As a new media consumer product, HD Radio remains mostly "unheard".
Research reports awareness to be "up"...but consumer buy-in is still low, waiting to catch fire.
The buzz -- so far -- is not exactly "high def".
Sure, the announcement earlier this month that Wal-mart will start selling HD Radio receivers is a big boost for potential viability. And the radio industry continues to push it forward upgrading their transmitters and launching new stations.
Last year's national promo campaign to raise consumer awareness was backed by most of the leading radio groups, including Clear Channel and CBS Radio, and continues on...but those promos are airing less often now. While retail distribution deals with Sharper Image (HD Radio was its February consumer catalog cover product), RadioShack, Crutchfield and BMW help make HD Radio more available for purchase, the marketplace reaction remains stiffly lukewarm, despite tech producer iBiquity's buzz-building efforts.
What is HD Radio?...and what are the problems? Is it the future of radio?
Part of the problem is the perceived lack of need. Consumers have so many options for listening to music. HD Radio doesn't seem to fill a demand gap. Standard pre-installed radio in stereo systems seems sufficient to most radio users.
Another problem is radio's hesitation to offer these special HD radio partner channels for online streaming. If these "unique" channels are so great (commercial-free, no added agency/VO talent/copywriting royalty fees, etc.), why aren't they mass-streamed online and given prime exposure on the "mother" radio station's websites and other Internet locations?
Update 3/22 at noon: FCC approves new open HD Radio rules for streaming. The decision gives a green light to multicasting, so broadcasters no longer need to apply for experimental authority to multicast, including for HD Radio. All the commissioners called the digital radio vote historic -- let's hope it creates historic good results.
While HD radio offers better audio quality than conventional/analog AM/FM, the radio industry's embrace of this new tech option is perceived as partial, not full. There may be more than 1200 HD radio stations now...but who is really listening?
The technology for HD Radio was available back in the mid-90s when the U.S. standard was accepted. But the radio industry waited...until after mp3s, internet downloading and streaming, the iPod and satellite radio. Consumers weren't able to hear HD Radio programming or buy the receivers until just a few years ago.
The fact radio is doing "something" HD or digital is better than not at all; the problem is, "something" is not good enough. After a major 15-month push, HD Radio remains sub-optimal in terms of consumer response.
Heck, according to Technorati, even the media and tech gadget blogs rarely write about HD Radio (about 60-to-75 post references a day, on average; satellite radio, in comparison, gets 10 times that amount daily) -- and when they do, support is mixed. Not a good buzz-building indicator.
Can HD Radio still succeed? Doubtful but somewhat possible...if it tolerates the necessary long-term investment waging a long uphill battle against too many opponents.
Does radio need to be digital? Absolutely...but is HD the answer? Or is it making HD available on the iPod? Right now, the effort consumers have to make to hear HD Radio remains difficult and/or expensive, rendering it unnecessary for most radio users.
What are the current viewpoints of experts watching the HD Radio trends? A selection:
Jerry Del Colliano from his InsideMusicMedia blog: "Can any consulting adult really believe HD is the answer when there is next to no consumer interest in it?"So what are your thoughts?
Tech and digital media consultant David H. Deans: "HD Radio can't save broadcaster problems."
Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research, as reported by BusinessWeek: "The problem for the broadcasters, who continue to see their audience become fragmented and who struggle to boost ad revenues, is that HD radio is not a new offering. It's a defensive move...It's better radio, but it's not a whole lot better radio."
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Wednesday, March 21, 2007,
- At 4:34 PM, AM-HDisDead said...
"Sirius, XM, and HD: Consumer interest reality check"
"While interest in satellite radio is diminishing, interest in HD shows no signs of a pulse."
"What kind of digital radio are listeners searching for?"
"HD Radio on the Offense"
"But after an investigation of HD Radio units, the stations playing HD, and the company that owns the technology; and some interviews with the wonks in DC, it looks like HD Radio is a high-level corporate scam, a huge carny shill."
"RW Opinion: Rethinking AM’s future"
"Making AM-HD work well as a long-term investment is seen as an expensive and risky challenge for most stations and their owners. With the bulk of successful AMs airing news, talk and sports, the improved fidelity advantage of HD and stereo seem only marginally attractive. There is the significant downside of potential new interference to some of their own AM analog listeners as well as listeners of adjacent-channel stations. And of course we still have no nighttime authority for AM-HD."
The HD Radio Alliance's 50KW-owned clear channel stations cause so much adjacent-channel interference on AM-HD, that AM-HD is not authorized for nighttime use, and blocks out smaller stations. The FCC may authorize AM-HD on 3/22/07. Consumers are aware of HD Radio, but they are not interested.
- At 1:46 AM, Nelson said...
Well, I think its pretty cool. There's a lot of negativity by people who've never tried it. It's like someone telling you this new soft drink tastes horrible... well have they actually tasted it? No, but somehow without trying it they just know it tastes bad.
Here's a summary of HD radio by someone that actually owns one. What you pay for: a receiver that retails at about $199 (cheaper if you look around, $40 rebate if you buy before July 3). Here's what you get: everything you got before, plus a few stations with better sound plus a few "hidden" multi-cast stations that you can't get any other way that generally play non-mainstream formats (and commercial free at least until the end of the year).
Is it worth it? Yes. At least for me it is. Those extra stations make it worth it (long commute, tired of morning shows - the multicast stations in my metro area are music only) and the better sound is nice too. And best of all, it doesn't cost a monthly fee.
BTW, don't worry about the guy posting links... he does that cut and paste job everywhere, just do a blog search. It's like he works for XM or Sirius or something.
- At 10:56 AM, PocketRadio said...
After three years, consumers are still not interested in the HD Radio farce: