HD’s Slow Death

Things aren’t looking too rosy for HD radio, according to the gang on this Radio-info.com discussion board:

beantownradio25: Coming from a former HD supporter…

As we go into 2011, HD Radio STILL hasn’t gained significant traction and will only continue to loose supporters from both radio companies and other investors. Internet Radio is the next generation of radio, not HD Radio. We will see an accelerating rate of stations dropping IBUZ and the AM list at least shrunk in half by this time in 2012. Maybe FM HD could be successful on small scale among radio enthusiasts and in markets where a niche format is offered on an HD subchannel, but it is definitely not the 2nd coming to radio and not really in the consumers interest.

What will the folks at iBiquity do? Continue to lower prices and act like everything is fine.

Savage: I’ve seen convincing evidence that both broadcasters and listeners reject HD even when it’s free. Think about it: if iBiquity offered to send you its junky encoders, importers, exporters and hoo-hah for NOTHING, you would still have to install it, maintain it, dork around with the matching audio delay on a daily basis, and field interference/reduced coverage complaints.

Any sentient operator asks about “new-tech” be it HD or anything else: will this increase listenership? Will it help the station sell more advertising and attract more revenue? Will this thing make our lives easier at the station?

The answers for HD: No. No. And hell, no.

Beantown, you’re absolutely right. Digital radio = internet radio. The little pipsqueak battle of HD vs. streaming has been lost for about two years already. It’s just that HD-hypers have refused to read the memo.

local oscillator: I agree completely; HD is going nowhere. I still question whether internet radio is the future, though. It’s a nice supplement for stations with spoken-word formats that don’t have to pay the RIAA royalties, but for everyone else it’s a lousy business model that just gets worse as online listening increases. Even internet radio’s flower child, Pandora, is a questionable enterprise; if its stock were publicly traded, I certainly wouldn’t be buying it. Over-the-air = higher quality (at least on FM), higher efficiency, zero incremental cost, and it doesn’t help cause those nasty 4G logjams that many are predicting for the future.

As an aside — Lee Abrams made an absolutely spot-on comment (in my opinion) at the Jacobs Media Summit a couple of days ago. From the Radio-Info story:

. . . he says it’s “not a time to be creatively weak,” but to remember that programming matters. He cautioned against thinking that “digital is the magic answer,” and says radio must keep paying attention to “what comes out of the speakers” on its main broadcast signal.


beantownradio25: At first everyone thought it was the 2nd coming to Radio, that it would save AM Radio, etc. I used to be an HD supporter. Slowly over time I realized that A) Internet Radio offers alot of what HD Radio does, for no or little to no investment and no reception issues. and B) Internet Radio is in the consumers’ interest, unlike HD Radio which is not. There are easily thousands of Internet Radio streams, and HD Radio can offer you a handful of new stations, with weak signals, automation errors, days of downtime, etc. The Engineers and button pushers know HD isn’t going anywhere, so many of these subchannels are getting sloppily programmed and maintained. HD Radio can be successful on small scale, maybe in a few car models, but I don’t see it ever taking off. Internet Radio overshadows all of its offerings. I hate to admit this because I was a die-hard supporter for a while and I really wanted to see it succeed.

Nick: The FM stations that program HD2s can continue to program the secondary formats online even if they ditch HD.

BRNout: THANK YOU! I’ve been saying this for a long time and many of the HD lackeys here fight me on it tooth and nail. HD Radio is a joke — an answer to a question that someone could have posed in 1991 but didn’t. The real future is streaming audio. Steaming audio in smart phones, small computers and eventually your car. Did anyone read the TRI article today on how audio will be the killer app for 4G? Argue all you want about whether the present wireless infrastructure is overburdened or not — none of it matters because it’s being rebuilt every day. And the new 4G system will make wireless streaming a lot cheaper, efficient and easier than it already is.

Where does that leave HD? In the dust. Anything you can get with an HD radio is already streamed somewhere — if not now, it will be. The difference is that you will not be limited by geography. If you like a subchannel of KROQ LA and live in Chicago, guess what? You’ll stream it. With fewer dropouts than an HD radio.

Streaming is the future. Standard broadcast is robust and cheap. And HD radio falls into a hole in the middle. Nobody cares about it because it brings little to the table. Five friggin’ years of heavy promotion and still nobody’s buying. That should tell you that it’s NOT the next FM.

Savage: Let’s never forget that HD Radio has never been about “the betterment of radio.” It’s a cynical sub rosa agenda set in motion by a handful of developer-mad scientist engineers using the lobbying power of Big Radio Groups to try to enrich themselves and cronies.

Big Group Radio hoped to impose both the system and its development and implementation costs in monopolistic form on smaller broadcasters. CC, Greater Media and CBS were counting on getting ROI directly from their competitors. So there’s interference and the system sucks? Who cares, as long as the checks roll in.

Oops.  Stupidity is its own reward.


3 Responses

  1. Glad to see that HD is dying on the vine. Goes to show that the radio industry (Both commercial and public) has it bass-ackwards: Give people some clunky and expensive new technology instead of (ahem) IMPROVING THE PROGRAMMING.

  2. Unfortunately, iBiquity seems to be taking the lead from the UK’s DAB system which is failing to gain tracking after a couple of decades, but is still being jammed down consumers’ throats with deceptive tactics and claims. Even though stations are slowly turning off FM-HD and AM-HD, I suspect it will be years before our airwaves are cleared of this scourge.

  3. I Agree completely. The experiment is over.

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