Quadcast? HD Problems Deeper Than Suspected

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This is an exercise in the power of one word. Take “Quadcast,” for example. It’s not a word I wanted to ponder after waking up this morning. But seeing it repeated in all radio industry trade publications made “Quadcast” begin rolling through my head, followed each time by another word – “What?”


You’ve probably heard this already. “The Era of 4D Begins” has been announced at Clear Channel-owned InsideRadio.com.

The power of the word, reinforced by distribution to all those Clear Channel-subscriber stations, helps make “Quadcast” the next big thing – even if a competitor like CBS owns the phrase. Quadcast sounds so cool.

Here’s a quick background. Washington D.C.’s WJFK-FM, 106.7 The Fan, has cocked its HD channels to air its main signal (HD-1), Baltimore’s WJZ-FM (HD-2), New York’s WFAN (HD-3), Philadelphia’s WIP (HD-4). Count ’em, that’s four sports-talk radio stations, delivered on the HD channels that were designed to bring thousands of new radio programs to the masses. That’s not exactly how HD Radio was supposed to work when announced way back when. When? A long time ago. I believe HD Radio was introduced as the way to a diverse list of formats, or something like that.

News Flash: New York Times headline – Major League Baseball to Stream ESPN Events. The unit, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, or MLBAM, will handle the technology infrastructure and customer support for the nearly 3,500 live events that ESPN streams each year, including N.B.A. games, World Cup soccer matches, Grand Slam tennis tournaments and college football games. Whoa!

BTW: Those other three sports talk radio stations now being carried on WJFK’s HD channels, all have online streams.

At what point will radio industry executives realize that this doubling-up of HD signals, carrying radio stations from another market, is not a winning strategy? When will radio industry publications start doing journalism to research and report the implications of a string of dead-end radio initiatives? Nearly every one repeats this publicity release, close to verbatim.

I hate to pop Struble’s bubble. However, rebroadcasting radio stations from multiple markets on a local market’s HD Radio signal (Washington D.C. or elsewhere) is not the way to arouse consumer interest, especially in a day when more people are tuning into the same programs on the internet.

New programming, as in something not found elsewhere, is key in a content-saturated subject matter like sports talk.

Being blessed with the opportunity to be part of the management team that put the nation’s 4th (5th?) sports talk station on the air in 1990 (WKNR Cleveland), I have first-hand knowledge of all that entails sports talk radio. Here’s a small tip; it’s not much different in market-to-market structure. Execution is another matter, but the structure of the format doesn’t change. (WKNR was ranked four consecutive years by Arbitron as the most listened to Sports Talk station in the nation.)

So what is it that WJFK-FM is banking on as the draw for these other three market sports talks? According to CBS Radio VP of Programming, Chris Oliviero: “Washington D.C. is home to a diverse range of sports fans, many originally from other parts of the Northeast, making WJFK an ideal home for this breakthrough quadcast.”

Do some quick math against the Washington DMA. Even if all those out-of-towners chose to listen, their numbers still wouldn’t create a market for many advertisers.

Another BTW: The following quote appeared in all industry publications heralding the Quadcast story. Again, from Mr. Oliviero: “This industry milestone….”

Those are pretty powerful words, until you remember that so were “Quad Sound” and “AM Stereo.”
 
(source: Ken Dardis, Audio Graphics, [email protected])


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.