The spring NAB Show is next week. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Tom Swidarski is chief executive officer of The Telos Alliance.
Radio World: How has business been for the Telos Alliance since last year’s NAB Show?
Tom Swidarski: At the risk of reusing an old phrase, “Business is great and people are fantastic!” I say that because of the two primary types of business activity in which broadcasters are currently engaging.
The first is the usual equipment replacement and improvement cycles. Stations are upgrading their on-air phone systems to SIP-based solutions like the Telos VX series. Other stations are installing new audio processors with HD and RDS options. Stream processing and encoding are becoming critical these days. AoIP audio consoles, a Telos Alliance innovation, are now becoming standard in the industry. Our flagship consoles like our Axia iQ and Fusion remain standards for the entire industry. That said, big studio builds are still happening as well. KCRW’s new $38 million facility in Los Angeles, which we’ve been privileged to be a part of, is a great example.
The second is truly forward-looking: We’re seeing the first movements to a broadcast infrastructure that’s application-based in addition to hardware-based. In this new paradigm, studios will be easier to build and even friendlier to operate. The Telos Alliance and our partners will make the smart systems that “just plain make radio work,” leaving the talent to focus even more on content.
Not all of our success this year has been simply product-centric. We’ve increased alignment in our sales, marketing, and product development teams; we’ve debuted a new product introduction process that decreases our time to market; and we’ve standardized the manufacturing process. The result is a nimbleness that lets us both lead the industry in innovation and respond quickly to the evolving audio landscape.
RW: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?
Swidarski: Broadcasters are making smart investments right now. When they upgrade existing studios or build new ones, they’re not just looking at individual products; instead they are looking at the entire ecosystem and choosing equipment and software that works together and creates an end-to-end workflow. That thinking is not only saving them time and money up front, but will pay huge dividends as we all move into a more connected world. The demand to create more content in less time and with fewer resources has never been greater, nor has the need for intercommunication and the sharing of content between facilities.
We’re also hearing more about the move away from proprietary hardware and into software-driven, virtualized environments where it is consistent with our development path.
RW: Within the last year or so the two largest station ownership groups have filed for bankruptcy while there’s also been serious consolidation as other groups leave the market. Stepping away from your particular segment, what is your feeling for the overall health of the radio industry?
Swidarski: The term “radio” used to be reserved for analog, terrestrial, over-the-air delivery. That model is still valid, alive, and well, but radio is evolving and diversifying into digital terrestrial delivery, streaming, and on-demand content. The popularity of smart speakers — the new table radio — is testament to this, as is the continued increase in podcast listenership, which just this year has experienced its biggest jump in growth since 2006.
The good news is that radio is going through a real renaissance, and the demand for audio content has never been higher. Our customers are producing quality and quantity content like never before, and they are looking to companies that understand their evolving needs and pain points and who respond to them with innovative solutions. The broadcasters with the best tools and the most forward-thinking strategies and facilities are going to prosper.
RW: You’ve been active in the broadcast equipment market (AoIP, consoles, processors, etc.) for decades. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?
Swidarski: One of the biggest challenges for broadcast system integrators and engineers is making sure they’re up to speed on the best AoIP practices and have a firm grasp of networking fundamentals, like proper clocking techniques. AoIP is everywhere, and networked audio is in a very good place now. Using the AES67 standard, we’re seeing meaningful interconnections between different brands and systems. This is the vision we had years ago when we invented AoIP for broadcast. Our goal of interoperability is essential in the new IT ecosystem!
Another challenge is the fierce competition for the ear. Our clients are reminded of it every day. They have to be wherever their customers are and embrace the ways in which their listeners consume content. They have to be ready to change course on a dime, and are realizing the advantage of being able to choose products from various vendors to “roll their own” systems. This underscores the critical importance of interoperability. For our part, we’re helping them through these transitions by moving toward software, automated solutions, and virtualization.
RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?
Swidarski: Telos Alliance has two booths again this year — SU3921 (TV) and N5806 (radio) — to make it easier for people to find the solutions they are looking for based on their primary market. However, the lines between media are blurring. Notre Dame’s Martin Live Production Media Center is a great example of an all-IP routing infrastructure, with Axia at its core.
Telos Infinity IP Intercom’s broad appeal has resulted in installations outside of the traditional TV market, including radio facilities like Chicago’s WGN. We’re expecting Telos Infinity to be successful in nonbroadcast vertical markets in 2019 as well.
You’ll see Telos VX VoIP phone systems equally at home in both radio and TV facilities, and you’ll find AoIP consoles — like our new Axia iQx, which makes its official stateside debut at NAB — used in both markets as well.
Attendees will get to demo a really cool new product from Omnia (hint, it’s not a processor) and get a glimpse of the virtual future of broadcast in our HyperStudio Experience demo which features several of our products operating in a hypervisor environment.
Our goal at the show — and in general — is to shape the future of broadcast audio by delivering innovative, intuitive solutions that inspire our customers to create the most exciting and engaging audio experiences imaginable, and that’s what they’ll find at both booths.
RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2019 NAB Show?
Swidarski: Audio over IP is gaining such widespread acceptance and deployment in both radio and television that even today it’s still right up there. Standards like SMPTE ST 2110-30 — which incorporates AES67 for television audio — and standards like IS-04 and IS-05 bear this out.
Savvy broadcasters will want to keep their minds open to the virtualization technologies on the horizon as well. One very large broadcaster has over 500,000 hours of successful operation using centralized—and redundant—back-end infrastructure. They’ve been on-air with a virtualized environment for almost four years now, and their success demonstrates the viability of this paradigm for our future.
That said, part of the future is already here, and users can begin virtualizing key systems and convenient talent touchpoints right now. Users love the convenience and modern feel of customized touchscreen consoles and console extensions. As an example, the IP-Tablet from the Telos Alliance is seeing enthusiastic deployment in the most modern studios.
Streaming is on the rise thanks to the explosion in smart speaker listening, which has doubled in the last year. Our Z/IPStream line of stream encoders and processors feature Omnia processing that allows streams to sound as good or even better than on-air.
Finally, standards are more important than ever, and will be prominently touted by manufacturers at NAB. AES67 will be everywhere, including the world of television audio with the new SMPTE ST 2110-30 standard. ATSC 3.0, with its next-generation immersive and personalized audio, brings with it huge changes to the television audio landscape for production, loudness control, monitoring, authoring, and upmixing.
RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?
Swidarski: Absolutely! We’re really looking forward to the IP Showcase (C12634), which continues to help guide the industry on all things IP. Greg Shay, our CTO, will be speaking at the IP Showcase booth on April 9, from 5–5:30 p.m., offering his practical experience and perspective on using PTP/SMPTE 2059.
We will also be participating in three sessions during the show: Frank Foti’s talk about “µMPX FM Stereo Composite Connectivity” via IP goes down on April 9th at 4 p.m. in N260. Kirk Harnack will discuss “Offsite Radio Infrastructure and Virtualization Technology” on April 11th at 10:40 a.m. in N258. John Schur will give attendees the lowdown on “Audio Monitoring for Next-Gen TV Audio” on April 9th at 2:30 p.m. in N260. All of it promises valuable and practical takeaways.