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The ongoing tragedy of HD radio

Supposedly, it costs a manufacturer about $50 to implant an iBiquity HD chip into a radio, thus transforming it into an HD radio. That $50 (or so) is the fee the manufacturer pays to iBiquity. The actual cost of this technology is, of course, likely to be a few dollars at most.

Is it any wonder why the cheapest HD radios aren’t so cheap? And, more importantly, will it ever be possible for the $15 dollar clock radio you buy at the CVS to be, by default, HD-powered?

Anyone in the radio industry knows that the average listener tunes us in on a crappy-ass radio, not on a fancy-pants premium acoustic device. You spend more on your weekly coffee than on your bedside radio.

Witness this tone creeping into reviews of HD radio products, like this one from Business Week:

It’s true that the RadioShack Accurian is the most affordable way into the appealing new club that is HD Radio, but it’s costly for all the wrong reasons. One look underneath the base of an Accurian explains its $200 [now $150 on sale] price tag. There, a sticker reads: “HD Radio Technology Under License From iBiquity Digital Corporation.” Instead of developing a radio capable of superior sound quality, I’m guessing that RadioShack paid iBiquity a fortune for the license, cheaply put together a subpar product, and passed the licensing cost on to consumers.


Let me say this clearly:

The Radio industry must subsidize the cost of HD radios, not simply market the heck out of the technology on-air.

HD must transparently appear everywhere. And the only way that will happen is if it’s feasible to build it into a $15 dollar clock radio. The “HD advantage” must be free and invisible to consumers.

This is not about better content, better distribution, or more committed promotion. It’s about the tragedy of creating spreadsheets instead of creating markets.

End of rant.

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