Uncle Milty and HD Radio

The local public TV station aired a documentary this week titled “Pioneers of Primetime.” There was an interesting point made by one of the talking heads: Milton Berle sold TVs. He even joked that he had sold more TVs than RCA. People bought TVs not because they wanted a huge tube-powered fire hazard in their living rooms. They bought them because they wanted access to good old Uncle Milty. Before 1948 there were fewer than 500 sets — the same year Berle went on the air. By 1954, there were 26 million.

On his Hear 2.0 blog, Mark Ramsey points out what is wrong with the new HD Radio campaign. As Ruth Seymour, General Manager at KCRW in Santa Monica recently pointed out, “Content is king.” There is little in the new HD Radio campaign that points to this fact, and Ramsey rightly laments it. The claim of “Hey, we’ve got some stuff!” is not going to cut it for most folks.

We’ve got neither Milton Berle nor the luxury of that brand-new post-WWII media landscape. But we do have the lessons learned of things like AM Stereo and Quadraphonic LPs. The focus needs to be on what listeners can hear, the content — not on the specifics of the equipment. Leave that up to the electronics retailers.

2 thoughts on “Uncle Milty and HD Radio

  1. The focus needs to be on what listeners can hear, the content — not on the specifics of the equipment. Leave that up to the electronics retailers.

    Except, of course, that when the equipment works THEN people can hear the content. People have far lower tolerance for technology hiccups now than they did in 1954, when TV signals were not so crystal clear.

    Everything I’m reading about HD is that the end-user equipment has been plagued with malfunctions. Why would someone spend hundreds of $$ on a technology that functions irregularly to access content that is easier to get onair or online? With wireless technology, internet-ready car radios have far more potential than HD.

  2. People have less tolerance for tech hiccups, but they have more of an expectation in the diversity of choices in their entertainment. When Uncle Milt was the only one, that simplified matters.

    The digital nature of the HD system allows for some things that would come later with a WiFi car deck, all with technology that is available and in beta as we type.

    Granted, it is far from ideal. But it is in the works. These things take a while to be adopted, and I don’t know if we have seen the full force of all of the HD marketing muscle yet.

    I am not particularly cheering for either side; I would rather sit back and see what shakes out. The market will bear what it will, but marketing can do only so much.

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