Pity poor HD Radio. Despite a huge marketing push from the National Association of Broadcasters, the format, a supposed satellite radio-killer, has had yet to catch on in the mainstream. The format, which gives terrestrial radio channels digital 5.1 surround sound and a readout of songs played (as well as “side channels” with alternate programming), has existed for a few years now, but has failed to catch on. However, HD Radio supporters got a boost today when it was just announced that the next-generation Microsoft Zune HD, due this fall, will come with HD Radio built in.
On the one hand, that’s amazing. For all of the technological advantages that HD Radio has over regular radio, terrestrial radio is just not cool to tech geeks. Once they get a chance to listen, there may be some early adapter gadgetheads that are turned onto the not-so-new technology. It will also be the first really portable variation of HD Radio. And once you have a radio with HD built in, it’s free and you don’t have to worry about subscription fees.
However, some of the reasons that have kept people from buying into the technology until now are still present. It still costs at least $100 to buy an HD Radio, unless it comes built-in with a new car. Anyone that reads the news knows that not too many people are buying cars these days. And the new Zune will likely cost upwards of $250. Plus, the last Zune only had a fraction of the iPod-dominated portable MP3 player market, so even if the new one is wildly successful, it’s still going to have a sliver of the market, at least at first. And until terrestrial radio addresses some of the same reasons that younger people have been tuning out in droves, HD Radio probably won’t catch on. Don’t get us wrong – as people that grew up loving radio and still believe in it, we want it to.