Gunnar Garfors, President of IDAG, Advisor on radio distribution, NRK & Håvard Wien, Production Manager DAB, NRK
Slideshow services cover the graphics you have seen on the display of DAB radios in the last ten years showing logos, music artwork, maps or images of radio show presenters and guests.
But there is a new feature in town. Categorised SlideShow. This enables broadcasters to provide all sorts of graphics, divided into categories, making it much easier for listeners to find what they are looking for. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) is the first national broadcaster to put such services on air, giving us a lot more flexibility than before.
Norway will also be the first country in the world to switch off FM in 2017. One of the main reasons is that we can now offer everyone everything. All listeners will get the same selection of radio stations at the same time. We have gone from 3 nationwide stations with FM to 13 radio stations on DAB. This is democratisation of radio, and it enables us to tailor our content much better to various niches. Of course, this does not only apply to audio. All the digital radio stations, plus regional varieties of NRK P1 – the main station, now comes with a package of graphics too. The user can even go back and see what has been previously shown.
NRK P1 offers 4 slideshow categories: music, sports news, football results, news and local news. The latter is differentiated by area, NRK has 7 regional multiplexes, each with 2-3 regional news broadcasts. That means that a listener in a given region will get local news for the region they are in, plus for one or two neighbouring regions – both in audio and as graphics.
The categories are not the same for all radio stations. More music orientated stations offer music categories with album art and artist/title info so you can “browse” back in time to see what was played. Each category also provides URLs, so when touching the slideshow on a connected device the user is brought to the relevant websites.
We use different content for our slideshows. RSS feeds from the nrk.no website, artist, title and album art from the playout system, plus graphics and program info and images of the radio DJs. This process has to be automated to ensure a constant and fresh stream of ever changing content for the listeners. Having a fresh stream of content ensures that users know to always have a reason to check their screens. Some sort of automation or content management software is required to provide this. We use a software called “Rapid” from the UK based company “All In Media”. Rapid then feeds our Fraunhofer Content Servers (Multiplexers) with the content.
Categorised slideshow doesn’t cost more bitrate when you already have slideshows on air. It provides a hierarchical storage of slides received after you have tuned to the station. NRK transmits slideshow in the PAD of an audio service component where we have reserved 8 kB.
Feedback from listeners tell us that slideshows enhance the listening, and categorised slideshows even more. To us, it is important to demonstrate the value of digital radio, beyond audio, to our listener.
Our problem now however is that not all receivers support this functionality. To put it politely, we know of only one receiver in the market that support this, so we are potentially looking at yet another chicken and egg situation. The first to deliver is German made model TechniSat DigitRadio 500. Seemingly identical models with the same user interface are however sold under different brand names, but still do not support Categorised SlideShow. This indicates that only a software upgrade is needed.
We would like to encourage all manufacturers to upgrade their receivers to cope with Categorised SlideShow. That will provide additional value, make DAB radios even better, and help us take yet another step from FM to a value added digital future.