New Ad Campaign Plugs High-Definition Radio

The radio industry is rolling out a $250 million ad blitz to promote high-definition radio in the face of sluggish consumer demand for the HD radio devices. After all, to hear HD radio, you have to OWN an HD radio.

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(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

HD: Just because you haven't heard them, doesn't mean they aren't out there. The radio underground is real and it's between the stations. HD radio. Cover it.

MONTAGNE: The HD radio alliance is behind the $250 million ad blitz starting next week. Tom Taylor is part of that alliance. He edits the newsletter Inside Radio, published by Clear Channel Communications.

TOM TAYLOR: The radio is beginning to put its sort of a marketing muscle behind the idea of letting people know what HD radio is about. Which is this is radio's transition to digital. This is teaching an old dog some new tricks, and they're pretty neat tricks.

MONTAGNE: Most agree that HD radio does sound better. It also helps stations squeeze more programming, more channels, on the air. Still, consumers aren't buying. Ted Schadler is a consumer electronics analyst with Forrester Research.

TED SCHADLER: We have this replacement technologies, right? Something that replaces what you're already doing. They're not adopted very rapidly. Consumers really wait until the old one breaks. Or until there's some really good reason to buy a new one, before they bother to buy a new one. So, if they buy a new car, maybe they'll get the HD radio. You know, if there's a Christmas present, maybe somebody will give them an HD radio.

MONTAGNE: Ted Schadler isn't betting on HD radio's success very soon, but he says eventually HD will be everywhere.

SCHADLER: You're going to buy a car any year from now and it's going to come with an HD radio. You know, it's just got to - you're going to get it whether you ask for it or not. And what that means is that they will become ubiquitous. It may not be five years, but certainly, 10 years from now, everybody will have HD radio and they'll wonder, you know, how they ever lived without high quality radio.

MONTAGNE: For the record, Schadler does not have an HD radio. And he has no plans to buy one yet.

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