So the HD Radio rollout has begun. In the February Viewpoint I discussed the obvious absence of HD Radio on the convention floor of the CES convention. In January, I noted that the creation of the HD Digital Radio Alliance was a nice try, but that the effort may be too little and too late.
Then, at the beginning of February, I started seeing some consumer attention to HD Radio. I began seeing articles in newspapers and magazines around the country. The first batch touted that stations in a particular market were getting a second digital channel. The next round detailed the $200M marketing campaign that radio stations were launching (which is still funny money, but at least it's getting attention). Now, it's a mix of these topics with a little touch of terrestrial fights back satellite.
I admit that I was impressed with the new attention. Maybe this alliance effort can pull it off after all.
Unfortunately, the high feeling that HD Radio was getting some attention was lost rather quickly. On Feb. 28, I received the latest Crutchfield catalog. Crutchfield has been one of the few havens to find something about HD Radio, so I jumped right in.
The 148-page catalog is full of consumer products, and when I happened to flip it open to page 23 (the first page I saw when I opened the catalog) I saw a JVC car stereo with an LED readout that says HD RADIO. Could it be that this was the moment that so many people have dreamed about? I quickly went back to page one to see how the new-found interest in HD Radio was going to be presented.
I should have stayed on page 23.
I went through the entire catalog and the only other HD Radio product I found was the Boston Acoustics Recepter Radio HD on page 142. (The BA also had the old list price of nearly of $500.)
I will give Crutchfield some credit; both receivers have a box that encourages reader to visit the company's website for more info about HD Radio.
After my initial thrill of seeing the JVC and its display, I then noticed the ironic touch that has taunted HD Radio for so long. Next to the JVC radio is a box that says “Sat Radio Ready.” So much for making an impact.
In fact, nearly every car stereo in the catalog says that it is Sat Radio Ready. Going a step further, there is an eight-page section all about satellite radio that is subtitled “It's a Radio Revolution.”
Satellite radio is all over the place. HD Radio got two mentions.
I realize that the alliance is just getting started on its work, so maybe the next catalog will have something more prominent on HD Radio. Maybe I'll start seeing more HD Radio mentions in the Sunday newspaper ad flyers. Maybe I'll even see portable HD Radio products that will appeal to the younger listeners. But to do this, the alliance needs to promote HD Radio outside the familiar (and no-cost) confines of unsold radio inventory.
Meanwhile, DRE and Kahn have been quiet. Maybe they're planning something big for NAB2006. We'll see soon enough.
Chriss Scherer, editor
The mark of excellence
The Radio magazine Pick Hits of 2006
The Pick Hit Awards are the original technology awards presented at the NAB convention. Established in 1985, this award recognizes the top 15 new product introductions at the convention. The original award is still the best. Look for the winners on the last day of the convention.