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No IBOC in Radio’s Cell Phones Push Just Yet

Not at $12 per chip; but Smulyan leaves open the possibility

Emmis President/CEO Jeff Smulyan says HD Radio chips won’t be part of the industry’s “play” to get wireless companies to include radio in their handsets at first, but he left open the door for broadcasters to push for that later.

Speaking at BIA’s Winning Media Strategies conference this month, Smulyan said FM analog chips cost about 40 cents compared to HD Radio chips at about $12 each. “The wireless companies are already fighting the concept and we don’t want them to say it’s too expensive.”

“We know HD is coming,” he added.

Smulyan heads up a coalition that is pushing for FM radio in cell phones, including NAB, RAB as well as broadcasters Bonneville, CBS Radio, Citadel, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Emmis, Entercom and Greater Media. The strategy is part of the radio industry’s larger effort to get radio included in portable media devices, like PDAs and music players, within five years.

Later that day, an attendee asked another panelist about whether Apple plans to include FM in its iPhone. Anne Schelle, executive director of the Open Mobile Video Coalition, said she’s spoken with Apple about that. “They’d be interested, I think, in an accessory you plug in. I don’t they’re necessarily interested in incorporating a chip,” she said, noting battery power issues. Over time, we’ll see the FM HD chip — these things will get less expensive over time.”

Sounds fortuitous given the Zune announcement. Schelle’s comment jives with what I’m hearing from the IBOC camp — to expect multiple devices at several price points in the HD Radio portable category this year.