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HD Radio Stations Hit 700; Tabletop Radio Hits $299

2/13/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The number of AM and FM stations broadcasting digital HD Radio programs went up, and the price of the industry's only HD Radio tabletop radio went down.

On Jan. 26, the 700th radio station began delivering a digital signal alongside its analog signal. That's up from year-end 2005's 624 and year-end 2004's 176 and on the way to an expected 1,200 by the end of 2006, said HD Radio inventor iBiquity. Digital AM and FM stations now reach 60 percent of the U.S. population, the company said.

Some of those stations have been using the Boston Acoustics Recepter Radio HD tabletop radio to promote terrestrial digital radio. Station group Clear Channel, for example, has promoted the launch of its multicast HD2 channels with on-air giveaways of the Boston Acoustics tabletop Recepter Radio HD, which shipped last fall and retailed for a suggested $499 until Feb. 1, when Boston reduced the suggested price to $299.

The two-chassis Recepter Radio HD is a stereo model that complements a mono, analog Recepter retailing for a suggested $149.

The new price is part of the company's effort to support the HD Radio rollout, said Boston sales VP Phil Cohn. The radio's new price, he said, “is a sustainable business model today and we believe long-term.”

The Recepter HD has been purchased by a “significant number” of radio stations and groups to help launch HD Radio broadcasts, Cohn added.

The digital Recepter, like all current and announced home HD Radio tuners, are multicast-capable, as are select car audio tuners, including JVC's announced $299 car CD-receiver.

In January, more than 100 digital FM stations were multicasting two digital programs simultaneously on their assigned frequencies, up from 70 at the end of 2005, but that number will rise to more than 250 in coming months, largely in 28 of the largest radio markets, iBiquity said.

At least one radio group, Entercomm, plans in select markets to broadcast two simulcast channels, HD2 and HD3, from one station. They are spoken-word channels — comedy and news — which require less bandwidth than music channels to deliver quality audio. One of its Memphis stations, for example, will deliver blues on its main channel, comedy on a second, and news on a third.

Another radio group, Beasley Broadcast Group, demonstrated Recepter radios at its annual Miami-area Kiss Country Chili Cook-off, which featured several country stars, including Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Van Zant, Trick Pony and Craig Morgan.

Three Beasley stations, one AM and two FM, could be heard through the radios, which also delivered the two FM stations' HD2 channels, said Bob Barnett, program director of WKIS-FM Kiss Country in Miami.

During the event, Beasley hosted promotional giveaways of HD radios, and it plans to take a full logo-ed tent setup to its remote broadcasts to give listeners more opportunities to hear HD Radio. “Once HD Radios are available in area stores, we will start the heavy push on WKIS and will likely begin giving some away as prizes on the air,” he added.

More than 2,500 more stations are in the process of converting to HD Radio, iBiquity said. About 15 home and car tuners were available in early 2006, and iBiquity expected that number to hit 25 by the end of the year.