Rehr sees opportunities for radio and television


We are taking control of our future,” declared NAB President and CEO David Rehr as he officially opened the 2009 NAB Show in Las Vegas. Rehr noted that change can be unsettling, but said radio is moving forward with HD Radio and radio receivers in cell phones, while television is successfully completing the DTV transition and moving rapidly toward deployment of mobile video.

For radio, Rehr noted the challenges of competing platforms which the industry responded to two years ago with the launch of Radio 2020 and just one year ago the consumer-aimed “Radio Heard Here” campaign as a part of it.

“The entire industry has united behind this initiative to reignite the passion for radio. Earlier this month, we surveyed radio insiders about Radio Heard Here. And nearly 90% said campaign tools that help the industry convey the power of radio are making a difference,” Rehr told the gathering in Las Vegas.

“Our goal for radio is simple, yet focused: Wherever there is a speaker or a pair of headphones, radio will be there,” he said. Rehr hailed the fact that 14 auto brands now offer HD Radio receivers to their customers. For the Internet, he noted the successful completion of royalty negotiations with SoundExchange for streaming, which he said provides “certainty of cost” through 2015.  

“We’ve also been reaching out to US mobile phone carriers to include FM chips in cell phones. This brings radio to upwards of 250 million devices in consumers’ hands. FM receivers in cell phones could provide another revenue stream for cellular network providers. And integrated FM receivers would give cell phone users access to the Emergency Alert System,” Rehr said. “These announcements are relied upon as a lifeline for Americans during emergencies, and we’re getting a great response. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile are including FM radio-capable handset devices in their offerings. And we’re working to get Apple on board as well,” he noted.

With the DTV transition fast approaching, Rehr hailed the marketing and education efforts of broadcasters as a great success.

“The entire TV industry united behind a consumer education campaign valued at more than one billion dollars. We put this campaign in front of America – on TV, on ships, on planes, on buses, at bus stops, in subways, on billboards, on the radio, on the Internet, at county fairs and public events, in parking lots, and in more than 8,300 community meetings with presentations by over 1,000 broadcasters. And we united more than 240 business, trade, industry, consumer groups, and grassroots organizations in these efforts with the Digital TV Transition Coalition,” Rehr said.

The result was overwhelming. “By January, 97 percent of Americans were aware of the transition. Many viewers are already enjoying the benefits of DTV – crystal clear pictures, phenomenal sound and more programming choices – all for free. And high definition television – HDTV — the jewel of digital broadcasting – is offering clarity of picture and sound beyond anything else available. Over the past year, there has been a 57 percent increase in the number of stations offering their newscasts in high definition. Not since the first color TV sets entered American homes have we experienced such a revolution in television viewing,” Rehr said.

Next up: Mobile DTV. “The move to digital television has allowed us to move forward in making local, digital broadcast TV portable. NAB provided the seed money to support the Open Mobile Video Coalition – more than 800 television stations working to bring digital television to mobile and handheld devices. By 2012, we expect 130 million phones and 25 million media players will be able to receive mobile television. An NAB study concluded that TV broadcasters could see incremental revenue of more than $2 billion after 2012 with mobile DTV. I believe, the revenue upside is probably greater than we can even imagine,” Rehr said. “There are billions of dollars in mobile ad revenues and billions of dollars in mobile search revenues and broadcasters should get their fair share. And this doesn’t take into account the way mobile television will transform the TV viewing experience,” he added.

Despite the current economic challenges, Rehr insisted that broadcasters need to stay focused on a positive and successful future. “Our brands are unmatched in our markets. We know the power of radio and television. And using radio and television, we can drive consumers online. And once there, we can provide them with greater access to our advertising partners, further monetizing our platforms and theirs. Consumers will follow us online because they’ve followed us and our great content for years,” Rehr told the convention goers.