Will Small Markets Convert to HD Radio? Survey Suggests Not Soon

Much has been written about large-market adoption of IBOC. A college instructor has been tracking conversions in smaller markets in Pennsylvania and identifies several factors as so-called “gating” items for its success.
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Much has been written about large-market adoption of IBOC. A college instructor has been tracking conversions in smaller markets in Pennsylvania and identifies several factors as so-called “gating” items for its success.

Gary McIntyre, a broadcasting/mass communications instructor at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, in the northern portion of that state, tells me he mailed out 100 questionnaires to stations in Arbitron markets No. 150 and higher.

The survey consisted of 15 questions asked of station GMs, ops managers and CEs; the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters provided contact information.

McIntyre asked them whether the stations intended to convert their facilities in the next 12 months; he also made queries about multicasting, HD-R receiver availability and station promotion of IBOC.

Of the 100, he received 50 surveys back. Of those, only one station had converted to HD-R.

“Eighty-six percent of the remaining respondents indicated it would be highly unlikely or somewhat unlikely” they would convert their stations over the next 12 months, according to his report. Six percent indicated it would be neither likely nor unlikely, and only 6% indicated it would be likely, he told me.

Most respondents cited cost as the main factor prohibiting conversion; others felt the technology had been “overhyped” and that FM analog is good enough in the listeners’ minds, McIntyre says.

He also feels station managers in smaller markets do not feel compelled to convert their stations because their neighbors aren’t — the reverse of what may be happening in larger markets, he believes.

He said results could be different in states where small markets are more influenced by larger ones; and he thinks an independent national survey of small markets should be planned to learn more.

While this is only one survey in one state, it’s an interesting case study. Many of the reasons cited against conversion are what I hear from smaller-market broadcasters at various conventions.

Some respondents predicted it would take several years before stations in smaller markets converted their facilities.

McIntyre plans to share his findings with PAB members and others. Read more in an upcoming issue of Radio World.

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