digital radio

‘The future of digital radio is a bright one’

Digital radio listening figures are on the increase, but device manufacturers are under pressure from the growth in smart speakers


igital radio has been growing for several years, and for the first time accounted for the majority of

listening earlier this year. Digital Radio UK communications director

Yvette Dore comments: “The digital radio market is in great shape and in May we hailed a major landmark with digital listening surpassing 50% share to account for the majority of all listening for the first time. “The UK is among the most developed

markets in Europe for digital radio by every measure and generally, the radio industry is thriving with 90% audience reach and robust revenues for commercial stations, driven largely by the industry’s adoption of digital formats and delivery.” She adds: “The success of digital radio has been driven by a combination of factors - the availability of DAB devices in home and in cars; the development of apps along with the emerging popularity of smart and voice- controlled speakers with IP radio capability; and investment in DAB coverage combined with a huge expansion in the number of digital stations available. “64% of adults now have access to DAB

digital radio at home, and the range, quality and design is greater than ever, plus millions more are listening via the expanding range of smart and voice-controlled speakers. “Additionally digital radio is in over 11 million cars on the road, equating to 33% of all cars in the UK, and 92% of all new cars registered have digital radio fitted as standard.” Roberts chief executive Owen Watters

agrees that digital listening is in good health. He comments: “The digital radio market is buoyant in the UK, with digital listening share now over 50% of the market. The choice of stations has been growing and the consumer has a huge amount of options from talk, music, culture and educational programmes. “However, the challenge for radio device manufacturers is to ensure we remain appealing to the consumer. The consumer has an ever growing amount of devices, from mobile phones, in-car and the latest smart home devices. The market has also commoditised and there are some low priced products in the market from many retailers

Consumers listen to their devices in a variety of ways, and products which offer internet radio streaming or services such as Spotify provide more options

and online players. The brands need to ensure they retain their value in the market.” Ruark sales and marketing David Bannister

adds: “It’s no secret that digital receiver sales have fallen slightly over the past couple of years. With the ‘minor’ distraction of Brexit, a non-committal Government when it comes to switchover dates and the introduction of more competition in the form of connected/ AI products, it’s certainly a challenging time for traditional radio sales. “That said, radio, and more specifically digital

radio, remains popular with music fans. In fact, over 50% of radio listeners now listen to digital radio. At Ruark we continue to see growth with DAB based products with our only true radio product, the R1 unit, up around 7% YTD. This may suggest that the consumer is taking on a more considered purchase than one of impulse.”

‘Consumers like to listen to their music in a number of different ways’ While the proportion of digital listening is growing, it is also important to keep up with how and where consumers are choosing to listen. “DAB is a mature market in relation to consumer electronics, having being launched in 1995 and with a large proportion of the UK

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market owning at least one DAB product at home,” Owen says. “As a mature market, it is important to keep challenging the products and ensure that we have products that appeal and offer value to the consumer. “Smart home devices have proved to be a major challenge, as the consumer can access Internet radio as one of the features of the product and the price offering is hugely competitive and appealing.” David agrees that dedicated DAB-only

products have their limitations, and listeners are looking for more options from their digital radios. “Digital radio today is a more inviting

proposition than it has ever been,” he explains.

“There are now more stations available on DAB than ever before, DAB broadcasts now reach 90% of the population and radio stations appeal to a much broader demographic. “We remain committed to DAB as a

broadcast platform but recognise that today’s consumers like to listen to their music in a number of different ways. Our award-winning range of products now feature a wealth of different functions such as Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Internet Radio, CD, USB file playback and multiroom connectivity. For us it is important to offer customers flexibility, and

September 2018

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