Do It Yourself Death Knell

The blog posted up on the prospects for HD radio in a piece entitled “More Lumps for HD Radio.” As the song goes, the forecast calls for pain:

2011 has not started out well for advocates of HD Radio. Last week, Microsoft announced it would discontinue production of the Zune portable media player — one of only two portable devices that had built-in HD reception capability. Earlier in the year, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, HD Radio’s presence was pretty underwhelming. Not good indicators for increasing uptake by listeners.

In addition, the political campaign to defund federal support of public broadcasting has HD squarely in its sights. Over the last decade or so, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has invested more than $50 million in HD Radio, through infrastructure “upgrade” subsidies to CPB-funded stations and support of National Public Radio’s in-house research division, NPR Labs.

Unbeknownst to many, NPR has been the key innovator when it comes to HD technology. It developed (in full or in part) such features as multicasting, conditional access, “personalized radio,” and revised FM-HD power levels for regulatory purposes. The majority of funding for NPR Labs comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This month also saw a radio merger: Cumulus Media announced its purchase of Citadel Broadcasting, creating the second largest radio conglomerate in the country (behind Clear Channel). Citadel and iBiquity had an ongoing program whereby broadcasters could pay for their stations’ “upgrade” to HD through the bartering of advertising inventory.

The deal was unclear about just how much Citadel was prepared to invest in HD station upgrades and how iBiquity would actually get paid. It’s similarly unclear whether Cumulus will continue the program.

Finally, overall broadcaster sentiment is worse than lukewarm about the prospects of HD Radio. At the annual Country Radio Seminar, held earlier this month, the technology was openly criticized. Marc Chase, a former executive at Clear Channel and the Tribune Company, told the gathering that the industry’s poured “billions” of dollars into HD, with little to show for the investment. Broadcaster discontent has publicly intensified over the last year.

All of these developments further call into question just how it is that iBiquity Digital Corporation, HD’s proprietor, remains in business, and whether or not the technology has a viable future.

Blogger Ken Levine, here, perhaps put it a little more succinctly:

[W]hile we’re on the subject of radio visionaries, can we finally admit that HD Radio was a f***ing bust? That was supposed to be the savior. Do you know one person who has an HD radio? Have you ever even seen an HD radio? It’s right up there with Betamax and the CBS Color Wheel.


5 Responses

  1. “iBiquity Twists Its Tubes”

    “Any simple WHOIS domain-name search turns up the obvious: iBiquity owns Administrative and technical contacts point straight back to the corporate HQ. My question is, why all the disclaimage? And are you really that clueless, iBiquity? Are you effectively denying the validity/credibility of your consumer-marketing claims?.. Hiding behind a trademark-disclaimer – that is ‘managed’ by the HD Radio Alliance – which is, for all intents and purposes, iBiquity (though that particular domain is registered to Clear Channel) – does not cut the mustard.”

    iBiquity has had a disclaimer up for a while, clicking on links to from I found a really good article from a law firm that owners of other websites are legally responsible for the content posted by third-party maintenance personnel.

  2. The story behind FMeXtra is a very interesting one:

    FMeXtra: Another On-Channel Solution”

    “Eventually DRE asked the NRSC to reactivate the DAB subcommittee. Early on, we saw that IBOC was going nowhere as long as there were multiple proponents, and even in the best estimates, it would be many years before there would be any return on investment. So we decided to license our patent portfolio for use in IBOC to USA Digital Radio, which eventually merged with Lucent’s IBOC group to form Ibiquity. We are an Ibiquity shareholder… There is no significant difference in spectrum occupancy between the ‘extended hybrid’ mode of IBOC today and these earlier systems, which were deemed by the NRSC and others to be incompatible with the host analog FM signal.”

    Many of the NRSC and NAB Board Members are investors in iBiquity. That’s why the NAB is willing to throw analog under-the-bus (Performance Royalties) to get HD Radio chipsets mandated onto cell phones (will never happen).

  3. Hey, let’s try out FMExtra from Digital Music Express! It’s a great system that can work without radio interference.

  4. HD Radio is in a death spiral. I just checked on KUT Austin’s newly revamped website and there’s nary a mention of its HD channels on their home page. To find any mention at all you have to click on the “Listen” drop down box and then scroll down towards the bottom of the page. And even then the section is full of disclaimers. They note that while iBiquity promises “CD quality” KUT notes that the statement is “a bit misleading.” Always the masters of understatement…. And this from a station that was trumpeting HD radio near & far when they shunted all of their jazz programming to their HD-3 channel. I am a huge jazz fan and I have never been tempted to buy one of these lemons. I have my Coltrane on CD and will listen with full fidelity thank you.

  5. Don’t ever count on Struble giving up, until HD Radio is dead-and-buried. As RI Public Radio found out when iBiquity was testing the FM-HD power increase against their station, and tried to fudge the test results. Their comment on Docket 99-325 stated just that:

    “Rhode Island Public Radio”

    “It was apparent to me that the purpose of Greater Media’s and iBiquity’s presence was not to promote accurate, real-world results, but instead to minimize any evidence of actual interference to the analog signal of a first adjacent station.”

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