Does a little Australian TV channel give us clues for radio’s future?

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Television, as we know, is changing rapidly – significantly more so than radio. Viewers to live TV are declining, as audiences get more used to on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, Stan, or iPlayer. So, TV platforms are trying new things.

At the beginning of this year, the TV system that I subscribe to – a little Australian set-top-box called Fetch TV – added a new channel. It’s a true-crime channel called Oxygen, run by NBC Universal, and it’s on channel 101.

Oxygen is an interesting model – because it isn’t actually a television channel at all.

Sure, it looks like a television channel. It appears in the EPG alongside all the other television channels, and it has a broadcast schedule, too, 24-hours a day. If I flick through the channels in an evening, I’ll flick past Oxygen just like every other channel. You can watch it just like any other channel – you can watch a show, then the show finishes, then something else will start.

In fact, Oxygen is just a collection of on-demand TV shows. On the TV Guide, it exists as a virtual channel – the EPG slot there to promote the shows available on-demand. When you channel-surf into Oxygen, it isn’t giving you a live TV channel at all – in fact, the show conveniently starts at the beginning. It’s an on-demand service – not a live TV channel. Programming has been chosen based on how well it’ll perform as an on-demand product.

What could radio learn from this?

Imagine – you tune into the radio, and the first thing you hear is your favourite song. Followed by, yes, the live presenters (at least, recorded live five minutes ago). A radio station that gives you the travel at 8.20am and only at 8.20am, because that’s the time you’re just getting ready to drive into work. A radio station that has everything that makes great radio – presenters talking about the football last night, the ride into town today; but a radio station that has nothing that makes for bad radio – no poorly-targeted advertising, no overplaying of my favourite songs.

If we were to think of great music radio as a jigsaw, made from short pieces of on-demand audio content, rather than a live unalterable stream – what would that mean?

That “jigsaw” could be assembled just for me, on my mobile phone. And for you, on yours. And a version of that jigsaw also assembled for those listening on FM – with less of the personalisation, but otherwise should sound virtually identical.

Is the future for radio something which is devised as a collection of on-demand audio, assembled for each listener… and where the FM transmitter is just another listener?

Does radio need a bit of Oxygen?


About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland



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