We noted here months ago that it will be worth watching to see whether sports programming will act as an accelerant in igniting market interest in multicast HD Radio channels.
One of the reasons we thought so was the announcement that the Pittsburgh Penguins would launch a dedicated HD Radio channel on a multicast of Clear Channel station WXDX(FM). Now, with hockey season underway, that channel is on the air.
The station airs around the clock but its content at first will consist of a six-hour program block that repeats throughout each day. The lineup begins with a show a 9 a.m. called “Daily Players’ Playlist,” made up of Penguins players’ favorite songs. “Penguins Live” at 9:30 is a 2-1/2 hour daily show hosted by Steve Mears. A simulcast of “NHL Live” follows, then chat about the team and various NHL content.
IBiquity Digital, the HD Radio technology proponent, says the hockey team has signed sponsors including Mountaineer Casino, Geico, California University of Pennsylvania and Qdoba.
Sports of course is a proven fit for radio, and as a format it offers advertisers access to a very specific audience niche. This argument extends even more so to sports as heard on multicast, where stations right now can afford to explore much deeper content. Good narrowcast content could help lift awareness of HD2 and HD3; but as always, what matters most is whether the content providers keep the quality up until the audience finds it.
For more on that story from behind the scenes, read James Careless’ article “On the Ice, On the Air,” part of a special feature in the current issue of RW about radio business strategies.