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HD Radio Marks 1,000 Multicast Channels

A hundred devices are on market, many for under $80

We reported here in January that the number of multicast channels was about to surpass 1,000. Now it has done so.

The HD Digital Radio Alliance marked a couple of milestones and began a new ad campaign this week. The tag lines have changed, not only telling listeners “It’s time to upgrade” but also making it more clear consumers need to buy an HD Radio to hear the new digital sound and new stations.

The ads are airing on about 700 alliance member stations in the top 100 media markets. This is the 14th ad campaign for HD Radio since the alliance formed at the end of 2005.

There are now 1,000 multicast stations and close to 2,000 stations transmitting their primary signal in digital. This month, CBS Radio’s WODS(FM) HD2 / Boston became the 1,000th HD Radio multicast with the launch of “Soft Hits – Love Songs.”

Diane Warren, president of the HD Digital Radio Alliance, said some stations are experimenting with a format and using the extra station as an incubator to build a listenership base before bringing the format onto their primary FM signal. That experimentation, she said, “offers artists airtime that otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to be heard on-air, or targets specific demographics with niche content. In this economic environment, being able to receive all these extra stations for free is immensely appealing.”

Radio World has been reporting on how stations are using their multicast outlets, including the challenges involved, in a series on its HD Radio Scoreboard page, most recently in a story about WFAE(FM) here.

In addition to the multicast figure, the alliance says there are now 100 devices on the market that are able to receive the HD Radio signal. Many of those devices are just under $80. That compares to 2005 when the alliance was formed and there were 21 multicast stations. At that time, there were auto HD Radios, but only one tabletop HD Radio receiver that cost about $500.

“The 1,000 multicast and 100 [stock keeping unit] milestones are significant on many levels — broadcasters are continuing to see the value in offering additional content, stakeholders are seeing that radio and electronic manufacturers have embraced digital radio, and consumers now have more format choices on the dial and receiver models than ever before,” said Peter Ferrara, founder and now strategic advisor to the HD Digital Radio Alliance. “The phenomenal advances we have seen in the past few years prove that the industry’s commitment has worked, yet we remained focused as there is still much work to be done.”