May 7, 2012

Radio vet Tom Kent is Excited About HD Radio; We're Not

The sound quality might be amazing but where is the content to drive audiences to HD radio?

When radio stations can provide interesting and compelling content on their HD2 and HD3 channels then maybe we'll listen. Right now radio stations are competing against themselves through what you hear on your regular car radio, the radio you might have at home (which includes what is readily available on a mobile device app and over the internet), Sirius XM satellite radio and Pandora. HD Radio broadcasters are not even on the playing field. They're still in the locker room. There's really no reason for anyone to get too excited by HD radio. The older generation that still purposely turns on a radio outside of their commute to work or at work, to let's say listen to a ballgame, to an all news station, their favorite talk show personality, or favorite music personality is slowly disappearing. This is the audience that HD radio manufacturers are attempting to appeal to and there is no market for those consumers. Their last hope is to get HD radios into cars. The consumers with the most disposable income, the iPod/MP3/smartphone generation could care less about where their music comes from or an HD radio.

One of only a few commercial radio station in the country that puts any real effort into programming their HD2 station is 96.3 WHUR World. (You may find efforts in that area from some public radio stations in various markets as well.)  However at this point a lot of the programming on "WHUR World" is also available on their H.U.R. Voices Sirius XM channel 141. Getting excited over terrestrial radio broadcast in this era of technology is as Aerosmith says CRAZY to say the least. When the ability to plug your smart phone into your car's audio system is now available or soon will be available for most people.

Here's Tom Kent's letter to the radio industry:

"I recently got a new car with HD radio. My fellow broadcasters, I implore you PLEASE don’t give up on HD radio! This is the most excited I’ve been about radio audio since I worked at WLS in Chicago back in 1980 and I heard AM stereo. Imagine AM stereo in HD! As Steely Dan would sing…”No Static at All”….yes AM that sounds just like FM! I know we’ve all been hearing about it for years but until you’re driving down the road trying to loosen your load with seven women on your mind and listening to “Take it Easy” by the Eagles in FM-HD, well you just haven’t lived. The sound is the best I’ve ever heard coming from any radio EVER!"

"Like many of you I never heard HD in a car so I quickly dismissed the idea. After all, how could we expect our listeners to go out and invest in new gear when they have so many other options. The auto listening experience has got me really geeked on HD radio. My local affiliate WMJI 105.7 FM here in Cleveland sounds amazing in HD 1 and HD 2. The sound quality absolutely blows away satellite radio which I also have in my car. No offense Mel, but every one of your satellite channels sounds like a bad washed out internet stream. HD terrestrial radio sounds even better than a CD and the side by side comparison of satellite vs. HD….well, there is no comparison."

"I’d like to call upon our industry to rally on behalf of HD radio. Yes, right now it’s dead in the water. The only way it’ll take off is if the automotive industry equips their radio platforms with HD radio as standard equipment and even then critical mass would be at least five years away. Five years isn’t that long and if that were to happen, the future of subscription radio would be in serious jeopardy. For me now that I have HD in the car, my free satellite trial will end with no renewal. Terrestrial radio needs to lobby the car makers to step up and give their customers something truly excellent for free!"
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