What should those extra HD Radio channels be used for?
At Emmis Communications, part of the answer is to reach new markets; namely a good portion of the estimated 3.8 million South Asians — Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan — who live in North America.
This is why Emmis has partnered with WorldBand Media to broadcast WorldBand's South Asian radio programming via Emmis' WQHT-HD3 (97.1-HD3) in New York, KPWR-HD3 (105.9-HD3) in Los Angeles and WLUP-HD3 (97.9-HD3) in Chicago.
Johney Brar and Sonya Gil, standing, Devika Mathur and Jatinder Dhoot are among the air talent at WorldBand Media. "WorldBand approached us with an idea to launch a network of ethnic HD stations targeted to the Indian community," said Paul V. Brenner, Emmis Communications' VP of integrated technologies.
"The agreement is structured as a straight sub-leasing agreement for the HD3 positions on three of our stations. WorldBand is sourcing/producing all of the content and overseeing all other components of programming the station. We simply ensure that WorldBand inserts the proper FCC required content, i.e. station ID and EAS, and broadcast the programming."
Operationally, WorldBand Media produces its South Asian content on a network model, providing it to all of its HD Radio stations. Ultimately, WorldBand will have local studios in the markets it serves; not just for local presence, but because this business model is focused on locally-sold advertising.
"We're effectively operating like a conventional local radio station, except that we're delivering our content via HD Radio," said WorldBand Media VP Business Development Brad Herd.
"Using HD bandwidth is a very cost-effective way to reach our audience, compared to buying an FM licensee and converting the format." Besides its deal with Emmis, WorldBand has launched in Washington using one of Bonneville International's HD Radio channels (WTOP HD2) and has signed a deal with NextMedia to serve San Jose and San Francisco the same way.
"Based on the census data we've seen, the [South] Asian community is quite large and, more important, has been one of the fastest growing ethnic communities in the country over the past 10 years," Brenner told Radio World. "The growth in the Indian and South Asian communities has been a key driver of those trends; plus India has a distinct and powerful cultural engine — we've all heard about the growing influence of Bollywood — that doesn't have many local distribution outlets in the U.S. We think the business concept holds a lot of promise."
For Emmis, Worldband Media is just one part of its overall HD Radio strategy. "Our content ranges from deep album rock and live concerts to gospel, jazz and old school hip hop," Brenner said. These channels are heard via the 16 Emmis HD Radio stations that are multicasting. The company has 23 stations in all; 17 are broadcasting in HD Radio overall.
"Multicasting is the method by which terrestrial broadcasters can mostly compete with external companies that provide listener choices, such as satellite or Internet," he concluded. "The adoption of HD Radio has drawn enough attention that we can now get companies like Worldband Media interested in using our industry to fulfill their business objectives."
— James Careless