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Multicasting Offers Content Opportunities

Multicasting is key to HD Radio proponents’ plan to drive consumers to buy new digital radios.

Multicasting is key to HD Radio proponents’ plan to drive consumers to buy new digital radios. There’s more than one way to skin that digital cat, as presenters hope to demonstrate in the session “HD Programming: The New Frontier,” Sept. 27, 3–4:15 p.m.

Experimentation and fun are two key ingredients to the new channel formats, whether it’s extending a main-channel brand or unveiling a new format. Many such programmers are finding young people to train as air talent for the new HD2 stations, creating a farm-team system for their main HD-R and analog channels.

Of the more than 1,400 stations now on the air with HD Radio, nearly 700 are multicasting, according to technology developer iBiquity Digital Corp. The FCC’s new rules allowing stations to multicast their signal without seeking special permission become effective Sept. 14.

HD Digital Radio Alliance President/CEO Peter Ferrara says emerging multicast formats are still new, “and like any other new format, HD2 [is] part of that experimentation phase. … Think back to the days of the emergence of FM. It’s very similar. Most of the great FM formats and many of the great FM programmers that emerged came out of this phase of experimentation.”

(click thumbnail)Don KellyWith multicasting, programmers now have a clean slate to work with, said session panelist Don Kelly, director of broadcast marketing for iBiquity. He works with station programming, promotions and sales management personnel to create local awareness programs that highlight the station’s use of HD Radio and help the station determine how to best promote digital radio to generate increased listener interest. Kelly also helps stations develop nontraditional programming that uses HD-R’s multicast and data capabilities.


Kelly said he’s excited about the session in which programmers and markets will explore the exciting new content opportunities offered to local broadcasters through HD Radio multicasting technology.

“Having been fortunate in my broadcast career to play a part in the rollout of many new FM formats in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I can’t help but be excited about the ‘blank canvas’ that is available to programmers for experimentation today at no risk. When you attend this session you will hear about the compelling content being developed by broadcasters for HD2 and HD3 channels that will ‘reignite’ radio.”

Also on the panel is Michael Albl, vice president/general manager of Clear Channel Radio’s Format Lab since 2006.

The broadcast group introduced its Format Lab concept that year. The Lab creates “program elements” including sample play lists, imaging and other content that is then customized by local program directors. In 2005, the company hired more than 200 programmers, some with no prior experience in radio, to create an infusion of new and niche programming into radio. The Lab feeds several Clear Channel distribution platforms, including its multicast channels. The new genres can be sampled online at:

Charlie Cook, vice president of programming for Cumulus Media, is also on the panel. Cook works with the 52 country stations in the broadcast group as well as with AC-formatted stations. Cynthia Morgan, senior vice president for corporate development for Delmarva Broadcasting Co. in Wilmington, Del., and Andy Mussaw, managing partner in Graffiti Radio, part of Delmarva, round out the panel.

While programmers are busy stretching their wings formatically on the air with multicasts to generate consumer excitement, HD Radio proponents continue working towards getting more small-market and independent HD Radio stations on the air and more products on the market. iBiquity is working to reduce the size and power consumption of its chipset, with the hope that, in 2008, it will get its technology into more and smaller, digital devices, like cell phones and PDAs.

The NAB plans to honor multicasting at this show. Entries opened in July for the NAB HD Radio Multicast Award, to be given to a multicast station that is creating unique, innovative or groundbreaking programming. The award is to be presented at the opening keynote session.