Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NAB - HD Radio Install Base Grows

A post on the NAB's TechCheck blog tries to make the argument that what has been a slow adoption of HD-Radio (formerly known as Digital Radio) is poised to take off, largely as a result of its inclusion in car radios.  The industry sees greater inclusion of HD-Radio recievers within the growing options of what the auto industry is now calling the "center console" (previously, car radio). iBiquity digital, the trade group behind HD-Radio, states that some 28 auto makes now offer HD Radio (9 only as an option, 13 as an option on some vehicles and standard equipment on others, and 6 hi-end brands include it on all vehicles sold in the U.S.).  The auto industry estimates that HD Radios will be installed on about 20% of the cars shipped this year.  In addition, a J.D. Power survey touts HD Radio as the most likely "emerging" technology that consumers will add when purchasing a new vehicle.
  There's a bit of hype in the post - 20% penetration in new models is not a huge number, particularly when looking at the entire number of autos consumers use.  In addition, most new models are replacements for older ones, with the result that the actual user base growth is likely to be significantly slower that what's suggested.  Then, consider that many of the new "center consoles" are likely to contact connections for digital music players and/or the Internet and you start to realize that you're adding direct competition (and for many consumers preferred substitutes) and its likely that the actual growth of HD Radio audiences from car installs is likely to be slower than the post and its accompanying graphic (see above) suggest.  (Another problem with the graphic is that it shows the number of "vehicle lines" and brands, not the number of vehicles sold, or audience for HD Radio).
  The post is right that it's a good sign that manufacturers are offering HD Radio in vehicles - you need the tech out there for people to sample and decide what value they place on HD Radio services, and whether it will have a role in their listening repertoire.  But in an increasingly competitive media environment, will their be enough additional value to HD Radio, compared to alternatives, to attract the audiences necessary to supplant FM or Satellite Radio, or challenge other digital music delivery systems for the dominant listening alternative?  A few years ago, many of the same arguments about availability in autos was made for Satellite Radio (Sirius/XM), and diffusion and adoption of that outlet has stalled.  I'm not ready to declare that HD Radio has hit critical mass yet.

Source -  HD Radio Automotive Penetration GrowsRadio TechCheck

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