2010, The Year of HD Radio?

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As we kick off our third year of the Radio 2020 blog, it looks like HD is the right topic with which to start.

Dave Freeman at Crunch Gear speculates that we will see no less than eight new HD portables at this years Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  While he stresses that his info is rumor, he  does give some ideas about the shape of those rumors. He speculates that we will see devices “[...] targeting the Zune/iPod crowd by coming up with add-ons[...] We should also start seeing some headphone based units as well, and some are even going to include HD AM as well.”

Smaller size and portability are vastly important for the spread of this technology so I’d say their bet is a good one. While slow to catch on, HD has still managed to gain ground steadily. According an article in RadioWorld last December, sales of HD radio receivers doubled in 2009. There were 140,000 sold in 2007 while in 2009 there were  366,000 units sold. The more portable units become available, the more we will see the rate of adoption increase.

It’s not just portability, though. As I reported a few days ago, Ford Motors has now joined the ranks of manufacturers offering HD to drivers. Hardly shocking news when you realize that SiPort shipped its first HD receiver chip designed for autos. I know of many Beltway drivers who will be glad of the additional options.

So, accessibility is key, but what is accessibility without content? Bob Strubel, President and CEO of iBiquity (the developers of HD radio) addressed the topic of HD content  in a recent column he penned for RadioWorld:

With HD2 and HD3 channels, broadcasters are providing a diverse new set of programming choices to compete with all those other digital options. The progress on HD2 and HD3 channels has been accelerating, with nearly 1,100 new channels on the air.

Sports franchises like the Cowboys, Yankees, Penguins and Mets have multicast offerings. Religious (Mormon Channel), ethnic (WorldBand’s HumDesi Southern Asian language programming) and lifestyle (Pride Channel) broadcasters bring new local and national offerings. And there are targeted local niche offerings: Boston’s Irish Channel, DC’s Bluegrass Country, Miami’s Dance to name just a few.

I think that HD is going to be in the news a lot in coming months as there are so many factors pushing the medium as we move into this new year. If economic indicators are correct and the recession is waning, that will provide additional momentum. Since HD is as free as broadcast radio rather than fee-based like satellite, the one-shot purchase price of receivers will be more attractive to consumers.

This might just be the year of HD radio. I can’t wait to see!

Image: optical_illusion / CC BY 2.0
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