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Terrestrial Radio Races to Save Face

As the drumbeat for satellite radio continues to grow in volume, traditional radio outlets and ownership groups are searching for any which way to maintain their audiences, as well as find new ways to cater to audiences that have been previously ignored. Enter High Definition Radio, or HD Radio and the ability to deliver multiple “channels” on one signal band. This creates an environment where traditional outlets will be able to offer multiple streams of targeted radio content. At the same time, it adds some further clutter to an already confusing radio menu list that now includes AM, FM, XM, Sirius, Internet Radio, and Podcasts.

With that in mind, yesterday, in New York foes and friends alike from radio’s major stake holders including Clear Channel, Citadel, Bonneville, Cumulus, Emmis, Entercom, Greater Media, and Infinity announced a new industry alliance, the HD Radio Alliance. to proactively program and educate the American public about HD radio. The alliance will create a commercial free multi-channel approach, organize content, and pour over $200 million dollars into marketing the new options to consumers.

The rub is that HD radio requires listeners to purchase new expensive (momentarily at least) equipment…that’s a problem that even $200 Million dollars of advertising won’t change and an uphill battle with the Satellite providers selling cheaper and cheaper units and becoming more readily available in vehicles as factory installed radios.

While HD Radio will exist, I think the radio industry is late to the table with its offerings. This is a move that should have become an initiative within the radio industry after the major conglomeration move in the late 1990’s to fend off the then upcoming launch of satellite radio. Nonetheless, look for HD Radio to become another element in the American media diet providing further niche programming.

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