One in a series of interviews with industry thought leaders about what lies
ahead in 2018.
Jay Tyler is director of sales for manufacturer Wheatstone.
World: What does Wheatstone expect the 2018 radio broadcast business environment
to be like, based on what you’re hearing about cap-ex budgets, project plans or
Jay Tyler: We have a lot of projects on the books
going into 2018, probably as much as we’ve ever had. We are still seeing sustained
growth in all sectors and we owe much of that to the changes going on in radio.
In a few years, we might see an entirely different way of operating—regional centers,
for example. All that is going to be leveraged off of IP. And, fortunately, one
of the benefits of IP audio compared to the traditional system is you don’t have
to do it all at once. We’ve never really run our business on broadcasters’ cap-ex
budgets for this reason. In the past, broadcasters budgeted hundreds of thousands
of dollars for a new project, and then did it all over again when things changed.
They don’t necessarily have to do that now; they can add onto their existing IP
infrastructure. They are hanging onto their equipment longer and making changes
as they occur. So, while we are experiencing a second wave of audio over IP project
buildouts, we are also adding more and more functions and devices onto those studios
that have been IP networked for some time.
Generally, the major market groups are
using virtual tools like our ScreenBuilder to add on more customized workflows to
their studios, and the smaller and mid-market groups are streamlining their stations
with IP connectivity and routing, many for their first time.
We see headlines about the debt burdens of several of the biggest U.S. radio broadcasters.
Do those debt burdens affect spending with your company? What impact have your clients
Tyler: It’s interesting, because the last round of consolidations
involving our customers — iHeartMedia, Entercom, Beasley and CBS — didn’t really
take IP audio expansion off the table. It might have even sped it up.
And yes, we
understand that there’s debt, but stations are still having to deal with leases
that end and so forth. We work with broadcasters that don’t necessarily have the
budgets for everything they want today, but we try to give them the upward mobility
they’ll need to eventually get into their ultimate studio. After 43 years in the
broadcast business, we’ve seen our share of market ups and downs, and we constantly
try to anticipate how our products will be used. But it’s never been a one-size-fits
all. That’s why Wheatstone has a range of product options—audio processors, consoles
RW: Which regulatory changes or types of projects
are likely to be the drivers of cap-ex spending this year?
[Jan. 8] marks the official end of the main studio ruling. That’s going to change
things for some of our customers, and we’re developing new products to help them.
We’re a broadcast-only company, so we’re very interested in AM revitalization, FM
translators, repack, streaming, etc. What’s important to one broadcaster might not
be important to another, but overall I’d say that the mission is pretty much the
same as it’s always been. It’s the tools that have changed, and that’s where manufacturers
like Wheatstone can make the biggest difference.
RW: What else
should we know?
Tyler: Of all the changes that are taking place
today, the one that stands out the most is the expanding role of engineers. I’m
continually amazed at the workload being carried by engineers — not just the number
of tasks they perform, but the varying types of things they’re managing.