"QVC provides a unique retail at-home environment that is ideal for helping even more consumers discover the cool new content and crystal clear sound provided by HD Digital Radio," said Peter Ferrara, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. "When QVC shoppers see the wide variety of stylish HD Radio receivers and discover the benefits, they are going to want to experience the digital upgrade immediately."Interestingly enough, that press release and the new Paragon Media study of HD Radio awareness (41% among radio listeners, of which only 9% understood that it required an HD Radio receiver) arrived in my news aggregator about the same time.
So I decided to watch the QVC special aired last night to see exactly how they would pitch this technology with very little consumer awareness (or interest).
To their credit, neither the QVC pitchman nor the representative for HD Radio ever called the technology "high-definition," or "hi-def." Neither did they describe the secondary channels as "the stations between the stations."
Their three key selling points were:
- Better quality sound
- More programming choices
- No subscription fees
Sounds like it's everywhere -- unless you know that there are currently over 13,000 stations on air. So it would be more accurate to say that a little over 10% of all stations use HD Radio technology. More accurate, but less compelling.
Better quality sound
I won't argue the better sound argument, although I don't think QVC really made the case. They turned up the radios they demoed and ran the sound through the studio's boom mike. Reproduced on my 15-year-old TV's speakers, it sounded anything but "crystal clear." A better demo would have been to also sample an analog broadcast to get an accurate side-by-side comparison.
More programming choices
I couldn't readily find national stats on this, but I do know that only a fraction of the stations broadcasting in HD is even offering an additional digital-only channel.
Just looking at my own state, Virginia, there are approximately 350 stations on the air. Of that number, 33 broadcast HD Radio signals (I'm not counting the "coming soon" listings). Of those 33, 10 have at least one additional digital-only channel. So about 3% of the stations in Virginia offer "more programming choices" -- and they're all public radio stations. I think folks in the Old Dominion looking for the Christian rock, deep country and other formats talked about by QVC are going to be somewhat disappointed.
No subscription fees
True enough, but I've commented on the irrelevance of this selling point before. It was fun to watch the pitch for the Polk I-Sonic when this oblique reference to satellite radio finally came to the fore. The QVC host, running down the bullet points provided by Polk, mentioned it was "XM-Ready, giving you 150 digital channels."
Oops. That went over like a turd in a swimming pool. The HD Radio rep was quick to point out that you needed to buy extra gear and pay a subscription to get that feature while HD Radio was subscription-free.
It was an interesting half hour.
One final thing I noticed. Usually, there's a countdown in the item info bar. How many have sold, how many are left; that kind of thing. That information was absent. At the end of the half hour, I have no idea how many of the three radios were available, nor how many sold.
And no one called in with a testimonial.