station has already received an experimental multicast authorization from the FCC. WJMK's sister station, WUSN, began multicasting last month.

    Calling itself "The Greatest Hits Of The 60's and 70's" WJMK HD-2 will sign on with personalities such as Dick Biondi, Fred Winston, Greg Brown and Paul Perry. The station recently discarded oldies in favor of the new "Jack" format on its analog and main HD Radio channel, so the move is seen as an effort to hold on to a slowly shrinking but loyal core audience with the second HD Radio channel while building new listeners on the main channel. Oldies aficionados not yet outfitted with HD Radio receivers can get their fix streamed online at www.wjmk.com.

    Both digital broadcasts will include song, title and artist information displayed as text on HD Radio receivers.

    In another multicast move, Capitol Broadcasting has announced that WRAL, the company's Adult Contemporary FM outlet in Raleigh, NC, is now multicasting on its digital signal. Capitol says the new digital-only channel, WRAL-HD2, will feature an adult top 40 format.

    The company claims the move will make WRAL the first commercial HD Radio multicaster in North Carolina.


    Business

    Radiosophy Adds USB Port to Multistream HD
    Radiosophy has added a USB port to its soon-to-be released Multistream HD Radio receiver. The input-only service port will allow users to apply updates to the software-defined receiver as the manufacturer makes them available via the Internet. The receiver made its debut earlier this year, and is a tabletop/portable model with an advertised manufacturer's retail price $259.

    The receiver's USB port may also be used to program the receiver's preset buttons, including the "Home Station" preset button, an oversized key that receives raised-dome decals with a favorite station's logo.

    Radiosophy is currently taking pre-orders from individual and volume purchasers for the receiver, which is expected to begin shipment sometime in August.


    Uncle Sam May Hitch a Ride on XM's Stars
    XM Satellite Radio may soon host a closed-circuit government channel, if Raytheon gets its way. According to the Associated Press, the defense contractor and the satellite radio service provider are now jointly testing a system referred to as the Mobile Enhanced Situational Awareness (MESA) network. The technology would allow government and public safety forces nationwide to receive real-time, addressable digital messaging relayed to them anywhere in the contiguous United States, via XM's satellite and terrestrial booster network. If testing goes well, company officials say that the federal government might begin purchasing the technology as early as 2006.

    One of the big advantages of the system would be its relatively low roll-out costs, due to the use of existing platforms and technology designed specifically to operate in a widely dispersed, mobile environment.

    Under the proposed plan, Raytheon would produce the rugged, mil-spec receivers that would receive a full transmission channel of data from the XM network. The channel would be secure and completely proprietary to the MESA system.

    Proponents claim that MESA could address immediate needs for an affordable, broad deployment information system to be used in the event of national emergency or natural disasters.

    Raytheon, best known to the general public for its development of the Patriot missile system, recently collaborated with Africa/Asia satellite radio broadcaster Worldspace to deploy a similar type of system in Africa and Asia. AP says the system was used with some success during tsunami relief operations during the past year.


    XM Eyes 5 Million Mark
    XM Satellite Radio Chairman Gary Parson says that his company now stands poised to behold a sight that no satellite radio provider has yet witnessed – black ink on its balance sheet.

    During a recent speaking engagement in Detroit, Parson indicated that XM has passed the four million subscribers level and is on track to have about 5.5 million paying customers by the time the year is out, placing the company in a position to move into positive cash flows in 2006.

    According to Parson, one million subscribers can add as much as $100 million to XM's annual cash flow.

    Stock analysts, sometimes skittish in the past due to the large losses XM and its major competitor (Sirius) accumulated during start up and build out of their infrastructure, have lately been bullish on the technology. Most observers agree that either company should do well if they can meet or exceed the 10 million subscribers mark.


    HD Radio License Fees Rise
    Ibiquity Digital's license fee schedule advanced by one tier, from $5,000 to $7,500 per station, effective July 1. The license fee is a one-time payment that grants a station the right to use Ibiquity Digital's HD Radio patents, software and trademarks for its main channel audio. Licenses must be in place before a station receives broadcast equipment that contains Ibiquity Digital's intellectual property from manufacturers or resellers. The license fee structure is the same for all stations.

    Previously, Ibiquity had extended the introductory $5,000 discounted rate for radio broadcasters until the end of June. The rate will continue to move upward during the next four years before finally reaching the full $25,000 licensing fee at the end of 2008.

    A schedule of the increases and other information regarding station licensing can be found on the company's website at www.ibiquity.com.


    Eye on IBOC

    HD Radio Promotional Wave Set to Roll, But how Far?
    Electronic media writers nationwide are beginning to take note of what one consumer technology writer is calling "the 1,000 mile journey towards high-definition radio," but some still question whether the trip will be worth the cost of a ticket.

    If a recent article by Michael Kanellos in CNETNews.com is any indication, the ability of IBOC digital technology to reinvigorate the radio broadcast medium is still in question.

    Quoting Ibiquty Digital's CFO Patrick Walsh, Kanellos says that broadcasters will engage in a tried and true type of promotion—giveaways--to try and build interest in the new technology. One manifestation of this approach is likely to appear in the giveaway of less expensive portable or desktop HD Radio receivers as public radio pledge drive premiums, according to Walsh, who is also reported to have said that cell phones and MP3 players with embedded HD Radio capability are not far behind.

    But Kanellos was anything but blue sky in his article, calling the current push on HD Radio "a combination of opportunity and desperation."

    While some industry players are touting the emergence of multicasting via FM HD Radio as the killer app, many consumer electronics writers continue to dwell on the high cost of receivers. While a $250 price tag on an HD Radio receiver may be seen as a milestone by IBOC broadcasters, one author in the popular press recently called it outrageous. With an average of seven radios per household already out there, he asked, how can Joe Six Pack justify spending more on a digital radio than on a name brand DVD player, an Ipod or a 27" TV set? If American consumers are to embrace IBOC digital radio, these are questions our industry is going to have to face head on--and soon.


    IBOC Across America

    IBOC By State: South Carolina
    Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by state will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.

    Station Format Market Owner On Air
    WKXC-FM 99.5 Country Augusta, GA Beasley Broadcast Group No
    WCOS-AM 1400 Sports Columbia Clear Channel Radio Yes
    WXBT-FM 100.1 Hip Hop Columbia Clear Channel Radio Yes
    WBZT-FM 96.7 Rock Greenville-Spartanburg Clear Channel Radio Yes
    WPCI-AM 1490 Rhythm/Blue Greenville-Spartanburg Hunter Broadcast Group No
    WSSL-FM 100.5 Country Greenville-Spartanburg Clear Channel Radio Yes

    HD Radio Terminology

    An introduction into the language surrounding IBOC

    Channel encoding: The process used to add error protection to each of the logical channels to improve the reliability of the transmitted information.

    Code rate: Defines the increase in overhead on a coded channel resulting from channel encoding. It is the ratio of information bits to the total number of bits after coding.



    To receive these articles twice a month in your e-mail, subscribe to the IBOC Update - Insight on HD Radio e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.



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