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The HD Alliance throws good money after…bad?

The HD Radio Alliance has announced that its partners will continue to spend precious airtime promoting HD Radio to listeners in 2008 (they value this at over $200 million, but we all know that if they could get $200 million for that time, they certainly would).

This is not surprising, I suppose. Although one might legitimately ask what the cumulative value is of the previous hundreds of millions of dollars of airtime invested to date, and if doing more of the same is likely to produce a different outcome.

They’re also eliminating the moratorium on advertising that has been so far unsuccessful in motivating listeners to give HD a try. And this, I tell you, is a good thing. And here’s why: To most listeners, Radio, in part, means “commercials” (unless we’re specifically talking about non-commercial radio, of course). So offering commercial radio with no commercials flies in the face of expectation and thus lacks any possible persuasive punch. In fact, commercials should have been on HD from day one. We should drop the facade, face realities, and run any spot we can sell.

Now I know what you’re thinking: How can we sell time on something which has virtually no audience? Friends, we broadcasters are a creative lot, and we always find a way to bundle and value-add our way to a sale. An audience is helpful, but not necessary. A high rate is also helpful, but not necessary.

It’s ironic, of course, that so many stations have so far to go in monetizing their web streams which we know to have a sizable audience. But that’s a topic for another time.

More on the change from Radio Ink:

With the new charter, the alliance has revised its two-year ad moratorium on HD subchannels to allow “name-in-title” sponsorships and a limited number of hourly sponsor mentions. Additionally, stations belonging to alliance companies will no longer be required to submit their proposed subchannel formats to the alliance for review, provided the proposed format is not already on the air in the market on either an analog or HD2 station.

“Name in title” sponsorships are the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. Wait until you see how excited listeners get over the “Bedford Falls Toyota Retro Alternative” channel. Who’s going to buy a radio for that?

The other change is interesting: The Alliance will no longer be directing the format choices among its members the way the Soviet Union directed its economy during the Cold War. “Just don’t compete with anybody else” is the only rule, and a rule destined to be ignored, at that.

The problem with the confederation of Alliance members has always been that it’s only a portion of all HD station owners. Thus, if you’re not a part of the Alliance the rules don’t apply to you and you can do whatever the heck you want with your HD signals. That glaring flaw will be the undoing of the Alliance’s rules and of the cooperation between its members.

If, in the long run, HD Radio gains any traction, you will see broadcasters and groups throwing stations at each other like the Three Stooges throw pies. There will be no respecting of boundaries. It will be dirty, ugly, dog-eat-dog.

Says Alliance president Peter Ferrara: “Now is the time for each local market manager, program director, and sales manager to step up and make HD Radio a part of their business objectives for 2008.”

Peter doesn’t explain why.

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