Friday, 24 July 2009

Digital radio: a European update

This month’s decision by Germany not to invest further public funds in developing the DAB radio platform has inevitably caused reverberations around Europe during the last fortnight. In an article headlined “There will always be FM”, Geneva-based Follow The Media notes that Germany is “Europe’s richest ad market for radio”, ensuring that what happened there would inevitably influence other territories.

In Austria, it is understood that the private and public stakeholders in DAB held an emergency meeting on 17 July to discuss the fall-out from the German decision. Nothing has yet been announced publicly.

In Spain, the Association of Spanish Commercial Radio (AERC) held a General Assembly this week which, amongst other things, considered the progress of DAB in Spain. AERC general secretary Alfonso Ruiz de Assin
concluded: “The DAB system is obsolete in Spain and we have conveyed to the authorities that it is a road to nowhere”. He added that “traditional and digital [radio] will co-exist for a long time”.

In France, the timetable for implementation of its T-DMB digital radio system still looks challenging. The average French household has six radios and it is estimated that the replacement cycle for these will be ten years. From 1 September 2010, radios with display screens will incorporate a digital tuner. From 1 September 2012, all media players, mobile phones and GPS hardware will include digital radio. From 2013, all new cars will be sold with digital radios. Although digital TV switchover in France is happening in autumn 2011, there has been no date set yet for digital radio switchover. Radio station owners have applied to the government for a €16.5m grant to contribute to the costs of simulcasting on T-DMB over the next eight years (estimated at €30k per annum per station per market). The headline of a recent French article asked “Is digital radio success guaranteed?” and
commented that “given the financial constraints required by this new method of distribution, the answer is not so obvious”. It noted that “FM radio will not disappear in the near future and that radio via the internet is increasingly popular”.

Also in France, the National Union of Free Radios has expressed concern that the T-DMB standard (like DAB) will require small stations to broadcast over a large coverage area as part of a cluster of broadcasters from each multiplex. It notes that such an arrangement will prove too expensive for small stations which are seeking an opportunity to go digital at low cost. The Union is advocating the DRM+ standard be used in France alongside T-DMB, and conducted a test broadcast in Paris this week. As one article
noted, “DRM+ has the advantage of being more flexible – it is an opportunity for radio to be broadcast independently outside the big [T-DMB] multiplexes”.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the Financial Times ran a
story today headlined “Digital radio fails in Germany”. Asked about the prospects there for DAB radio, Hans-Dieter Hillmoth, deputy head of the German private broadcasters association (VPRT) said bluntly: “Currently there is no viable business model”. The article noted that, after ten years of DAB in Germany, only 600,000 DAB radios have been sold. In neighbouring Switzerland, it is anticipated that 300,000 DAB radios will have been sold by year-end. DAB radio receiver manufacturers, including the UK’s Pure, had expected to sell 300 million units in Germany. Asked what importance it attached to the German DAB market, global audio manufacturer Pioneer commented “absolutely none”, and it added that the death of traditional analogue radio receivers is “absolutely not in sight”.


Anonymous said...

If 'richest ad market' means that with greatest revenues, this is untrue: Germany's radio ad revenues are lower than the UK's, according to Ofcom. Fig. 6.12

Anonymous said...

"DAB radio receiver manufacturers, including the UK’s Pure, had expected to sell 300 million units in Germany."

300 million What??? With a population of 82 million that's four DAB radios for every man woman and child!!!
Shome Mishtake Shurely??

Grant Goddard said...

From 'New Electronics':

Another contender in the consumer electronics market is Frontier Silicon. Chief executive Anthony Sethill said Frontier isn't just a chip company. "We are also a systems company, which allows us to take our technology to any customer." While Frontier is particularly interested in digital radio and digital audio streaming, Sethill noted the growth in DAB radio has, to date, been 'disappointing'. But he says the market is poised to take off. "There will be a major launch in France next year," he enthused, implying this will be good news for Frontier.

Anonymous said...


This is great news! I had to laugh at Australia's emegency meeting! iBiquity just laid-off Hal Kneller, iBiquity's point-man for their International rollout. Perhaps, this will help kill the rollout of IBOC in the US?

bobyoung said...

Digital radio is not selling here in the USA either, in fact many of us are hoping that it's put out of it's misery soon.