by Aris Erdogdu, Communications Manager, WorldDAB
This week’s Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) Digital Broadcasting Symposium brought together broadcasters and regulators from across the radio industry and was marked, amongst other things, by the announcements of DAB+ trials taking place in Thailand and Vietnam this year. And while DAB+ is making significant progress in emerging markets in Asia and beyond, it is also continuing to grow steadily in Australia, as indicated by major Australian broadcasters.
Addressing the crowd at the opening session of ABU DBS, Commercial Radio Australia CEO and Asia Pacific Chair of WorldDAB Joan Warner touched on the transition phase the audio – and particularly the radio – industry is going through, and the importance of seizing this digital opportunity.
Joan Warner speaking at ABU DBS
Joan rightly highlighted that broadcasters’ role is now more important than ever, and the robustness and reliability of free-to-air broadcast that does not require the internet or even electricity to function makes it the most efficient and effective way to communicate live to a mass audience, particularly in times of emergency and natural disasters. Pointing to the recent flood crisis in Townsville, Queensland as an example, Joan highlighted that not only did radio stations give out essentials such as fresh food and water, but through live and around -the-clock radio broadcast and emergency updates, helped raise millions for those most affected by the floods.
Using GfK’s recent radio insights report on listening habits in Australia as an example, Joan stated that DAB+ is the most impactful way to improve the radio experience and touched on the general satisfaction of Australian listeners when using DAB+(over 80% of listeners likely to recommend to DAB+ to their close ones), as well as the impressive figures highlighting the growing number of DAB+ users released by CRA in February 2019 – more than 900,000 DAB+ digital radios were sold in Australia in 2018, and over 30% of the population aged 10 and over, listened to DAB+ digital radio each week in the five metro capital cities in 2018 – up from 3.62 million in 2017.
While the growing popularity of DAB+ digital radio is linked to a number of reasons – wide range of stations and content, good reception, reliability and high audio quality, amongst other things – DAB+ can also improve the experience for broadcaster and advertisers. Not only does it provide more room for content, but it offers more targeted, integrated and innovative marketing opportunities, as well as deeper insights into consumer expectations by enhancing audience measurement.
This view was also shared by Grant Blackley, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo (SCA). Speaking of the “golden age of audio” at a session on the broadcasting business opportunities presented by digital radio, Grant reiterated the growth platform that DAB+ represents globally and within Australia, and highlighted that the SCA’s strategy to align 4 DAB+ stations with the company’s two major brands has helped gain listeners, and give the advertising industry access to new audiences.
Grant Blackley at ABU DBS 2019
RadioDNS’ project director Nick Piggott, who has spent the majority of his career working in the radio industry, also echoed Grant’s views, stating that incumbents can use digital radio to launch new stations based on their existing analogue stations. Not only do these new stations then bring in new and diverse audiences without significantly impacting listening to the existing stations, but they also prevent listeners from using music streaming services.
But radio’s future also needs to be safeguarded, as the prominent position of radio in the car – traditionally one of its biggest allies – is being challenged by connected and supersized screens that are starting to be integrated in cars. To that effect, WorldDAB’s recently updated User Experience Design Guidelines aim to inform car makers on how best to display radio in the connected dash.
2019 shaping up to be a year of digital transformation and the opportunities are there for those willing to cooperate, share best practice and work together to ensure a bright future for digital radio. The newly created WorldDAB Asia Pacific Committee, which will focus on spectrum planning, DAB network design and implementation, will also help facilitate the collaboration across the radio industry, though ultimately, digital radio remains free, live and local while also offering a wide range of choice, and for these reasons, it will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future.