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HD Radio and Branded Entertainment

For no particular reason, today is the “ALL HD RADIO” edition of hear2.0.

Recently I saw an article which argued that the best way to build HD radio was to link up to well-established brands to create “branded entertainment.”

Thus, while folks may or may not come for a Hippie Rock channel, surely they’ll be attracted to a Ben and Jerry’s channel.

Okay, I get that – as far as it goes.

But the logic for tying established brands to music channels is as narrow as the appropriate channel partners. For example, what would a Petco channel sound like? Or a Nokia channel? Or a Nissan channel? And what would be the difference between the Budweiser channel and the Molson one, a Canadian accent? And what about the local market: Ralphs Supermarket Radio – isn’t that what you hear at the checkout?

Having a channel sponsored in full by an advertiser with no particular logical link to the music is not “branded entertainment” since it really doesn’t enhance the brand. It’s really just sponsorship and it’s certainly not a new idea – to broadcasters or advertisers. It’s a concept older than the Lux [soap] Theater or the Campbell [soup] Playhouse way back in radio’s golden era.

Further, attaching a sponsor badge to every channel will make the offerings resemble…one…big…ad. Certainly not the ticket to draw listeners like moths to a flame.

The suggestion was also made to tie in the brand value of superstars, and the analogy was made to satellite radio and their offerings from Martha Stewart and Oprah.

But Martha Stewart and Oprah host talk channels which are clear extensions of their TV and print brands. What exactly is a “Dolly Parton Country station,” for example? Or a “Faith Hill Country station”? And why is this inherently attractive to the Country listener? And if – in fact – this concept is attractive, then why isn’t it an idea so good it should be placed on the non-digital radios in every home, workplace, and car? After all, Faith’s sponsorship will cost you. How do you make a buck off of it?

The discussion of best-pracitices generally confuses our industry’s need to sell HD with the audience’s need to buy it. Our need to sell it is important, indeed, but the selling of it can only be accomplished by catering first and foremost to the consumer experience overall.

It all starts with the audience, not with you and me.

Are there ways to make HD a huge success? Of course there are, and we have touched on many and hinted at more in these posts. We have flat out offered our services to several of the movers and shakers in the HD radio pipeline.

Anyone who says HD radio is a bad idea doesn’t appreciate the fundamental importance of change: Nothing is static in the world of technology, least of all consumer expectations and opinions. These are ever-changing. The challenge is to stay ahead of those changes and shape them for our benefit. And that’s why hear2.0 was born, quite frankly.

But simplistic approaches which solve the sponsorship problem without addressing the audience one reflect an idea that looks great on paper but will never fly with a consumer.

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