Harris, Geo-Broadcast Solutions test “ZoneCasting”


Harris and Geo-Broadcast Solutions (GBS) have broken ground on the first commercial test for ZoneCasting — technology that enables targeted, over-the-air radio content transmission to local neighborhoods.

Harris is the exclusive transmission supplier for GBS ZoneCasting Systems, providing the technology and design/installation expertise for all ZoneCasting deployments.  WRMF-FM, serving Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and greater southeast Florida, will launch the first commercial test system this fall with an eye toward official deployment.

ZoneCasting creates a unique opportunity never experienced in terrestrial radio:  precise, targeted advertising to many defined zones across a single broadcast market.  The initiative unleashes new revenue opportunities for broadcasters, advertising agencies and local businesses by using the “available everywhere” technology of broadcast radio to bring a neighborhood-focus to local airwaves.  This essentially builds closer, community-driven engagement between radio stations and their listeners; as well as local businesses and consumers.

The Harris solution deploys multiple corresponding Flexiva low-power FM transmitters within the GBS ZoneCasting network architecture, adding Intraplex  SynchroCast simulcasting gear for synchronous delivery of localized content across defined zones.  The architecture features proven technology at its core that is used globally today — and ensures that the ZoneCasting platform is viable for analog FM and digital radio standards worldwide.

Peter Handy, CEO of Geo-Broadcast Systems, estimates the return on investment for broadcasters at three years or less — while noting that ad agencies will benefit by bringing new localized advertising opportunities to their clients: “Radio has always been a target medium for advertisers. ZoneCasting signals an opportunity to be even more hyper-focused.  It dives from the greater community to specific neighborhoods, leveraging the localism that makes radio appealing.”

RBR-TVBR asked the following questions. The responses came from Richard Redmond, vice president of product management and strategy for Harris Broadcast Communications and Peter Handy:

How many zones are predicted for WRMF—what neighborhoods?
Redmond: We expect that most station owners will want several zones to support the different geographies and trading areas within their coverage areas.  For this system test we will deploy one larger scale network  zone targeting Broward County.

How do you correct for interference when the zone signals overlap or fade into the main signal?
Redmond: The patent-protected technology of Harris and Geo-Broadcast Solutions deploys several approaches to provide a orderly transition from main to zone and zone to zone.  The use of GPS-locked transmitters, precision dynamic timing of the signal content, and expertly crafted network planning yield an on-channel solution that is second to none.

How will regular advertisers react to some neighborhoods replacing their ads in these zones? Are they exclusive neighborhood inventory?
Handy: In this test, non-commercial content such as station promotional announcements and public service announcements will serve as ZoneCasting content, with no change to the commercial content on the station.  We expect in commercial deployments that specific commercial slots will be designated as ZoneCasting commercials to eliminate any conflicts. We further believe that ZoneCasting commercial content will be more relevant to the listener, which should make the advertisement more effective.

What FCC permissions were granted?
Handy: “The testing was done through a grant by the Commission of an Experimental Authorization.  That rule requires that all testing be non-commercial.   Moreover, in granting that the Co. made it clear that it could not be used for commercial use.”

Said Dean Goodman, CEO of Palm Beach Broadcasting, which owns and operates WRMF: “There are local businesses and organizations that have not used radio advertising because it has traditionally been focused across an entire market. The localization of advertising to specific neighborhoods makes radio advertising both sensible and affordable for these companies, while delivering renewed attention from consumers.  It is easy to visualize how the advertising success of one neighborhood business would result in competing businesses quickly coming on board.”