HD Radio – Signs of Success

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I’ve been involved in the birth of HD Radio for over seven years as an investor in and a board member of iBiquity, the developer of the HD Radio technology.  It’s been a long haul as it took years to get the technology endorsed by the FCC and even longer to get the broadcasters on board, and we aren’t done yet as more radios need to hit the market at lower price points and more programming needs to be rolled out for the new HD channels (but we do have a country station in NYC now! – 103.5 HD2).

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The first sign of success is the growing ubiquity of the digital signal. 

This chart shows that over 700 radio stations are now broadcasting in digital and that number continues to grow on a very steep curve.

The broadcast radio industry is in the midst of its digital upgrade now.  And that is a very important first step in the conversion of radio from an analog technology to a digital technology.

The growing ubiquity of the digital channel is not without its issues and one of them is front and center in the Wall Street Journal today.  It used to be that small AM stations’ signals could be heard fairly far away from their core coverage area.  But when AM stations in the adjacent band upgrade to digital there is interference outside the core coverage area.  The answer is a digital upgrade but not all AM stations are doing these upgrades right now citing cost considerations, which are real for many small time operators.

The story goes on to explain that Leonard kahn, a long-time critic of HD Radio, has filed an anti-trust suit against iBiquity and some of its radio partners.

Clearly there are people who don’t like HD Radio and it’s impact on their businesses. I see that as an opportunity to improve the HD Radio system but I also see that as a sign that HD is showing signs of success. It’s about time.