SCA Adelaide’s ground breaking playout experiment across FM and digital stations

SCA has begun an experiment in Adelaide that puts its live local breakfast show on each of its DAB+ stations in that city.

As of this morning, Hit 107 breakfast hosts Bec and Cosi are now being heard on all of Adelaide’s Hit Network DAB+ stations, using playout technology to sync the talk breaks with the different playlists of each station.

The Hit DAB+ stations previously carried automated music.

The first morning apparently went off without a hitch.

SCA CEO Grant Blackley has told radioinfo: “This is a test of what can be done. We have built reach with our analog and digital strategy, but something was missing.

“We know that local audiences want to laugh, get the news and be informed about things happening in their cities at breakfast time… If this works it will give a high level of personalisation, with different music choices for listeners.”

The Hit network currently has a range of stations stacked in its brand. As well as the main analog Hit station, the network now bundles five digital stations under its overall brand: Buddha, OldSkool, Easy and Urban, and the just launched Dance station.

“We have worked with the breakfast teams to make sure they are educated about what we want to achieve and are skilled up to deliver with the new system… they have to make the technology work and what they say to the audience has to be relevant,” says Blackley.

To find out more about how the system works, we spoke to SCA’s Head of Audio Operations, Dan Jackson:

“We’re using RCS and GSelector Song Balancer to point to a master log (Hit 107) for all the stations that will use rules and goals to select songs of a similar length for each station.

“If there is an anomaly, such as a long song on Hit, then the system has the ability to put in two songs, separated by a sweeper to sync to the required duration… songs come out within ten seconds of each other.”

Using the new system, the breakfast team does their show normally but when they hit the play button on Zetta it triggers the CHR music log on Hit107, and also fires off songs selected from the music universe of the other station formats.

The panel operator has a view of all stations attached and can see the time outs for each as the song plays down. The system is pre-set to flag the shortest intro so that the presenters don’t accidentally talk over one of the other songs playing on another station.

“The panel operator also has the ability to fade all songs with the fade button if that needs to be done manually,” Jackson told radioinfo.

One drawback of the system is that presenters can’t forward or back announce songs or artists, but the benefits are deemed to outweigh that downside, because breakfast is more about the personalities and the local information than full details of the music.

“Presenters can see the list of songs playing across all the stations on a Chrome Browser interface on their side of the desk, as can the producer. We worked on it with RCS to make sure that everyone had what they needed,” says Jackson.

Mike Pfeiffer from RCS worked with Jackson’s technical team to customise the system for SCA’s needs.

“We had some of the technology in place, because we had developed it for Absolute Radio, but SCA needed more because it had to sync with music directors and playout systems in different states. The decentralised workflows added an extra level of consideration when we enhanced the system.

“We had to take the FM log and make it respect the clock of each station, we did that by using our stretch and squeeze technology… We also built on the splits technology which we developed for IDs and commercial content, so when the FM log plays its song all the corresponding stations play their song.

“At first the playout support team had a lot of concerns and questions about it, they were worried about losing control, but when they saw it they could see how we solved those issues and how it kept them in control,” says Pfeiffer.

SCA intends to trial the system in Adelaide for a time to learn what listeners think about it. If it is successful it may be rolled out to other markets in the long run.

SCA’s Triple M Adelaide breakfast show is expected to also activate simulcasting within days.



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