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HD Radio Snags First Japanese Carmaker

Also, visual ‘Artist Experience’ is announced

Several HD Radio announcements have come out of iBiquity Digital this week, as radio broadcasters prepare to gather for the Radio Show convention.

The technology company said Subaru of America will offer HD Radio as a package option in the 2011 Forester, “making the automaker the first Japanese brand to offer the digital technology.” Subaru will also offer iTunes Tagging. Those vehicles go on sale in November.

IBiquity also announced a holiday marketing campaign in conjunction with broadcasters in the HD Radio Alliance. It will run in 100 markets with “a high-frequency level” on 600 or so radio stations during the fourth quarter.

Sears, Best Buy and Magnolia Home Theatre will be supported by specific creative iterations of the campaign; JVC, Denon and Insignia are involved in launching new products and holiday offers. Themes of the campaign are “The North Pole Gears Up” in October and “Time to Shop” in November and December.

Also, iBiquity officially is launching the “Artist Experience,” which highlights album art or other visual items that can be displayed and be tied to music or other material airing on an HD Radio station. The technology developer says the features will start to appear in consumer devices next month. President/CEO Bob Struble told Radio World the first device is likely to be a handheld HD Radio receiver.

Struble said, “Consumers expect to see album art when they’re listening to music.” The new feature can also include candid shots of the artists, weather maps and traffic maps, as well as station branding and logos, he said. Advertiser art is possible as well, said Struble. “When I’m listening to an ad for the Ford dealership I could see an image of the new Ford Mustang.”

Artist Experience will make advertisements more “sticky,” he predicted.

In recent months iBiquity has emphasized growth in receiver sales; it continued to do so this week. “While the economy has slowed overall retail sales, HD Radio product sales are bucking this trend and continue to expand rapidly,” according to COO Jeff Jury.

Meanwhile, in an effort to get more stations to convert on the transmission side, the organization recently announced a program that will allow broadcasters to pay conversion costs through barter of air time.

[UPDATE: Some readers have questioned in the comments the statement that this is the “first Japanese brand” to offer HD Radio, noting that Scion has offered HD Radio since 2008. Scion is a marque of the Toyoto Motor Sales USA, its products are only sold in North America. “Scion is considered by the auto industry to be a U.S. brand,” Struble replied via e-mail to an enquiry from Radio World.]