Markets include N.Y, L.A., Chicago, Philly, more.

Greater Media, a founding member of the HD Digital Radio Alliance, has announced the details of its digital multicast channels for the Boston and Philadelphia markets. The eight new channels are mostly brand extensions of the company’s existing stations; some are eerily close to satellite radio offerings.

In Boston, Greater Media’s stations will offer the following multicast (HD2) stations:

Coffee House will be the acoustic, unplugged side of triple A WBOS. Tapping into the station’s archive of live and in-studio performances, the new channel will emphasize singer-songwriters, folk music and unplugged versions of songs by core WBOS artists.

Laugh Tracks will be a new comedy format featured on classic rock WROR’s side-channel. In addition to airing song parodies, classic comedy bits and local comedians, the HD-2 channel will be used as a creative breeding ground for new on-air talent. Greater Media says Laugh Tracks “will capture the spirit of WROR’s Loren and Wally morning show and leave listeners wanting more.”

Following a six-year hiatus, the smooth jazz format is making a Beantown comeback as a sidechannel to AC WMJX (Magic 106.7). The Smooth Jazz channel will blend traditional and contemporary jazz, fusion and new AC adult music. It will also be streamed from Magic’s web site (www.magic1067.com.)

Country WKLB will split its signal and offer Classic Country HD2, running the gamut from the 60's through the 90's, encompassing Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and others.

Classical 2.0 will be the multicast channel for FM talker WTKK. It’s described as “smart, exciting, classical music . . . from the familiar to the adventuresome.”

Greater Media will flip on its five new Boston multicast stations within the next several weeks.

In Philadelphia, WMMaRchives will be the companion channel to heritage rocker WMMR. The new station will delve into MMR’s 35-plus-year rock history and its archive of live and studio performances, the company says.

Classic rock WMGK will offer up WMGK Deep Trax, featuring classic rock nuggets and “oh wow” songs that may be a bit outside the radio norm.

Meanwhile Club Ben, the multicasting channel for adult hits WBEN, will exploit Philadelphia’s rich R&B history with a blend of rhythmic AC, combining ’80s and ‘90s pop/dance music with ‘70s funk and R&B.

The new Philadelphia multicast stations will begin operating over the next two to three months.

“Many of these program concepts are extensions of our current brands, creating variations that we know listeners want to hear,” Greater Media president and CEO Peter Smyth said in a statement. “Others are completely new efforts to fill a need in the marketplace that's been missing for some time."

Greater Media's Detroit stations inaugurated their HD multicasts in August, with the unveiling of RIFF2, More Magic and WCSX Deep Trax. All three channels have been offered via web stream since inception. While there are no official audience ratings for digital multicast stations, the WRIF, WCSX and WMGC-FM HD2 programming websites have hosted 73,000 visitors in 184,000 sessions, and streamed a total of 116,000 hours.

On a side note, Greater Media is currently in exclusive negotiations to buy Charles River Broadcasting’s classical station, WCRB Boston. Soon after Charles River announced its intention to sell WCRB, it was revealed in a Boston Globe story that former owner Theodore Jones had mandated that the station would remain classical for 99 years. However Charles River chairwoman Mary L. Marshall said that Jones' statement was worded in such a way that keeping the format is less a mandate than a wish, but the company will honor his wish by requiring any future buyer to establish a classical HD channel should they change WCRB's format.

Classical 2.0 would seemingly fit that requirement, leaving a door open for a format flip on WCRB once it is acquired.

In related news, Emmis Communications unveiled its HD2 strategy on Jan. 19, which included plans of Triple A returning to Los Angeles, Chicago getting a punk station, New York going old school and Americana touching down in Indianapolis.

Like Bonneville, Clear Channel and Greater Media, Emmis today is pulling back the curtain on its new HD Radio multicast sidechannels, most of which complement or extend the company’s existing stations.

In New York, the sidechannel for R&B/hip-hop WQHT (Hot 97) programs Old School Hip Hop. Adult R&B WRKS (Kiss FM) will air Gospel on its multicast channel. For smooth jazz WQCD (CD 101.9), it’s Chill, the ambient and electronica music CD101.9 wove into its mix last year – only to see its ratings tumble. Now Chill artists such as Zero 7, Moby and Groove Armada get their own channel.

To complement rhythmic top 40 KPWR (Power 106) Los Angeles, Emmis will offer Power Dos, a bilingual and musically extended version of Power 106. Under attack by Spanish Broadcasting Systems’ KXOL (Latino 96.3), trendsetting Power 106 can now fight fire with fire. Also in L.A., triple A returns via the sidechannel of country KZLA.

In Chicago, where Emmis recently forced ABC Radio out of a heated rock war, the company brand extends modern WKQX (Q101) with a separate Punk/Young Alternative channel, while heritage rock WLUP (the Loop) explores its extreme alter ego as Loop Loud.
In Indianapolis listeners with HD radios will hear Dance on the HD2 multicast of top 40 WNOU (Radio Now), Disco from soft AC WYXB (B 105.7) and Americana (twangy triple A meets country rock) via HD2 from country WLHK (Hank FM).

Hot 97’s Old School channel is already on the air; the L.A. sidechannels are expected to debut in the middle of next month. The rest will launch on dates spread throughout 2006.

“Today’s announcement furthers our goal of giving listeners new, free, fresh format choices on the airwaves,” Emmis chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a statement. “We are marrying diverse, creative content with a high-quality digital listening experience.”

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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