Although it's not on too many people's radar quite yet, HD radio may be poised for prime time, if everything goes right this year.
(It may still be a challeng if everything does go right ...)
According to published reports, whether HD radio can successfully bring the cool factor back to terrestrial radio will largely be determined by success of this upcoming holiday sales season (which in retailers' minds is not all that far away).
According to Billboard's Radio Monitor, HD radio has been little more that a footnote on the digital music landscape, overshadowed by satellite radio, podcasting and Internet streaming.
But the industry is prepping a major holiday sales push for a range of new HD devices expected to hit the market in the coming months. Currently, only about 100,000 HD radio receivers have been shipped. According to Pat Walsh, CFO of iBiquity Digital — the primary provider of HD radio technology — that figure is expected to jump to 500,000 before the end of the year.
Laura Behrens, Gartner G2 senior analyst for media industry research, says this coming fourth quarter is critical to the success of the format. "They can't let the fourth quarter pass this year, or the rollout of the entire technology is delayed substantially," she said. "It's another year that podcasting and all other alternative forms of audio delivery then get to continue chipping away at local radio."
A successful season will depend on three advancements, she says — variety, features and price. Right now there are about a dozen models of tabletop and car stereo HD units available.
Polk Audio, JVC and Radiosophy are expected to join Boston Acoustics' Recepter (photo above) in the tabletop category, but like every new consumer gadget, prices will have to fall for a product to be embraced by the masses -- in this case, the sweek spot is $50 or less, but that will be some time coming.
Anybody out their listening to HD radio?