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SVG Sit-Down: Lawo's Johan Boqvist Looks at Sports Radio's Next Century

05/01/2022

SVG Sit-Down: Lawo's Johan Boqvist Looks at Sports Radio's Next Century Podcasts, immersive audio,' IP will be major factors By Dan Daley, Audio Editor

Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 1:12 pm

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Radio was broadcast sports' first electronic medium, and, a little more than 100 years since the first announcers crackled over the airwaves, radio remains a leading media format for sports. It's also where broadcast audio gets to stretch out, offering more detail and nuance. And a lot more yelling. SVG sat down with Johan Boqvist, senior product manager, radio products and systems, Lawo, to discuss how radio is readying its infrastructure for the next hundred years.

Lawo's Johan Boqvist: Radio is and has always been a perfect media for sports because it's so easily accessible and always available.

When people say broadcast sports, the implication is that they're talking about television, and TV does get the lion's share of attention in the conversation around audio for broadcast sports. How does Lawo view radio's role in that conversation, and is radio properly valued for what it delivers?

Radio is and has always been a perfect media for sports because it's so easily accessible and always available, regardless of time of day or location. Many events and games take place exactly when you are working in the garden on a Saturday, in the car coming home from the office, preparing dinner in the kitchen, or going for a run or a workout in the gym, and radio is the perfect companion for these activities since it engages you but doesn't demand your full attention. The radio format also allows the networks to offer longer and more detailed stories for hardcore sports fans, either over-the-air in dedicated digital sports channels or in podcasts.

However, for a broadcaster, it's much more challenging to deliver a great user experience from a live sports event to a radio audience compared with TV. As a show host, you need to create the right atmosphere from the start and be very prepared to engage the audience with interesting stories and tidbits before the game starts. The commentator needs to deliver details and create word pictures that give the listeners the feeling that they're actually at the venue. In many cases, the sports-radio team is doing all of this while also operating the equipment, so they've got to be really on top of their game. Is radio getting the proper value for what it delivers? The listeners certainly value it.

Where has radio for sports been falling short in recent years? Have its capture, mix, and processing technologies kept up, or are they generally regarded as secondary to television's? With surround sound for sports on television almost two decades old and immersive sound on the table, how can radio up its game, so to speak? For instance, is automotive sound a market of interest for that?

All of our radio consoles and mixing engines are multichannel-ready and support several assistive technologies and audio enhancement features that can be used in sports production. However, the challenge for the broadcaster isn't in production so much as in distribution. How do you distribute the 5.1 or 7.1 stream to listeners at home or in the car using traditional radio distribution formats, such as FM, DAB, or satellite?

The networks, the automotive industry, and consumer-electronics market are all working on easy-to-use solutions and standards for this, and I truly believe that, when we start to see more and more 5G-connected vehicles on the roads, we'll also be able to listen to live sports with multichannel audio in the car. The same principle will apply to smartphones when products like Dolby Atmos headphones hit the market on a wider scale.

Dialogue enhancements for the hearing impaired is an additional immersive-audio application that many of our public-broadcasting R&D departments are working to implement. The possibilities of this are really interesting. For instance, imagine giving listeners a dialog control in their smartphone app so they could adjust the balance between music and speech to their own preferences. We've even seen some experiments where the end user's app has a supporter slider. How many of the different listener-supported audio features do you want to hear? Just adjust the slider. OK, this is kind of esoteric, but you get the idea: the application scenarios for next-generation audio are endless.

Streaming is a sector that sports media are embracing, particularly with the new popularity of podcasts (which are audio only and are kind of a version of radio). What are the opportunities there for audio technology?

The podcast format is perfect for long sports interviews, stories, documentaries, and game wrap-ups, and we are definitely seeing an increase in requests for products tailored to off-the-air productions. After all, you don't tie up a main studio every time you do preproduction, so why do it to create podcast content?

Over the past years, we've seen increasing interest in and adoption of virtual-radio solutions: software products that take the place of hardware and deliver an integrated production environment as well as an increased cost-to-benefit ratio. For instance, our R3LAY Virtual Mixer lets you deploy a touchscreen eight-fader mixing app on your PC and integrate your audio-editing software, playout system, phone-management system, and social-media tools - controlling all of them within the same interface. And, since PCs are naturally network-friendly, this virtual-radio installation can operate in a standalone home studio or connect to the main studio over a private IP network. It's a perfect solution for these times when more and more talent are working from home or remote studios.

What
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