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Thread: Can video thrill the radio star?

  1. #1

    Can video thrill the radio star?

    With all the Alex Jones "de-platforming" hubbub in the news lately, something dawned on me. AM and FM radio, over the last couple decades, have themselves been slowly getting "de-platformed." I guess most people don't conceptualize the issue that way, but when you think about it in that context, it's essentially true. For example, very few consumers still buy big component AM/FM stereo systems for their dens and livingrooms the way they did decades ago. So there's one platform that's vanishing: the quintessential home hi-fi system. Then there are smartphones and tablets (with optional beats pill or similar bluetooth speakers being lugged in tow). Those smartphones and tablets have replaced most of the formerly ubiquitous walkmen, boomboxes, and even alarm clock radios in peoples' lives, all while refusing to give their users access to their internal FM chips. Which means you can add another three platforms to the history list. Finally you have portable tabletop/handheld radios, the sort that were frequently taken to the beach, on picnics, camping, or situated on kitchen counters or garage workbenches to provide entertainment while various household chores and projects were undertaken. Well, these too you just don't see the younger generations using nowadays; they tend to think of them more as earthquake/tornado/disaster kit accessories to be stored away and brought out for listening to only in emergencies. Which I suppose brings the total number of platforms AM and FM have lost to five. And that, unless I'm missing something, means there's now just one major platform remaining where AM and FM are still readily, instantaneously, and handily available to consumers without them needing to take any special steps (like installing streaming apps) to gain access to them: cars.

    So I had a thought. In the context of working to start getting AM and FM radio "re-platformed," why couldn't the AM/FM broadcasting community work with TV set manufacturers to put AM/FM tuners inside new TVs? In other words, why not leverage the fact that The TV Set(TM) continues to remain a ubiquitous mainstay (a solid platform) inside virtually every single person's home, often to the point of one existing in almost every room, just like AM/FM radios used to?

    Consumers already use TVs to listen to cable/satellite digital music services like MusicChoice. And smart TVs are also already being used to listen to streaming music from countless internet-based sources. As a result, most consumers today already conceptualize their TV sets as logical sources for music/audio/radio. And that, to me, means it'd seem completely natural and normal to them -- no learning/education curves involved -- if their next TV purchases (smart or otherwise) were TVs with built-in AM/FM band reception, including HD radio decoding and RDS display for on-screen song titles.

    At the technology level, it should be trivially inexpensive for manufacturers to add AM/FM reception, considering there are now one-chip AM/FM/IBOC/RDS demodulation products floating around today (google "Si463x" for one example). Antenna wise, virtually any LCD panel housing would have enough room internally for a traditional AM ferrite rod, and for an FM wire antenna wrapping around the inside of the bezel (one whose reception could be further enhanced whenever VHF-compatible roof antennas and/or rabbit ears were connected).

    What are the forum's thoughts on this? The refusal by the two major phone manufacturers to enable FM reception on their smartphones was an obvious defensive move against allowing in competition to their own streaming platforms and/or their partners' streaming platforms. But with television sets, there are many, many times more manufacturers to approach, and none of them (that I'm aware of) have any financial/anti-competition incentives to oppose adding AM/FM reception in their sets. For them, it would only be about the added manufacturing costs versus the feature's appeal to consumers.

    Thoughts? Anyone know any well-connected bigwigs in the industry to whom this post could be pointed out?

  2. #2
    Good points, but I believe terrestrial radio is happy being in the car and at your work desk. Despite what some may say, I almost never think of (or use) local radio to listen to music when I'm at home...and with the plethora of ways to listen, why should I?

    Formerly...but always... "The Guru" (Still as old & crotchety as ever)

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by yeoldeschool View Post

    So I had a thought. In the context of working to start getting AM and FM radio "re-platformed," why couldn't the AM/FM broadcasting community work with TV set manufacturers to put AM/FM tuners inside new TVs?
    Not as easy as you'd think. There was a time when TV sets were made in the US. That hasn't been the case f0r 50 years. Now most TV sets are made in China. Would you like to work with companies based in China? TV sets aren't manufactured primarily for the US audience, but the world audience. They're not manufactured as traditional broadcast reception devices, pulling in the signal from an antenna. I've found most manufacturers are not making a traditional broadcasting device. The typical device now is a monitor, with HDMI and USB connections to work with the internet. So that's the focus now.

    As you mentioned, there is Music Choice. But its usage isn't very high. Music Choice, and similar competing services, are offered by the cable or content distribution companies. I've worked with radio stations (mostly non-com) who've had their signal included in that package. But the listenership was almost non-existent. It led me to the conclusion that people don't use visual devices for audio. They typically will use audio when their eyes are occupied, doing work or driving. Otherwise, they want video.

    So radio companies are focusing on becoming streaming companies, podcast companies, and other audio services. The issue isn't the platform, because smartphones and computers can receive radio streams. The issue is finding ways to create targeted audio services for direct use. People want what they want, they want it easily, and for free. That's the business we're in. Using the internet rather than broadcast offers radio companies the option of adding video if they want. Using the internet means no regulation, no ownership rules, no limits on the number of stations and services you can offer. The negative is using the internet requires companies to pay music royalties for any music they play, and those royalties are very expensive, on average about 50% of revenue (not profit). That's why streaming companies like Pandora find it impossible to make a profit.

    So those are the options. I can tell you this: When people bought those big component stereo systems in the 70s, the attraction wasn't AM/FM. That was an add-on. The attraction, and the main selling point, was the personal content they could hear, such as records or tapes. When those systems were combined with home theaters in the 80s and 90s, the attraction again wasn't AM/FM. So even if you could convince the Chinese to add radio tuners to TVs, it wouldn't make much difference. The reality is you can use the audio portion of your TV as a radio if you add the right app.

    So looking forward, it's important for radio to see itself as multi-platform content companies. If radio companies want to be part of any device, it's the phone. While radio can already be streamed on the phone, it's much more efficient as a broadcast device. That's what radio companies are focusing on now.
    Last edited by TheBigA; 08-30-2018 at 10:44 AM.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2008
    Fresno, CA
    Many of the newest 4k "tv's" don't even have television tuners included any more.

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