HD Radio: Listeners Still Missing in Action

The slow-motion struggle that is HD Radio proliferation in the United States continues to bobble along with no meaningful developments in traction. This is exemplified by the results of a recent survey which shows that consumer awareness of what HD Radio is is stagnant at best. A bit more than half of those surveyed have “heard of” HD Radio – but of those knowledgeable folks, one in three don’t have any clear idea what it actually is.
This consumer perspective on the technology is essentially unchanged from similar surveys done over the last few years – and in some key categories, like brand-awareness and basic functionality, the number of listeners familiar with HD Radio has actually declined.
None of this bodes well for broadcaster uptake (less than one in four U.S. radio stations broadcast in HD) or the fiscal viability of the technology’s proprietor, iBiquity Digital Corporation. Furthermore, at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, HD Radio was a relatively low-profile player as the promotion of new in-vehicle “infotainment” systems featuring streaming media platforms stole the spotlight.
This development is in direct response to the desires of drivers, the youngest of whom consider Internet access to be the most important aspect of any in-vehicle infotainment system. There’s no substantive signs that the indifference of radio listeners to HD technology will change anytime soon.
It is well past time for U.S. broadcasters to think seriously and critically about alternatives to digitizing the airwaves.