Another body blow for HD Radio

Bill Figenshu has distributed an interesting study about consumer acceptance of “new radio distribution systems,” which is code for “HD Radio.”

This study, completed by some bonafide academics and funded (it should be noted) by the NAB, studied early adopters to Satellite Radio and was based on certain assumptions:

1. That Satellite Radio is a threat to terrestrial Radio (which I rather doubt) 2. That the people who try Satellite Radio early in its life cycle will be predictive of those folks who try a new form of terrestrial Radio, namely HD Radio (which, true or not, is fairly irrelevant considering there are 230 million weekly radio listeners and only a small fraction of them are likely to adopt anything new in any short time frame)

And the troubles only begin there.

The study was administered online, and the sample was drawn from two Satellite Radio discussion groups, XM411.com and SIRIUSFAN.com.

In my mind, recruiting survey participants from such a tremendously partisan and passionate fan base is nuts. Obviously only a small fraction of users – early adopters, even – from either Satellite service will patronize these fan sites, and they are likely to be zealots in one way or another. It’s the equivalent of surveying your frequent listener club and determining that those opinions are representatives of all your fans.

Indeed, the sample composition was very strange: 95% Male, more than half under 36, 90% White, more than 50% college graduates.

Surprise, surprise, their satisfaction with Satellite was high and they were heavy users. And surprise, surprise these folks are very dissatisfied with terrestrial Radio.

“Too many commercials” was the loudest and strongest complaint these folks had about terrestrial Radio – obviously not a problem we’ll be solving with HD Radio, by the way.

Their terrestrial Radio listenership was reduced by 60% – but again, these folks are not representative of anybody so who knows what that means.

These listeners were twice as likely to say they’d come back to AM/FM Radio if we reduced the spot-load than they were to name any other factor, including “increased variety.”

Let that last point sink in. Because HD Radio may solve the variety “problem” (if it is one, which I don’t think is so), but certainly not the commercial problem.

84% of these folks were familiar with HD Radio – if anything should tell you how OUT OF STEP these repondents are with Joe and Jane average, that would be the statistic to do it.

Then the study goes on to report this:

Ninety-five percent (95%) of respondents say it is unlikely that HD Radio technology, as an audio enhancement, will reengage them as listeners of AM/FM. Forty-two percent (42%) indicated that the improved sound quality promised by HD Radio does not outweigh concerns about AM/FM programming. Twenty-five percent (25%) say that HD radio is not likely to reclaim them as listeners because they are now satisfied with satellite radio.

So allow me to sum up:

These respondents are high tech gadgeteers, early adopters, innovators, and predominantly White Male college boys. That said, these are among Satellite’s biggest fans. To the degree that HD Radio is a technology toy rather than a solution to the problems of the broad-based audience, I think you’re looking at a pretty real depiction of what that leading edge thinks, however poorly recruited.

That is (if this sample can be viewed as credible at all):

– Satellite Radio fanatics will not part with Satellite for HD Radio – The presence of commercials is a more important turn-off than variety or audio quality are turn-ons

In case you haven’t read my white paper on HD Radio, now would be the time.

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