Tune In: Most Americans Aware Of HD Radio

Three out of four Americans are aware of HD digital radio, according to a soon-to-be-released study conducted for the HD Digital Radio Alliance by Critical Mass Media, which also found growing interest in purchasing an HD radio set. The 75% figure, based on a September phone survey, seems to contradict the findings of a March survey from Paragon Media, which pegged overall awareness at just 42%.

While the Paragon and Alliance results seem impossible to reconcile, it's worth noting that HD radio has benefited from some unpaid publicity in the last six months--ironically from one of its main competitors: satellite radio.

The controversy surrounding the proposed merger between XM and Sirius has helped draw attention to HD radio, cited by Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin as one of a crop of new, unexpected competitors. In April testimony describing the competitive landscape to Congress, Karmazin gave HD radio pride of place after standard terrestrial radio.

Karmazin predicted that HD radio "surely will intensify the competition between AM/FM radio and satellite radio," noting that "approximately 1,200 HD Radio stations are already on the air, and hundreds more have licensed HD Radio technology." HD radio also benefited from a secondary PR lift, thanks to media coverage of the deal, which usually includes HD radio in the list of satellite competitors.



The recognition figures are critical in measuring the success of the HD Digital Radio Alliance, an industry consortium representing most big terrestrial broadcasters. It was formed in December 2005 to raise awareness about the medium.

In 2006, the Alliance organized the donation of $200 million worth of free on-air advertising to promote HD radio programming, as well as retail outlets which sell HD radio sets. It plans a $250 million campaign in 2007. Manufacturers like Sony, Philips and Bose have issued rebate incentives, while pushing the price of HD radios down.

HD iBiquity, which controls digital radio technology, has also partnered with car manufacturers to get HD radios into new model cars. In 2007, Hyundai, Mini Cooper, and Jaguar all announced they will include HD radio as an option. BMW became the first big manufacturer in 2006 to offer HD sets in all its new models.

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