Some harsh – maybe too harsh – comments on HD radio (from an interview in Radio Business Report):
In a conversation about the television upfront yesterday with Jon Mandel, Chairman/MediaCom US and Chief Global Buying Officer MediaCom Worldwide, the topic drifted to HD Radio. He’s not so sure the latest campaign is going to drive people to the stores: “I think the HD and HD-2 thing is too little, too late. I was in LA earlier this week and heard ads from Tweeter. But other than that, I have never heard anything promoting it; it doesn’t really explain what the hell it is, other than no static and no monthly fees. Big $%&@ing deal. Nobody is talking in detail about how I can get all these other formats. What are they, what station is offering what? They’re screwing it up.” As Rich Russo, JL Media’s SVP/Director of Broadcast Services tells us in the May RBR/TVBR Solutions magazine, HD-2 could have been rolled out a bit better: “HD equals Huge Debacle or Highly Debatable and here’s why: It is not ready, so why launch it? The unit is beyond inadequate to say the least and there are numerous flaws with the HD alliance itself. The fact that these sub-channels which on the Boston Acoustics unit I have can’t even been tuned in half the time, coupled with the fact they are commercial-free is ridiculous. Radio should not promote anything commercial-free. These channels need to run spots from day one. The launch has dug itself into a hole. The average person doesn’t care about fidelity-they care about ease of use and accessibility. Why are they not making this available for $20 each as an upgrade for any existing radio? If this was my baby, I would get some sort of universal converter to pick up the new channels immediately as well as stream these stations. I would also program these stations better by using it as a showcase of radio’s best. Since KROQ is regarded as the best and most influential alt rock station in the country, why isn’t available as a subchannel in all markets? This is a logical example of how to utilize the other channels. HD needs to get its head out of its ass, ASAP.”
On the whole I feel these comments are overly negative. Really, I do. “Huge debacle”? “Highly debatable”? That’s just nasty. Quite below the belt.
Some things simply take time to be done right.
On the other hand, it’s rare that there’s a second chance for a first impression. Otherwise you’d be reading this on your Apple Newton.
The points about not launching spot-free are particularly interesting. In radio we have a long history of launching stations without advertising – and when we eventually add in the spots the response from the audience is always predictable – and negative. Still, the American consumer understands the notion of “free trial” and I don’t see how this is any different – as long as it’s sold as such (and to date, it has not been. But we’ve had so much else to sell).
I think the comment about the Tweeter spot is particularly wrong-headed. Tweeter’s job is to get folks into Tweeter. Only that will get them in front of an HD radio. And the spots are aimed at doing that, not at explaining every inch of the technology. The larger issue is that this spot will run only if Tweeter pays for it. But if you’re Tweeter, and every other person in the store is looking for a new HD TV, what fraction of your radio buy will be about HD radio vs. HD TV?
And the idea of putting KROQ on everywhere? A great one. In fact, if we did that nationally it could almost be called…Satellite radio.
Finally, the point about the importance of “ease of use and accessibility” – this issue is far more important than anyone in the HD pipeline currently knows. It’s absolutely THE critical issue.
Many of these points also harken back to the original arguments I made before any of the HD radio marketing was shaped, produced, or presented. The fact that some of those holes still exist is the great challenge for the folks working to put HD radio on the map.
And thus far, we at Mercury have not been invited to that party. Although we have offered.