For parts of the Salem Radio Network, the dish is going the way of the dodo.
Salem Radio Network announced that it plans to transition its Christian programming platform to an all-IP receiver platform later this year, effectively eliminating the stalwart satellite dish for more than 500 stations.
A note from Salem executives in early April alerted affiliate stations that Salem plans to replace existing Wegener satellite receivers with ATX (formerly Pico Digital) XDS Pro receivers that offer internet protocol network capability allowing for full-time IP program delivery. The plan will go into effect in mid-2019 with harder switch planned for fall 2019. Salem Radio Network provides audio production and national distribution over satellite and IP platforms for both networks and independent programmers.
The media company said it will continue to utilize the existing SES-2/Wegener satellite platform while migrating to the new XDS IP receivers and expects to end the SES-2 satellite feed in early 2020. The change will impact Salem’s current Wegener users, those receiving Salem’s programming, but will not impact current recipients of third-party Westwood One programming via the XDS pipeline.
“We’re seeing industry standards change,” said Derek Anderson, network operations manager and director of satellite services for Salem, about the phasing out of the dish era. “The old guard of satellite still has a place in broadcast distribution but with IP hardware becoming more efficient and web bandwidth expenses dropping, we may see a mass migration very soon.”
According to the company, scheduling and program feeds will be delivered by internet connection only — meaning Christian programming stations will no longer need a satellite dish or antenna hardware to receive Salem’s Christian network feeds. The new XDS receivers will give stations the ability to record and play back all programming as well as integrate with local automation systems. According to Salem, full control of programming will be maintained by individual stations via web-based scheduling.
“And maybe best of all,” the company said in its note to stations, “terrestrial or weather interference — sun outage/rain fade — is eliminated.”
According to Anderson, the decision came about as the company began thinking about the benefits of IP networking over the long term.
“Salem Media Group has historically been an industry leader in broadcast distribution,” he said. “As our current satellite platform has worked well for us, we’ve been moving forward with a plan to transition from satellite to full IP in 2019 for our Christian teaching and talk and music platforms.”
The initial rollout in 2019 will migrate more than 500 stations from satellite to IP receivers “with more added as we fully transition this platform to IP only,” Anderson said.
By migrating to the XDS Pro receiver platform, stations will gain greater control over their programming, he said. The system will integrate fully with stations’ local automation systems with a simple web connection, he said.
Anderson said there are cost benefits for both networks and affiliates. “Program distribution via IP will provide us an expense savings over satellite and stations will see savings in local dish and hardware lease/maintenance costs,” he said.
Affiliates should be aware that despite the major technology change, Salem plans to continue the same quality of service to national affiliates as it transitions, Anderson said.
Anderson said the network has used XDS Pro receivers as its general market satellite platform on Westwood One for many years. “It’s proven itself to be the industry standard,” he said. “Our affiliates prefer the ease of use of the XDS web-based scheduler over all other platforms and honestly, no other platform provides such a robust system than XDS.”
He said the company’s Christian programming platform has been due for an upgrade for awhile. “We knew we were headed to IP and once we had full integration with our uplink provider Microspace, we felt confident in making the jump,” he said.
While there’s no concrete plans to expand the program to any other general market news/talk stations, Anderson said he expects other networks to realize the benefits of moving from satellite to IP. “Many are now using IP as backup to satellite feeds and we foresee more moving over in the near future,” he said.
Editor’s note: Salem Radio Network’s model also includes distribution with outside clients. Those looking for more information can contact Derek Anderson at [email protected].