Long and Winding Road

Happy tidings from the influential Radio World site. It seems that people are beginning to speak out against the tide of BS surrounding HD radio. In an article entitled “HD Radio Faces Rocky Road,” writer Bill DeFelice takes on iBiquity in no uncertain terms:

It seems the radio industry had its share of mistakes and gaffes along the way. The indecisiveness with AM stereo back in the ’80s was one of the more notable episodes. Broadcasting’s latest dilemma, HD Radio, is a case of too little, too late, and to paraphrase a line from the Mamas & the Papas, “The only one getting fat is iBiquity.” As far as I’m concerned, the first major misstep is that the wrong people developed the standard that comprises the heart of the HD system.

In it, he also notes the problem of selling the whole idea to a new generation of consumers:

I often have the opportunity to speak young people thanks to my role in educational-based computer support. I’ve learned about their preferred entertainment choices. It appears students aren’t consciously aware of what HD Radio really is, and many prefer other forms of entertainment. Young people lean toward online radio and portable music players, be it an iPod-like device or a music-playing cell phone. It stands to reason that these consumers aren’t going to shell out great sums of money for HD Radio receivers, if they even bother to consider an aftermarket radio instead of the one that comes in their automobile.

From my observation, it appears that content wins out over fidelity with many of these young consumers. Of course, this is the generation I see watching “television” on cell phones and iPods, too.

Confusion regarding HD Radio exists not only with consumers but also in the retail sales environment. It’s still common to come across sales associates who don’t understand what HD Radio is. Some still think regular radio is HD radio. (“They say it all the time, right?” was the comment from one salesperson, talking about a station’s top-of-the-hour identification, which mentioned HD. I debated whether to attempt to educate the sales associate but I left the retailer in disgust.)

Bill then touches on the dearth of quality content for the new channels:

Trying to sell HD Radio to the masses with the counterargument that “we offer some excellent content on our secondary HD channels” isn’t going to be enough to induce sales either. There are Internet-based audio streams that beat the likes of many HD secondary streams. These Internet streams have one big advantage: They offer content that the terrestrial broadcaster would never touch, for reasons ranging from the inability to attract sufficient advertising to the narrow “niche” appeal of specialty programming.

And ultimately, it comes down to cost, which seems to be borne more easily by the bigger stations and, of course, subsidized public radio affiliates — at least initially, until the real cost comes down.

Public acceptance continues to be slow. What appears to be fire sale pricing on licensing isn’t necessarily going to get those smaller station operators or those with marginal cash flow to jump in or continue operating in HD. I wonder if HD Radio will indeed become this decade’s unaccepted technology, its AM stereo. No matter what your view is, I’m sure it’s an expense that stations are evaluating carefully in light of today’s economy.

At any rate, it’s nice to see mainstream radio commentary discovering that the emperor really doesn’t have any clothes. As a commenter added:

Digital Radio IS this decade’s unaccepted technology — as you so aptly stated. For good reason too. First, it’s not anything consumers care about, which has been demonstrated for eight years now. Number two — the IBiquity/Joint Parties business model is one of greed and force feeding, not to mention iBiquity’s incessant need to misinform and stretch the numbers always in their favor. Let’s be honest, they look pretty dumb at this point. Consumer are slowly “wising up” to the greed factor, which is rampant these days. Glad you’re getting honest. Feels good doesn’t it.

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One Response

  1. If one is associated with HD Radio, such as a CE running an HD Radio station, and speaks out against it, one could lose their job. With CEOs of the major radio groups invested in iNiquity, they have made sure that criticism of HD Radio is treated as insubordination. It is rumored that iNiquity has a nondisclosure agreement barring anyone from speaking out against HD Radio to the Press. iNiquity knows they have a crap product, so make it appear everything is ok. The FCC has not acted on one interference complaint, so again, making it appear there are no problems.

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