Who Will Win The Radio Wars?

THE CONTENDERS

AM/FM
Reach: 239 million listeners
First broadcast: 1916/1937 (AM/FM)
Sound quality: equivalent to 256-300 kbps* (FM)
Automaker availability: All
Pros: Local entertainment, sports, and news; free
Cons: Limited coverage; patchy service in rural areas; commercials; local preachers with talk shows

SATELLITE RADIO
Reach: 35 million listeners
First broadcast: 2001
Sound quality: 48-128 kbps*
Automaker availability: All
Pros: Full coverage from New York City to Death Valley; lots of variety; "Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour"
Cons: Pricey subscription fee; signal can be blocked by trees, underpasses, etc.; Jimmy Buffett's Radio Margaritaville

PANDORA RADIO
Reach: 54 million subscribers
First broadcast: 2004
Sound quality: 64-128 kbps*
Automaker availability: Ford
Pros: Near-infinite, personalized content; millions already own the hardware; free or very cheap
Cons: Relies on wireless networks that may soon start blocking data-intensive applications; doesn't include the cost of a smartphone

HD RADIO
Reach: 3 million units
First broadcast: 2003
Sound quality: 128 kbps*
Automaker availability: Audi, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury, Mini, Rolls-Royce, Scion, Volkswagen, and Volvo
Pros: No subscription required
Cons: Only in some cars in some areas

* CD bit rate: 1411.2 kilobits per second

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