DAB+ in a Multiplatform World: #DBS2018

Broadcasters gathered in KL to up-skill on digital radio best practice. 

On Monday, broadcasters from around the world convened at a WorldDAB-sponsored workshop titled DAB+ in a Multiplatform World.

The workshop was held in conjunction with the ABU Digital Broadcasting Symposium, running from 5-8 March.  

The session brought together experts in the field to outline the progress in international rollout of digital radio, recent technical developments and featured case studies that highlighted best practice. All speakers made the case for transition from analogue to digital, including how hybrid radio can provide the kind of user experience that audiences have come to expect.

Facilitating the session, Joan Warner, Vice President, WorldDAB (Asia-Pacific) and CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, gave an update on how ASEAN countries can utilise DAB+ to unlock “economies of scale”. While Australia successfully launched DAB+ in 2009, other countries in the region are beginning to follow suit with trials in Indonesia and Myanmar, and Thailand, Malaysia and Laos making plans to go ahead with DAB+ technology. Vietnam is actively investigating digital radio with assistance from WorldDAB.  There is also an emerging interest in India and Sri Lanka.

Reflecting on the increasingly competitive market for audiences, Warner reminded delegates that radio continues to provide a valuable service to the community, and that by being free and accessible for all, digital radio preserves the innate ability of radio to provide connection and to share local stories. “People want more than just music,” she said, referring to the output of music streaming services. Sharing the latest GfK Radio Insights survey data Warner highlighted that 71% of radio listeners agree that ‘radio keeps me company’. 

“From a business perspective, radio must transition from analogue to digital,” said Warner.

WorldDAB’s Project Director Bernie O’Neill said that the earlier barriers to digital radio transition had been largely overcome. “Receivers are no longer an issue,” she said, adding that 60 million have been sold world-wide at a starting price of about US$20. 2,252 DAB services are now on air around the world in 41 countries. “Pretty much all car manufacturers are fitting DAB+,” she said, with 17 million automotive DAB receivers sold to date. 

WorldDAB draws on its global membership and broad expertise to offer local workshops to help countries begin network planning and set up digital radio trials. They will be at Broadcast Asia in Singapore 26-28 June and will run a technical workshop and demonstration 23-27 July in Kuala Lumpur.

Lindsay Cornell, Chairman of the WorldDAB Technical Committee provided a brief technical update, outlining the work being done to standardise protocols so that web developers can more easily work on DAB applications, and so that car-manufacturers can send information to the current owner of a vehicle, as well as protocols for traffic information, and further development in the display of non-Latin text.

Cornell said that the European Broadcasting Union, which develops recommendations for its members about many topics, was recommending that its members “use DAB+ and use hybrid services.” 

Hybrid radio, which switches to an IP signal when the digital broadcast signal has gaps, was further explored by the EBU’s Ben Poor via video from a very snowy Geneva. Poor said that the combination of digital and hybrid radio provides “an improved experience for listeners” and that “hybrid is happening now, it’s not just for the future.”

Nick Piggot, Project Director at RadioDNS implored delegates to use each technology for the best use it had been designed for, and that “our strategic discussion should be about how we cleverly use both technologies to deliver a better experience than one technology on its own.” 

“You may think that what you have on FM now is enough but we consistently get data that says that people, when given the chance, like and appreciate more choices and they increase their radio listening as a result. Hybrid allows you to fulfill audience expectations,” said Piggot.

He went on to strongly encourage the use of metadata, noting that “it makes radio searchable. If you’re not doing good metadata, you will not be found in the future.” Digital radio producers would also need to improve the quality of images being used. The larger displays on car dashboards mean that radio will need to work harder visually to look great and compete with streaming services – see radiodns.org/Audi for an example. 

Australia’s Southern Cross Austereo’s General Manager Dave Cameron described how his stations had used DAB+ to extend their existing brands. Cameron described the “amazing benefits of DAB+” since launch, but admitted that his services were just now coming of age.  Early on Austereo did a lot of experimentation with 17 stations and 22 formats tested, but has essentially ended up doing a “full reboot” on strategy.  Recognising that those new digital-only station brands had “no brand equity and were difficult to promote” and therefore difficult to commercialise, Austereo has moved to create 3-4 sub-brands and complementing formats from the main FM stations, allowing for more cross-promotion.

Reflecting on Austereo’s move to digital radio he said that at first they “were worried we would cannabalise our audience.” 

“We were wrong,” he said. 

“We’ve increased our audience, our revenue.  Our audience stay in the ecosystem (of the main FM station and its sub-brands) which is good for revenue opportunities.

“We’ve re-engineered our whole content department of about a thousand people in Australia to now be multi-skilled. 

“If now when they’re making audio, when they’re creating content, when they’re working with those shows and their talent they’re repurposing that for every other sub-brand of that network so that there’s uniformity, so there’s a consistency in sound, consistency in brand, look and feel, and when you go from one of our main FM channels into one of our DAB sub-brands it sounds like a version of the parent FM station.”

From next week (March 2018), DAB+ ratings will be measured alongside AM/FM ratings. Austereo will aggregate the figures to demonstrate its listening numbers to advertisers.

Tags: | | |