The Future of HD Radio

This is another followup blog to an item that was mentioned in my July 18 edition.

WVXU-FM (91.7), one of the three major public radio stations in Cincinnati, has inked a deal to air the programming of web radio station woxy.com on the second WVXU high definition channel, known as WVXU-HD2. WOXY.COM used to air its cutting-edge modern “future of rock-and-roll” (sm) format on the 97.7 frequency in Oxford, Ohio. The license for that frequency was sold a few years ago, and it’s now occupied by the “Adult HitsMAX-FM trimulcast.

logo_97x.gif

This is significant for two reasons. First, WOXY, better known by its identifier, “97-X”, had a small but fiercely loyal audience of college students, thanks to its proximity to major schools such as Miami University, the University of Cincinnati, Wright State University and the University of Dayton. It also appealed to a fair number of high school students and a lot of 20-somethings. If you visit their message boards, you will quickly see that their listeners are squealing with delight.

The second reason that this is big news is that it might start a trend in HD radio programming strategies. Most, if not all, HD channels are programmed by the same company who owns the license for the main (analog) channel. The most common strategy is to simulcast the analog channel on the HD1 channel, and have different programming on the HD2 channel. Most stations don’t air any programming on their HD3 channels. WVXU has opted to turn over their HD2 channel to another company. Other broadcasters might follow suit and look at their HD2 and/or HD3 channels as revenue streams. They could lease the channels to programmers who cannot afford a radio station license and the many dollars it takes to build, staff, and run a station. These “lessee” programmers could also build a network of stations in numerous markets by originating the programming in one location and distributing it to HD channels via satellite. There are some religious broadcasters like K-LOVE and CDR who are broadcasting nationwide on analog stations and on repeater frequencies. They own some of the frequencies, but they also lease the time on some through Local Marketing Agreement (LMA). I have to think that this would appeal to them.

At the present time, the HD2 channels usually run a complementary format to the analog format (example: Smooth Jazz WNUA in Chicago runs traditional jazz). In some cases, stations might fill a format void in the market, as Rythmic Adult Contemporary WKTU in New York does with its HD2 country format. The HD channels are not big money generators, yet. There aren’t many HD radios in the marketplace so it is difficult to generate advertising when the audience is minute.

As a sidenote, some stations also stream their HD channel(s) on the web.

Because of the significant startup costs of HD broadcasting, stations need to be creative when generating income. The “HD channel lease” idea could take off, especially if HD radio increases its penetration significantly.

I’ll be following the USA Today model, at least for now. Nothing on Saturday or Sunday.

Monday, July 23: Lazy Writers on the TV Leave Viewers in Dire Straits

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