Following the 2002 FCC announcement in that “Hybrid Digital Radio,” or HD Radio, would be the standard digital audio broadcasting for the U.S., there was a lot of hubbub about what this new technology would mean for radio, bringing “CD-quality” audio to the airwaves. Larger music-formatted stations that had the big-budgets rushed to implement the new technology and were the first to jump on the bandwagon.
As you may remember, News Generation first wrote about HD radio when it came on the scene in 2007.
So what happened? In short, radio-listeners didn’t come along for the ride. To listen to HD radio, you had to buy a receiver to get the digital signal, which was pricey then and hasn’t come down much since. For a medium that is considered “free” and “easy to use” by its users, this is a death-blow. It’s the same reason that satellite radio is struggling with – justifying its price/value to its listeners.
The other challenge is actually governmental in nature. The FCC made it clear that while this was “the technology” that U.S. based radio broadcasters would use in the future, they gave no timeline for a digital migration, thus, no urgency was created. In this scenario, the “if you build it, they will come” mindset didn’t work.
So while the backbone of digital broadcast is still there for the taking, determining when and how people will migrate over and answering the important question of what it will bring to enhance the listening experience are must-answers before this technology will take hold.