Wednesday, February 11, 2015

ibiquity: “HD Radio has never been healthier”

A well-known and respected contract engineer recommended I speak directly with iBiquity about my core question: Is HD Radio “broadcasting in the public interest” when it seems to have so few users?
I was referred to Rick Greenhut, Director – Business Development at iBiquity Digital Corporation in Columbia, Maryland.  Yesterday I sent Rick an e-mail and let him know about my writing and research about HD Radio.  Rick responded with a very helpful message including this chart about HD Radio’s track record:

Rick pointed out, correctly, that I wasn’t getting the full story about HD Radio by focusing only on noncommercial stations.  He said there is significant listening to commercial HD stations. I reviewed the Nielsen Audio Fall 2014 commercial station reports.  There are, indeed, a few HD stations listed – some with decent sized audiences. But notice, in the chart iBiquity provided, the 5,212,400 claimed weekly cumulative audience includes listening to analog translators.
For example, the most recent Minneapolis/St. Paul PPM report says CBS’s heritage news station WCCO-AM, combined with WCCO-HD2, has almost 300,000 weekly cumulative listeners. What portion of these listeners came from the HD2 station? Not many, I’d guess.
I checked commercial station PPM data for five additional markets I personally know well:
• DENVER: KYGO-HD2 is simulcast on The Mighty K27FK – an analog translator at 103.1FM (map below) with decent coverage of the market.
• WASHINGTON, DC: WAMU-HD2 is simulcast on The 99 Watt Blowtorch (an old radio term) 105.5FM aka W288BS which blankets the District (map below).
• LOS ANGELES: No HD stations are listed.
• BOSTON: No HD stations are listed.
• OMAHA: No HD stations are listed.

So, I guess the answer to the question – What is the portion of the claimed five million weekly listeners is actually listening to HD Radio? – is We just don’t know.
It brings up the question: If a person is listening to an HD station on analog FM, is the person ACTUALLY listening to HD Radio?


Quoting Rick Greenhut from iBiquity:

To answer the second part of your question, the growth in HD Radios in cars has been nothing short of phenomenal in the last 2 years.  ..automakers currently offer over 200 different car models with HD Radio, with almost 100 coming as standard equipment. In most cases, if you get the navigation package (GPS, backup camera etc.), you get HD Radio. It is not offered as a stand-alone option, but rather, part of a popular option package.
While getting HD receivers in cars is crucial, the existence of HD tuners in a popular option package does NOT mean vehicle buyers are listening to HD Radio. This reminds me of hype from the Sales Manager of failing AM station: We have more than a million people in our coverage area!  No shit, but they probably aren’t listening to you.


Quoting Rick Greenhut from iBiquity:

I'm still signing at least one new station every week, and the pace is accelerating, so I can say with some confidence that HD Radio has never been healthier.
So, is this as good as HD Radio gets?  I still have the same core question: Is HD Radio “broadcasting in the public interest” when it seems to have so few users?

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