Tuesday, October 16, 2007
HD Radio in trouble? I agree with Lou Josephs in Washington that the take-up of HD Radio hasn't been what observers expected. Now comes news that there are all kinds of skywave inteference problems which have prevented some stations switching it on. The backers of HD Radio have opened a sort of McDonald's Hamburger University, they call it HDRadio University to try and educate sales people. That is increasingly a challenge as discount retailers don't pay that much and staff turnover is huge.
Meanwhile, the trade journal InsideRadio has reported this week that the HD Digital Radio Alliance has set aside $230 million for marketing HD Radio. The biggest change next year will be the introduction of commercials to HD-2 channels. Stations will accept "name-in-title" sponsorships and limited sponsor mentions per hour. Programmers will also get more freedom when picking a HD-2 channel's format. So what will this mean? Great, creative, vibrant programming on a second channel? Probably not - a simulcast from AM is more likely. It is not the technology, it is the programming guys!
Cox Radio has installed HD equipment on a half-dozen AMs, but millions of wideband radios installed in DaimlerChrsyler cars, Jeeps and Mercedes are keeping them from flipping the switch. The wideband radios give better sound quality, but Cox Programme Directors have complained about hearing "a faint buzzing noise" on HD AMs. Cox has installed HD on 70 stations and they'll add another AM to that list by year's end. The engineering forums are full of polarised debate on the future of digital AM, especially as the technical roll-out has started and interference problems are cropping out. How come they didn't surface during the last 10 years of "testing" IBOC on mediumwave (AM).