Friday, 19 December 2008

Digital Radio Working Group - it must be 'Numberwang'!

The Final Report of the Digital Working Group published today includes an "Aspirational Timetable" which, it says, will "act as a useful guide for those working towards digital migration in the coming months and years". The projected dates in the timetable include:
  • End 2010 - "DAB sales to exceed sales of analogue radios"
  • 2014 - "All new cars to be fitted with digital radios"
  • 2015 (approx) - "Migration criteria met"

One of three specified "migration criteria" is:

  • "that at least 50% of total radio listening is to digital platforms"

which would look like this by (year-end) 2015:

How likely is this outcome???

It might prove instructive to re-examine earlier forecasts for digital radio take-up published by three leading stakeholders - Ofcom, RadioCentre and the Digital Radio Development Bureau:



This last graph is interesting because the Digital Radio Development Bureau published progressively less optimistic annual forecasts for DAB set sales in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. Its 2007 forecast only projected figures to 2008. When I enquired in September 2007 why the forecast horizon had been reduced by three years, the DRDB told me:

"The problem with forecasting a cumulative to 2011 is that there are too many variables. If we based it on what there is available now in the traditional radio market, we could certainly come up with a figure. But if, as suggested in the forecast, DAB moves into other form factors, such as mobile phones, docking stations, MP3, MP4 etc, then that 'traditional' figure would be selling the market short and would not be indicative of the potential cumulative market for DAB."

Fifteen months on, DAB has made slow progress moving into these other 'form factors', with mobile phones and cars still on the starting blocks.
Notably, DRDB has yet to publish a 2008 forecast.

None of this statistical evidence offers confidence that the Digital Radio Working Group's "Aspirational Timetable" is anything more than 'pie in the sky'.

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