Patrick Hannon, President, WorldDAB
At the EBU’s Digital Radio Summit in February, this was the question I posed to the audience – “how do we get more private broadcasters to embrace the benefits and opportunities of DAB?”
The first thing to recognise is that many commercial broadcasters have already embraced digital radio – launching new services, building brands and reaching audiences that simply would not have been possible on capacity-constrained FM.
But it’s also true that some remain sceptical, believing that DAB is a platform with limited prospects (and IP holds the answers for radio’s long term future), or worrying about the perceived threat of new competition or the increased costs of dual transmission.
DAB is the core future platform for radio
The reality is that DAB radio is here to stay. Already, 56% of European citizens are covered by DAB / DAB+ transmissions – and a growing number of countries, especially in Central / Eastern Europe and the Baltics, are now undertaking or preparing for trials.
On the question of the suitability of IP, during the EBU’s Digital Radio Summit we heard a great presentation by Marcello Lombardo from the EBU, who carried out a detailed analysis of the costs to broadcasters and listeners of delivering radio over FM, DAB and mobile. While IP certainly has its benefits, it has significant weaknesses, in particular for listening on the move – specifically:
The competitive threat to private broadcasters comes from not participating on DAB
Broadcasters’ fears about the threat of increased competition appear misplaced. Evidence from the UK, where commercial market leaders Global and Bauer have both increased market share over the last ten years (though organic growth and acquisitions), demonstrates that incumbents have significant advantages over potential competitors. The key to success in DAB is to take a proactive, innovative approach.
In fact the biggest threat to incumbents is to ignore the opportunities of DAB – leaving the door open to more agile competitors and new entrants.
Costs can be mitigated by regulatory incentives and collaboration with public broadcasters
The costs of dual-distribution are a concern for many private broadcasters and this is an area where policy makers, regulators and public broadcasters can all play a constructive role. Examples of positive actions from countries such as the UK, the Netherlands and Germany include:
Is there anything more we can do?
One of the key concerns for private broadcasters is the speed at which they can build a digital audience which they can then monetise. Currently, this process is much slower than it could be. The basic issue is that we are still selling too many FM-only radios.
WorldDAB is working with partners across Europe to address this issue. Stakeholders from Germany, France, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have all written to the European Commission asking them to consider regulation that would require all new radio receivers (consumer and automotive) to incorporate both analogue and digital capability. This would ensure that citizens across the EU are able to buy future-ready radios wherever they live.
Anyone interested in finding out more about this initiative should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAB offers significant opportunities for private broadcasters and many are already reaping the benefits. The mantra for all radio broadcasters should be to collaborate on technology and compete on content. For those watching and waiting, now is the time to get involved. If you don’t, then the competition most certainly will.