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Metadata Seen As Essential To Radio Maintaining In-car Dominance.

Nick Piggott, Jeff Detweiler, Laura Ivey (L-R)

The importance of using metadata to improve broadcast radio and maintain its dominance in the automotive audio landscape was stressed in an opening session Sunday morning at the 2023 NAB Show in Las Vegas. Broadcasters need to realize that using metadata to improve and enhance how they look in the large, colorful dashboard displays being integrated into cars and trucks “is as important as the audio signal,” said Nick Piggott, Project Director, at RadioDNS, the nonprofit group developing global tech standards for hybrid radio. “Without it, your brand is going to be slipping behind other brands in the car,” Piggot warned.

Indeed, the recurring message of the “Broadcasters and Hybrid Radio - It’s All About the Metadata” session, moderated by David Layer, VP of Advanced Engineering at NAB and Vice-Chair of NABA’s Radio Committee, was the importance of broadcasters educating their staff about the role metadata will play in radio’s future. The panel took place only one hour after the white paper, "Insights on Hybrid Radio and Metadata for Broadcasters" was publicly released. Developed by the NABA Radio Committee's Hybrid Radio and Metadata Working Group, the report aims to improve radio broadcasters' awareness of hybrid radio technology and the importance of metadata usage.

“Unlike pure-play audio streaming, radio does not consistently deliver a rich visual component along with the audio programming,” according to the white paper. “Radio programs without visual elements can look dated, devoid of excitement, and lacking in visual reinforcement. If the radio is to remain competitive in the audio space, it needs to match its competitors' visual appeal and maintain listeners' interest.”

The paper says it’s “vital” to rally the support of broadcasters for hybrid radio to demonstrate to automakers “that OTA radio is a vibrant, cutting-edge service deserving of a dominant presence in the dash of next-generation vehicles.”

“Hybrid radio is here now,” Layer said at the NAB Show panel, noting its adoption globally by automakers including Hyundai, Daimler, Kia and others. Receivers simultaneously connected to a broadcast signal and the internet, using the two sources in concert, can allow a broadcaster to “do all sorts of new things,” Layer said.

Making Broadcast Radio More Discoverable

Along with leveling the playing field with pureplay audio services in the car from a visual standpoint, hybrid radio is seen as elevating HD Radio multicast channels. That’s because in the local station menu that pops up on the hybrid radio dashboard display, multicast channels aren’t the hidden “stations between the stations” anymore. They’re as accessible and as high profile as the station’s main audio channel. “It will improve people's ability to discover broadcast radio and increase its prominence,” Piggott said.

With about 56% of GenZ-ers only listening to broadcast radio in the car, Laura Ivey, Director of Research at Edison Research sees hybrid radio as a way to improve radio’s profile with this generation. “Our data supports that hybrid radio provides an opportunity for discoverability of broadcast radio,” she told the NAB Show audience.

Xperi’s DTS AutoStage hybrid radio has been deployed in 145 countries, according to Jeff Detweiler, Executive Director, Business Development, at Xperi and Lead for NABA Radio Committee’s Hybrid Radio and Metadata Working Group. “This is a free service to broadcasters,” he explained, encouraging stations to register their station, provide static data information for their station and go a step further and engage in live streaming of image metadata sourcing directly into the system. In exchange Xperi is providing listening metrics to participating broadcasters.

Not only is RadioDNS working to standardize tech standards for metadata in hybrid radio, but also for broadcast radio content that is delivered to streaming-only devices like smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. “We think the benefit of that is that broadcasters can be confident that once they have organized their metadata in one way, it will be consistent across both the hybrid and IP overlays,” Piggott said. So, a radio brand will look great when displayed on a 42-inch TV. It’s part of a goal of serving devices beyond just radios.

“The cold hard truth is, at least in the U.S., tabletop radios and other radios in the home are greatly diminished from what they once were,” Layer pointed out. “By allowing IP-only devices to make use of the data we're really addressing that need,” he said.

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