An XPoNential Move Forward For Program Distribution


One of the nation’s leading sources for Adult Alternative music recently set out to develop what would be “a more sustainable distribution model” for its digitally distributed 24/7 music channel, heard on several HD multicast slots on NPR member stations across the U.S.

A Humboldt County, Calif.-based streaming company and an audio technology firm were selected to power the new programming syndication system.

The University of Pennsylvania-owned WXPN-FM 88.5 is known in Philadelphia for its mix of progressive classics and newer “Triple A” tracks. Its XPoNential Radio channel, a revenue-producing extension of WXPN distributed nationally, is a major extension of the WXPN brand.

As such, it is now using the Reflector service from StreamGuys and while working with Barix to power its new syndication system.

XPoNential Radio was originally distributed to affiliates via satellite and offered only for use on HD2 or HD3 channels. WXPN wanted to widen the usage of the channel to include primary broadcast. While it continues to use satellite for national programming such as its award-winning World Cafe, it needed to find an alternative, sustainable distribution model for the smaller-scale XPoNential Radio.

“Satellite is still an essential part of the public radio distribution ecosystem, but in a multi-platform and varying-scale environment like ours, we also need reliable, cost-efficient alternative methods to distribute our programming,” said WXPN GM Roger LaMay. “It is essential that we keep the XPoNential Radio service low-cost both for ourselves and potential affiliates, many of which are smaller stations or those looking to program their HD2 or HD3 channels, so a different solution is needed for closer-to-the ground operations.”

Despite cost-effectiveness being one of the station’s motivations, quality and reliability were also key criteria. “We always have a mind for how we can have the highest-quality audio, which made an uncompressed solution attractive,” explained LaMay. “And of course, reliability is essential.”

The Barix Reflector service operated by StreamGuys allows content providers to transport uncompressed PCM audio between Barix hardware endpoints across StreamGuys’ robust content delivery network, while link management is simplified through a cloud-based portal.

WXPN put Reflector through extensive in-house and beta testing.

“We weren’t sure if affiliates that had only used satellite before would be willing to go to IP, but ultimately there was very little resistance,” LaMay said. “Once stations discovered how easy it would be, they quickly got on board. They also appreciated the pristine, lossless, CD-quality audio enabled by uncompressed delivery. Our beta testing was so successful that in one case, the affiliate racked up the Barix unit after just one day and wasn’t going to give it back.”

The new XPoNential Radio distribution system was launched January 1 and is now serving affiliates as far away as Alaska.

As a managed service offering, Reflector makes it simple for affiliates to get started with XPoNential Radio. “WXPN purchases the Barix Exstreamer units, and StreamGuys pre-configures and ships them to the stations,” said John Bartol, IT director at WXPN. “The affiliate plugs in Ethernet, power and audio cables, and XPoNential Radio programming comes out. It’s very much plug-and-play.”

StreamGuys and Barix will demonstrate the Reflector service at the upcoming 2019 NAB Show (April 8-11 in Las Vegas), where StreamGuys will co-exhibit with ENCO in booth N2524, and Barix will exhibit in booth C1139.