I've done a number of calls with programmers and managers over the past several weeks as they grapple with the issue of how to strategically select new HD side channels. Some groups are thinking of formats that would complement their "motherships" (like the Greater Media cluster here in Detroit). Others are thinking about playing defense to help insulate their existing FM formats.
But no matter how this all shakes out, these new channels need to be compelling, different, and attention-getting - qualities that terrestrial radio has not offered in force for many years now. One of the reasons why terrestrial doesn't get great ink (apart from abysmal PR) is that the medium often lacks the "stories" that make news.
So, when it comes to HD channel programming, what will move the needle with consumers? What kind of creative, innovative formats will we need to develop in order to stimulate hardware sales?
Fast-forward to a research call I did yesterday with Mark Ramsey and the Saga people. On the call, we started joking about why an AC station out there wouldn't go All-Christmas music as a permanent 365 day format. After we stopped laughing, the idea of launching one of these in the HD world actually could be a viable concept - and one that would clearly grab attention (and maybe even ratings).
We have an amazing store here in Frankenmuth, Michigan - Bronner's - which has thrived for 60 years as "The World's Largest Christmas Store." Yes, they're in the holiday spirit all year round, and it works. In a universe of stamped-out, same-old Gaps, Target's, and Barnes & Noble's, a different kind of store like Bronner's really stands out.
If we just end up "creating" more Oldies or Alternative stations, and miss the bigger opportunity to launch formats that are fun and buzzworthy, we could end up with a big "So what" from our audiences.
OK, back to designing questionnaires, but don't blame me when you start hearing Brenda Lee in July.
By the way - be sure to check out Mark Ramsey's blog for his take on this topic.