I spoke with NDS recently to see what’s on tap for their Radio Guard product for 2009. Radio Guard, you’ll recall, is the name of the NDS conditional access capability for HD Radio. It’s in the Dice iTR-100A, a digital radio reading service receiver that utilizes voice prompts and audible feedback to simplify tuning.
Todd Narwid is the NDS vice president of new media and now oversees Radio Guard. Tom Rucktenwald, formerly spokesman for the product, is no longer with the company after some responsibilities were shifted around in December.
NDS is working with chip manufacturers like Texas Instruments, Samsung, SiPort, NXP and others to work the Radio Guard intellectual property into HD Radio chipsets. The Dice unit is the first to have the NDS conditional access properties; however, “We expect eventually all HD Radio chips will have NDS Radio Guard in them,” he said.
The process of making that happen, which he called “serialization and integration,” is happening now.
NDS is also talking to stations about managing entitlement and access control and delivering the right content to the right radios. Remember, we’re written about the NDS Protector, which sits next to the HD Radio importer in the air chain. The Initiator is a management tool to allow a network of stations to manage multiple head-ends.
The Dice unit is the first HD Radio with the conditional access technology. NDS is looking ahead to when stations will want to use the technology for premium services, say to deliver a pay-to-listen one-time event or special advertising-free content over their multicast channels — and generate revenue.
Given the economy, this revenue-generating stuff still seems a ways off; I asked whether the pace of HD Radio adoption is happening fast enough to get to these uses. “We would have liked to seen more stations and more HD Radios in the field” by now, he said, but he found it significant that receiver prices are dropping. NDS still believes as a business opportunity, the value of conditional access remains, Narwid said, noting that NDS is the only conditional access provider for HD Radio.
Hopefully, yes, if stations themselves can just get through 2009.