Reuters on HD

At the end of last year, HD radio appears to be teetering on eight-trackdom. According to Reuters, the Big Three automakers, for one, are holding off on putting any more money in iBiquity’s pocket. And this from diymedia.net:

12/21/09 – HD Radio Ends Year On Slide

Although the marketplace doesn’t seem to have made up its mind on the fate of HD Radio just yet, the trends do not look positive. To wit:

1. “Smilin’ Bob” Struble, CEO of iBiquity, has apparently stopped tweeting after his globe-trotting jaunt this fall.

2. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest staff cuts at iBiquity are deeper than publicly known. (This would not be surprising given iBiquity is still a private company.) If true, it is always troubling when a developing technology cuts its tech support before it has a coherent, stable user-base.

3. Within the last month, Clear Channel has registered a domain name for, and established, a mirror-site to iBiquity’s main consumer portal. (Run a WHOIS search and note the difference.) There is no logical reason for this, unless one expects the main portal to “go away,” for some unspecified reason. Given that Clear Channel is the primary sponsor of the HD Radio Alliance (the consortium of mega-broadcasters most-supportive of HD Radio), one may draw their own conclusions.

4. Perhaps most damning, Bridge Ratings released a report this month on listening trends for Americans across all mediums. It notes that people reporting an intent to listen to more HD Radio has dropped. For 2009, only 1% of Bridge Ratings’ survey sample (3,000 people, all age 13+) report listening to HD Radio on a daily basis. Note that expected listening trajectories for satellite radio and MP3 players are also falling, while the intent-to-listen figures for “terrestrial” [analog] radio listenership are trending higher.

2010 could very well be HD Radio (or, at the very least, iBiquity)’s make-or-break year. The implications remain hazy, yet tantalizing.

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