The Winners Circle

Something Jim Vest (Reverend Jim) commented on yesterday bears repeating in a post. Commenting on HD radio in regards to Austin’s “public” radio station, KUT, Jim said the following:

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.

“Trumpeting” may be putting it mildly. As reported on the saveKUTaustin website (still maintained for your edification by Gary Etie), here, the former head of the “digital initiative” at KUT claimed to be overseeing a budget of $1 million a year — out of a total of $6 million, a significant chunk of change, particularly considering that a mil was half the KUT budget before the current ambitious management took over ten years ago. But NPR and its local sycophants bought into HD big time, to the extent (as reported here in a post called “How NPR Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”) that NPR labs fudged data to make it look good.

And now the latest “news release” from iBiquity CEO Bob Struble has been met — even in the heretofore receptive radio press — with a collective yawn. Say what, Bob? Eight or ten years of flogging that dead horse hasn’t led to a Kentucky Derby winner, let alone a plow horse. So Struble’s latest “top ten” things stations could do to boost HD barely rates a mention (if you don’t count the comments sections). Here, from Radio World online, is the latest golly-gee quote from the meister himself: “But just because the HD Radio transition is long term does not mean it isn’t critical to radio’s survival….” Struble wrote. Au contraire, monsieur. It doesn’t mean that it is critical to radio’s survival. The vote is in: Consumers say “enh.” (See also Greg Smith’s comment from yesterday about iBiquity’s attempt to fudge data in Rhode Island to improve its lot.)

Ken Levine’s blog posted on two days ago has since brought a flurry of comments, some of which:

James said… I have HD radio in my car. I like it, but yeah, it’s not great shakes. It’s like a really clean FM signal, which is great when you get it. Otherwise it falls back on standard FM. Most of the time I don’t know which mode it’s in.

Supposedly you can get extra channels and more stuff. From what I’ve seen, station clusters are simulcasting other stations in the same group, so you’re just getting Blue 92 on 104 AND 92. Woo hoo.

BOB said… I won an HD car radio from the best known sports station in the world well over a year ago. Never did bother to install it. Couldn’t figure out where to put it or why…

99.9999% of Americans said… What the hell is HD radio?

Radio Ink did print the whole top-ten list, but also garnered some snide comments:

IBiquity’s “roll-out” is rapidly becoming the “wrap-up.”

Struble is a spin-master. Not a very good one but one nonetheless. Digital radio’s lack of success is consumer driven and consumers have clearly shunned it. Broadcasters have responded accordingly. It’s over Bob. Move on.
—Jim Wilhelm

Reasons why I think HD will never fly:
1) Cost of conversion and continuing royalties.
2) Reduction in coverage for converted stations.
3) There’s no need. There are already too many radio stations and too little applicable programming. Why do we need more? I can’t even fill up the existing buttons on my car radio with stations I really want to listen to!

The problem is that no one cares about HD channels. You could put the most compelling content on your HD2, but WHY WOULD YOU?? Put it on your regular frequency! We are in an age of radio where so many programmers don’t get that the need for COMPELLING radio is LONG LONG overdue. We keep spitting out the same, tired product when the public is screaming for something new all because “research shows.” For now, I say forget the HD2, HD3, etc. Get NEW, COMPELLING, ENTERTAINING content on your regular frequency and stop wasting energy and talent on “stations between the stations” that hardly anyone even has access to. If you have “other” programming . . . get it on your website, tweet links to it, facebook it, make it downloadable to phones, iPads, computers — ya know, the devices people actually have and use.

A cell phone mandate to include analog/HD Radio will never happen. Congress and the President are against it. iBiquity would never be able to force cell phone companies to pay for installing HD Radio chipsets, plus royalties. A number of cell phones already include analog, the Zune HD is discontinued, and Apple is reportedly including analog FM. Besides, HD Radio simply doesn’t work as claimed. Analog FM in cell phones is becoming the universal standard. Cell phones with HD Radio could not be marketed outside the US.

I’m smelling serious desperation on iBiquity’s part, as conversions have stalled. The FCC database reports the number converted at 1,925, not over 2,000 as Struble claims.

iBiquity is looking at serious liability issues, as the Keefe Bartel / Galax Wolf investigations proceed. The discovery-phase will go on forever and cost iBiquity, and everyone involved, a fortune. If/when it lands in Federal Court in New Jersey, damages would be tripled for the plaintiffs. Why would more stations “upgrade,” just to potentially position themselves in a Federal Court case that may bring down iBiquity.
—Carter Eskew

I keep databases of all of the stations in the US, including the sideband stations, and this means that I spend a good amount of the day on the phone talking to people at these stations. More than 90% of the people I talk with at stations that have HD-2s & HD-3s don’t even know what they are, let alone know that they are there or what’s on them. If the people at the radio stations don’t now about them, how can you expect the public to care?
—Scott Gilbert


One Response

  1. There was another comment from the CE of the RI Public Radio station (Docket 99-325) under test by iBiquity and Greater Media — that iBiquity would use a scorched-earth policy to force HD Radio. What does Struble have to lose at this point? iBiquity pissed off everyone involved during the Satrad merger, by demanding that Satrad include HD Radio chipsets. Struble doesn’t care. He ropes HD Radio stations in with perpetual contracts, and who knows what kind of contracts for retailers and automakers. I’ve read that Struble is VERY convincing.

    What really amazes me is that Subaru signed-on to HD Radio, after the investigations were started. My analytics recently caught Ford Googling “hd radio Australia.” These automakers don’t seem to give a crap about the investigations. Hugh?

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