The new formats are now becoming public as broadcasters begin to divvy up their new multicast stations. A few observations...
First, radio operators are moving quickly on this initiative - perhaps a little too quickly. We have spoken with broadcasters who have been forced to rush into making decisions about their new stations, with little or no prep or consideration time. These are tough calls that require more thought than a quick call with a consultant or the group guy.
Second, most seem to be approaching the selection of new formats as a way to fill in some of the "holes" that exist in specific markets. But in some markets, new HD channels look a lot like formats that already exist on the FM band. How many Alternative or Country stations are needed in any town? Two versions of Love Songs in Chicago? And where's the innovation?
As you peruse the lists, you'll see occasional formats that look new and different - Gay radio in Hartford comes to mind, but these are anomalies in this early selection process. Contrast these new HD stations with the channel lineups on XM or Sirius, and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. Where's that all-comedy channel, all Beatles, or Reggae channel?
This process shouldn't be about playing defense, or simply protecting existing stations. Go back to Seth Godin, because if we don't start thinking "purple" and creating "oh wow" reactions from listeners, why is anyone going to buy a receiver? Content, content, content.