If you were to awaken me from a deep sleep and ask me how old HD Radio is, I’d probably say 5 to 7 years. So I was shocked when Bob Struble announced he would no longer be with the company he founded — 18 years ago. That was a quick 18 years.
It’s no secret that when companies acquire companies, it’s usually a honeymoon of a year or less before the CEO at the purchased company goes. Bob Struble and I discussed it as he received his “40 Most Powerful People in Radio” plaque at our Forecast conference. I mentioned that it might happen, and of course he said he knew it could, but he was willing to hang in there if the new ownership wanted him to. But like most companies needing to make an acquisition pay off, the buyers decided to go in another direction.
Frankly, it’s an expected move and won’t damage Struble a bit. He did, after all, sell the company he founded, and hopefully will be able to reap the rewards for a long time to come as he decide his next steps in life.
Over the last 18 years, I’ve complained about HD Radio and I’ve praised HD Radio — there’s no need to restate all that now. But great credit is due to Struble for having the drive and vision to make digital radio in the U.S. a reality, with industry support and distribution through the automotive world. My new car's radio does not even have a button with the word radio, but there is a giant logo saying HD.
Bob went against great odds, fought criticism (much of it from me), and pulled off what seemed like an impossible task.
Though the jury is still out on HD Radio in many ways, Bob and the iBiquity team have done an amazing job with it. What I find magical is that we can do endless things on a digital dial that we can’t do in an analog environment. Artist and song information, album art and other graphics are only the tip of the iceberg. What I find exciting is the ability to distribute other content, to have a potential two-way dialogue with the radio, and to track listening data so terrestrial radio can compete with the data offered by digital audio online.
My hope is that Ibiquity’s new owners, DTS, will really take it to the next level of possibilities for the benefit of radio broadcasters. It’s hard to know exactly what excited them enough to buy Ibiquity, but clearly they see possibilities, and with their strong technical history and distribution, it seems only good things can come from this.
So, Bob Struble, thanks for almost two decades of hard work, great vision, and thanks for never giving up at times when it looked grim. You built a significant platform for radio, and your contributions will not soon be forgotten.