New York Gets Country, Chicago Gets Punk

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NEW YORK ( -- Country radio is coming to New York, and punk will have a home in Chicago.

Those are just a few of the new HD2 radio formats the major radio groups will roll out during the next couple months.

In December, several major radio groups -- including Clear Channel, CBS, Emmis, Entercom, Greater Media, Bonneville and Citadel -- created the HD Radio Alliance.

Multicast stations
The radio industry is making a big move toward broadcasting in high definition. "HD2" is the moniker the industry has adopted for its multicast stations, which are available thanks to the efficiency of a digital signal. In addition to offering the ability to multicast, HD improves radio’s sound quality -- FM has a CD-like sound and AM will sound more like FM.

While the radio industry has stopped short of calling HD the answer to satellite radio, HD will vastly expand the number of format choices available in each market.

“What we’ve been challenged by is additional choices,” said John Hogan, CEO of Clear Channel Radio. “There are more places for consumers to go to get information, entertainment and companionship, which have always been radio’s strengths.”

In December, several major radio groups -- including Clear Channel, CBS, Emmis, Entercom, Greater Media, Bonneville and Citadel -- created the HD Radio Alliance. The radio groups put aside their typical cutthroat competitive spirits to coordinate their multicast HD2 channels to create the greatest diversity of formats, so there wouldn’t be, for example, four country stations and three soft rock HD2 stations in New York.

Commercial free
For at least the first two years, HD2 channels will remain commercial free to build consumer demand. And the major hurdle holding back advertising is a lack of consumer adoption. Radio groups have pledged $200 million worth of on-air ad time to promote HD radio and are working with auto manufacturers to try to introduce more HD receivers in cars.

Once HD radio becomes mass enough to attract advertisers, its digital signal will create sponsorship-style ad opportunities; allow advertisers to send a text message to a receiver along with a broadcast commercial; hyper-target by format; and even deliver digital images.

“Right now, depending on whom you ask, there are around 800 billion analog sets in the U.S. and there might be only about 2,500 digital sets,” Mr. Hogan said. “As we [promote HD radio], it becomes more and more of a viable advertising-supported medium. But for right now and for the foreseeable future [HD2 advertising] is not even on our radar screen.”

Clear Channel and Emmis
Clear Channel is launching New York’s only country station as a multicast channel to its WKTU, which plays dance music. It will introduce a “deep classics” rock format on WAXQ and a Hispanic version of hip-hop station WWPR, called “power Espanol.” In Chicago, it will offer traditional jazz on WNUA and in Los Angeles it will launch “Hispanic KISS.”

Emmis will broadcast “old-school hip-hop” on the multicast channel of New York’s WQHT, lounge music on WQCD and gospel on its Kiss station, WRKS. It will introduce punk as the multicast channel to Chicago’s WKQX and a bilingual power format on Los Angeles’s KPWR.

The other groups had not yet issued announcements regarding their HD2 formats as of press time. Other formats expected to launch include classical alternative, blues, coffeehouse, female talk, future country, extreme hip-hop and in-depth news.

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