Recently, we saw more negative data about HD Radio from various surveys that have been conducted in '08. In pretty much every study, awareness is flat, sales aren't great, and overall consumer interest is limp.
Our Tech Poll IV data is no different. We see year-to-year awareness and sales are up just a tick. And that's after all those ads that ran on hundreds of radio stations, and continue to this day. Up against iPods, cool cell phones, and other hot gadgetry, HD Radio isn't even an afterthought. It's just not on radar screens.
The difference is that our survey actually asked about the barriers to purchasing HD Radio. The good news is that they are clear. The bad news is that they look a lot like last year's data. There is still a lack of clarity about HD Radio, and what it's all about. Then there's the issue of price. But the roadblocks that worry me the most are that most consumers haven't even heard HD Radio and/or they don't know anyone who owns one.
Clearly, this lack of buzz about the product has stopped HD Radio from making serious inroads. You didn't buy that TiVo until you heard your friends telling you about how the box changed the way they watched TV. You didn't make the plunge into the iPod world until you saw that guy on the plane with thousands of songs in a little device the size of a pack of cigarettes. And you didn't throw down a couple thousand bucks for an HDTV until you walked into Best Buy that day and saw the Green Bay Packers like you've never seen them before.
It will take consumer buzz about HD Radio content to start motivating radio listeners to run to Circuit City or anywhere else to check out and price these radios. This is why the recent announcement that WNEW-FM is back - on HD2 in New York City - is heartening. This is the type of programming that just might generate some word-of-mouth among New Yorkers, anxious to go back and revisit that legendary station's archives and history. Below are a couple of promos for the new WNEW-FM HD2 channel that are truly inspirational. In New York, this is the type of programming that might actually move some radios off the shelves.
We need to give these radios away, set up kiosks in high-profile retail centers (called malls), and let people experience HD Radio in markets where there's actually something worth listening to on HD2 channels. But sampling aside, consumers aren't going to get revved about HD Radio until there's unique, buzzworthy programming worth getting excited about. If HD Radio is going to be part of the future of our business, it needs to become a bigger priority in the present.