If Verizon Drops Into HD Radio and No One Owns a Box, Does It Make a Sound?

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Last week, we mentioned that mobile brands topped the list of most-musically inclined companies in the UK, according to kids surveyed there. We have a feeling that the situation may not be the same here -- we're thinking footwear could come on top -- but brands like Verizon Wireless, RIM (Blackberry), Apple, and nearly everyone in between all compete vigorously for the ears of American youngsters. With a recent push for digital radio prominence, Verizon may now have the most skin in the game.

According to MediaWeek, the telecom co. has created Verizon New Music, an HD2 channel that will exist alongside 21 Clear Channels nationwide. Since less than a million people own HD radio hardware, you're probably in our boat with a "what the heck is that?" type of response to this news, but SFS has done the legwork for you: some, if not all, HD radio stations have what are known as "side channels," which become available after you tune to a station's main frequency. Think of it like switching to the director commentary track of a DVD, an alternate stream of content on top of the primary one.

If one does the math, it's obvious that, with these 21 channels among the 1,900 out there divided by the number of users, Verizon is not going to generate much reach from this arrangement. However, the radio industry is hoping their big holiday push will put enough of the hardware under trees to finally gain some momentum for the format.

The fully-branded stations serve up "up-and-coming" artists as well as interviews, interspersed with just 40 seconds of advertising per hour, and, since beginning this past April, are expected to continue into next year.

"This is about a first mover advantage," said Bob McCurdy, regional president for Clear Channel Radio Sales, a division of Katz Media, which worked with Zenith and Verizon Wireless to develop the long-running campaign. "The bet is that HD Radio is going to grow and ownership in the early stages is especially important. We recognize it doesn't have the reach of the terrestrial brands."

To drive listeners to the channel, Verizon New Music is promoted 18 times weekly to the 30 million listeners that tune-in to some of Clear Channel's biggest radio brands ...
The stations are simulcast on the internet, although we tried to hear one and couldn't get a connection started through Clear Channel's player, so it's hard to say exactly what the programming is like. However, based on the previously mentioned owner and supporting banner ads featuring Hinder, Kardinal Offishal, Estelle, N.E.R.D., etc. we are having a hard time imagining these "up-and-coming" artists deviating too far from the top 40 radio playlists on CC's main stations.

Anyone out there spent much time listening?