HD Radio technology and Multi-casting … or more is better

In HD Radio technology, compressed digital signals can be subdivided. This allows a station to multi-cast. meaning it could broadcast two or more programs at the same time. So, its listeners might be able to choose between a sports program and easy listening music – on the same station at the same time.

This gets exciting because it allows stations to do more niche broadcasting, just as cable as brought niche channels to television.

For example, the radio station you’ve always tuned to for classic rock, might subdivide into classic rock, and reggae, or classic rock and old school hip-hop.Naturally, you would be able to hear these stations only if you have an HD receiver. If you don’t, you’ll still hear the same AM or FM station you’re used to.

There are stations that are trying to increase their listening audience with some very different formats. WLIT which has adult contemporary on its main channel and disco on its HD2 outlet. WOJO has gone an entirely different direction with its two channels broadcasting reggaeton and Latin American dancehall.

Some of the other HD2 channels in Chicago are WKSC’103.5’s “Gay Pride Radio; “WGCI 107.5’s Old School Hip Hop; WUSN 99.5’s Future Country; and WBBM 96.3’s all-dance music format.

Here in my area, the broadcasters have not shown much imagination; most are just programming variations of a theme, i.e. if the main format is modern C&W, the HD2 channel might be classic C&W. However, we do have one easy listening station here that is using its HD2 channel to broadcast all blues.

Cox Broadcasting has launched seven high-definition subchannels (HD2 channels). These subchannels can be heard on the company’s stations in Atlanta and Tampa.

In Atlanta, WSB-FM, an Adult Contemporary station, will broadcast a new Soft Standards HD2 sub-channel; WBTS-FM, a Rhythmic Top 40 station, will broadcast a PopTop 40 HD2 sub-channel; WALR-FM, an Urban Adult station, will broadcast an Adult Hip Hop HD2 sub-channel; and WSRV-FM, a Classic Hits station, will simulcastCox Radio’s AM750 News/Talk format on its HD2 sub- channel.

In Tampa, WSUN-FM, an Alternative Rock station, will broadcast an All Grunge Rock HD2 sub-channel; WPOI-FM, an 80’s Hits station, will broadcast a Modern Adult HD2 sub-channel; and WWRM-FM, an Adult Contemporary station, will broadcast a Contemporary Christian HD2 sub-channel.

And  look, Ma. No commercials!

Just as important, these HD2 channels are commercial free. In fact, the nation’s broadcasters have pledged to keep HD2 channels commercial-free at least through 2007.

From what we have heard this is both good news and bad news. The good news is obvious – no annoying commercials. The bad news is that some of the HD2 channels are just one song after another with no announcer at all. We suppose this could get a bit boring after a bit.