Wednesday, November 17, 2010

HD Radio's last stand

HD Radio - which is neither High Definition nor Hybrid Digital, but instead just a brand name intended to make us think they meant one of those two things - was really trying to get people interested this holiday season. I really have to hand it to the consortium behind HD Radio. They're trying awfully hard to make their system viable for consumers. It's inexpensive, there's no subscription fees, it gives people more choices over things to listen to, and there are even hand held ones about to be available, but I suspect that they may have missed the proverbial boat.

Sadly, like over-the-air digital TV, there are a large number of people that could take advantage of it, but most of those people are paying a monthly subscription for a slightly better service, even despite the current economic climate. Some are just choosing to do without entirely. ( I think I am in the second category because I can't be bothered to change the stereo out in my car.)

I guess in the case of HD radio, the impediment for me is that between my CD player and analog FM, there's usually enough for me to listen to most of the time that I don't feel like I need to upgrade. Sure the sound is better, but that strategy stopped working a while ago. I cite as evidence the low adoption rates of SuperAudioCD, HDCD, and DVD-Audio and instead a move to lower fidelity mp3 players.

What's even more amazing about the current batch of HD radio ads that I hear on the radio is a lack of a specific product. At least when you watch a Pixar movie on DVD, they're hyping how awesome Blu-Ray is, and telling you what Disney and Pixar movies you can get on Blu-Ray. With the HD radio ads, it's more like:

"HD radio is awesome. Just ask us and we'll tell you. Go buy one anywhere!"

I used to hear Circuit City branded ads for HD radio, and I've been hearing a few for Radio Shack, but in addition to those, I've also hear a lot of generic unbranded HD radio ads (presumably bought by the consortium to increase their reach). I guess that this holiday season is some sort of all-out-last-ditch effort to get people on HD radio.

I suppose it couldn't be worse than the sky-is-falling approach they took on TV's "Switch to Digital!" But my real question, now that some of the holiday tinsel has cleared - did anybody actually get HD radio as a present? Do you even know anyone who has it?

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