It is no secret that terrestrial radio is suffering. Across the board, ad revenues are down to such an extent that even huge companies like Clear Channel are feeling the pain. Powerhouse radio stations like WBCN (credited with launching bands like U2 and the Police in the U.S.) in Boston are going silent. With all of these changes opportunity is created. Readers here will come to an immediate conclusion that Sirius XM would be the biggest benefactor, but that may be a bit premature.
Yes, Sirius XM offers compelling content, and yes, the satellite radio provider will fill a need, but the audio entertainment landscape is full of would be competitors that give consumers several things to consider. Taking a look at what is happening in Boston can give a good idea of the shuffle that may happen in many markets. Consider this:
- Boston Rock Staple WBCN goes Silent on 104.1 FM, but "relaunches" as an HD2 channel on HD Radio.
- CBS Radio takes their popular Mix 98.5 slot on the FM dial and changes it into a sports station called "The Hub". This channel will compete head to head with WEEI 850 AM, which has been a monster of a station for years in Boston.
- CBS moves their Mix station to the 104.1 slot on the FM dial.
- WBCN launches a campaign that basically states the rumors of their demise were unfounded, and that they are very much alive on 98.5 HD2. They give away an HD radio every hour for four straight days to promote the changes.
- Free Form BCN, a channel programmed by WBCN's original programmer gets exposure on HD and shows that HD radio can promise more depth in radio.
What has transpired in Boston is a rebirth of terrestrial radio on HD, and the thought process behind this campaign is quite impressive. CBS Radio has figured out a way to make HD Radio relevant in Boston, and whether by design or by accident, it may be something that in turn gets replicated in top markets across the country. WBCN and Mix were two highly popular FM stations in Boston. In one swoop, the changes have had fans experimenting with the radio dial, and checking out websites that parade an impressive HD line-up.
Satellite radio can respond, but it would take a substantial campaign to counter moves such as those that have transpired in Boston. Terrestrial radio shuffled, offered a solution, and was able to show off the benefits of HD radio in short order. The downside for terrestrial is that HD radio receivers are few and far between, but that dynamic could change at any time. Satellite radio's response, should they decide to do it, needs to concentrate on the commercial free aspect of the service, and that they offer well over 100 channels of compelling content that covers every aspect of genres, news, and sports. Some well placed billboard and localized television campaigns could serve Sirius XM well to throw a wrinkle into the transitions of terrestrial and HD radio.
Position - Long Sirius XM, No Position CBS