In St. Louis, Emmis Pushes HD Radio
The HD multicast channels of two Emmis stations in St. Louis were an
important part of a successful promotional campaign in 2011.
KIHT-HD3 is the home of Emmis St. Louis’ “Smooth” jazz channel, while
KFTK-HD2 plays “My Red Lounge,” a format described by Senior Account Manager/HD
Sales Manager Gordon Atkins as martini music. (The main channels of those
stations air classic rock and news/talk, respectively.)
When it comes to ad sales, Atkins is a believer in the potential of HD
Radio, a belief drawn from having watched FM move to the forefront of radio
broadcasting decades ago. That background helps explain why Atkins is willing
to promote HD Radio’s potential aggressively.
When Grammy-winning vocalist Steve Tyrell was booked into the city’s
Sheldon Concert Hall for a May 2011 concert, Atkins spearheaded a promotional
campaign running on KFTK-HD2 and KIHT-HD3.
“We had Steve Tyrell do a series of voice spots promoting the concert
and our stations,” he says. “We also produced a one-hour special that was aired
on The Red Lounge and Smooth.”
The combined one-two punch to promote the Tyrell concert paid off. “The
event was sold out, which impressed the organizers,” Atkins says. “For us, it
proved the selling power of HD Radio, a power that is vastly underestimated.”
Digital radio, he said, “allows you to target a specific audience at a
cost that is in a better relation to the event.” The Tyrell campaign ran only
on the HD channels; it was combined with digital Web elements that were
accessed from the home station page. The ad campaign was for $1,000, supporting
an event held in a 600-seat venue. “A terrestrial radio campaign for the two
weeks would have been significantly more expensive, especially with the digital
channel ‘Smooth’ is programmed by jazz enthusiast Jason Church.
IBiquity Digital, seeking to highlight such successes, awarded $5,000 to
Atkins, Jason Church and Tony Colombo, who also worked on the campaign. They
took first prize in an iBiquity contest that asked sales managers to submit
examples of selling HD Radio advertising.
A $1,000 second prize was given to Delmarva Broadcasting’s Graffiti
Radio, WSTW-HD2 in Wilmington, Del., for its Mojo Restaurant campaign. Third
prize, an HD Radio in-car and home tech makeover, went to CBS Radio Hartford
for its New Britain Rock Cats minor league baseball campaign on WTIC-HD2’s
channel. They were recognized at the fall Radio Show.
Emmis St. Louis uses automation to run
My Red Lounge and Smooth.
“Our music director records the voice
spots, and puts them into our automation system,” Atkins says. “Given the depth
of our music library, the song rotation takes nine days. Even with recorded
voice tracks, it sounds fresh.”
Also to keep costs under control, Emmis
St. Louis encourages sponsors to underwrite shows rather than buy specific
commercial spots. “We will sell spots if this is truly what they want,” Atkins
says. “But the underwriting approach is more low-key and fits with the style of
our HD-only broadcasts.”
Atkins is aware that HD Radio receivers
remain scarce in his city.
“We do a lot of promotional events to
generate interest in HD Radio, which is helping matters,” he said. “But until
HD Radios become standard in car — and this day is coming — this technology
will not be mass-market.
Colombo is promotions director of KFTK(FM).
“The same was true for FM: It wasn’t
until FM converters started turning up in cars, followed by AM/FM radios, that
the public embraced this technology on the road and subsequently at home ... The
future of HD lies ahead.”
Faced with the “chicken-and egg”
situation, Emmis St. Louis’ strategy is to wait for the egg of mass-market
receiver penetration to hatch. But they are not sitting on their hands.
“We are not going full-force on HD
Radio, because we want some room to maneuver once HD Radios are common in
cars,” Atkins says. “But we are doing what we can to raise HD Radio awareness,
to give people reasons to buy HD Radios based on content, and to make some
money from it through underwriting and channel leasing.”In December, the cluster celebrated the
fifth anniversary of the HD2 channel on KSHE(FM) with an event called Art
Feast, featuring a drawing for HD Radio receivers and information on where
consumers could buy one, along with CDs of the music on each station.
Asked what lesson radio managers might learn from this experience,
Atkins said they should be ready for the increase in digital receivers in the
“We currently have five stations that are fully functional and ready for
the arrival of receivers in the market. We are also working on other potential
formats and possible collaborations with third-party groups. It is also
important to activate social media to grow awareness.”