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HD Radio Promos Changing Due To Bigger SKU Count

LAS VEGAS — The HD Digital Radio Alliance will alter its 2007 promotional campaign to boost the number of ads promoting individual retailers and car radio options, alliance president Peter Ferrara told TWICE.

The changes reflect the growing availability of HD-Radio products for the home and car, particularly add-on devices intended to add HD-Radio tuners to a car’s existing head unit, Ferrara said. Because of limited product availability in the earlier part of 2006, individual ads promoted a particular supplier’s product and announced its availability at multiple retailers, Ferrara explained. “Now, a retailer will be more central in ads,” which will promote a particular retailer and announce the availability of multiple products in the retailer’s outlets, he explained.

Automotive options will be highlighted in more ads than last year for two reasons. One is the growing number of tuner/adapters that can be added by after-market installers to a vehicle’s existing OEM or aftermarket audio system, he said. Another is BMW’s announcement that in the spring it will offer HD Radio as a $499 factory-installed option in all seven of its vehicle series, up from three series. Ads promoting BMW’s radio will begin in mid-February, he said.

A year ago at this time, about a half-dozen HD Radio tuners were available, all for the car, said HD-Radio creator iBiquity Digital. The first home product, a Boston Acoustics table radio, didn’t ship until a few months later, said iBiquity executive Jeff Jury. Now, about 40 SKUs are available for home and car, including tabletop radios, shelf systems, A/V receivers, stand-alone home tuners, after-market car CD players with built-in HD Radio and stand-alone car tuners that plug into specific brands of after-market CD players. A growing selection of the products is available at $199 or less.

Two devices due soon from Directed and Visteon, Jury added, will use a wired FM modulator to add HD-Radio tuning to any existing car stereo system. Also coming this year are OEM vehicle adapters that plug an after-market HD Radio tuner into a car radio’s CD-changer input or into the vehicle’s databus. These adapters enable the OEM radio to control the tuner without the addition of a wired controller to the car’s dash. By the end of 2007, Jury said, such OEM adapters will be available for integration with the OEM sound systems of “the vast majority of car models.”

The number of digital terrestrial radio stations will likewise grow, starting out the new year at about 1,100 and growing to almost 2,000 by the end of 2007, Jury forecast. The number of FM station delivering more than one program simultaneously, or multicasting, will almost double from the current number of more than 500, he said.

Ferrara noted that HD Radio stations are broadcasting in 68 metro areas, and the number will grow to 85 in February and to the top 100 markets by May. The alliance’s previously announced boost in its promotional budget to $250 million in 2007 from last year’s $200 million will make it the largest advertiser on radio, he added.