Embrace innovations in audio: Joan Warner at #DBS2020

At this week’s ABU Digital Broadcasting Summit in Malaysia, Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner shared with Asian broadcasters the ongoing work being done in Australia to expand the offerings of digital radio and reach audiences on many devices, especially smart speakers.


“In 2019 we celebrated 10 years since the launch of DAB+. 49% of Australian households now have access to a DAB+ digital radio device at home ,work or in a vehicle,” said Warner.

2.5 million DAB+ devices have been sold to date and there are nearly 3 million new vehicles sold with factory fitted digital radios. Digital radio has rolled out beyond the original five capital cities and now includes most of Australia’s main cities. The next city planned to introduce DAB+ broadcasts is the Gold Coast.

The 2020 Roadmap

“While not overlooking the success of traditional radio, if we are to remain competitive within the market and maintain our position as leaders… we must welcome the new opportunities… and embrace innovations in audio,” Warner told delegates, outlining advances in podcasting, measurement, artificial intelligence and new techology, including smart speakers.

2 million people listen to podcasts each day in Australia. Podcasts (7.3%) have overtaken owned music (7%) for the first time when it comes to time-spent-listening. Last year podcast listening was 3.8%.

She also outlined the introduction of the podcast ranker was introduced at the request of advertisers, who wanted a standardised way to compare the audiences for various podcasts.

Smart speakers

2.7 million people in Australia (13% of population) own a smart speaker and the number is increasing rapidly. CRA is working with platforms such as Amazon and Google to make radio easy to discover and access via voice control and digital assistants.

The aim is for people to be easily able to access radio and podcasts on smart speakers and mobile phones. A joint marketing campaign with smart speaker manufacturers is planned for later this year.

The industry body has worked hard with smart speaker companies to ensure that raid stations can be found on request no matter what variation of the station name people use. Some listeners may request ‘triple j’ while others may say ‘jay jay jay,’ or some may ask for ‘3AW’  while others request ‘3AW 693.’ The voice controlled AI mechanism in smart speakers must be able to recognise all the variations of the name and deliver the correct station to the listener.

“The work we did with Amazon meant that for 328 stations we have 3645 ways to ask Alexia to find those radio stations, and they all work. We are constantly working with amazon to keep all those up to date.

“We are also working with Google aiming for 98% accuracy for stations requested on google home and google nest speakers.”

She also spoke about the RadioMATRIX ad booking platform, explaining that the system streamlines the booking process and in the future will give buyers the ability to understand who is listening to their ads and monitor their bookings.


In the same session, Steve Ahern discussed new trends in radio, tv and OTT transmission, telling delegates:

“Southern Cross Austereo decided to sell its transmitters to BAI Communications (formerly known as Broadcast Australia) to get better value for the company. SCA’s CEO believes ‘transmission is now a level playing field, there was no competitive advantage in owning the transmitters any more.’ He would rather spend all the CapEx money on hiring the best talent and producing the best content. He also wanted to stabilise the balance sheet.”

Ahern compared the “lumpy” cost cycle of equipment buying, maintenance and replacement with the more evenly distributed costs of hiring or sharing transmission costs.

“With so many new competitors to deal with, but less reliable revenue, it is not so easy to go to governments or your owners to ask for more money when you want to replace your transmitters, so more and more broadcasters are doing what was unthinkable years ago and working with their competitors in the area of transmission.”

He gave the example of the ABC and WIN forming a joint venture Media Hub, which delivers playout to terrestrial transmitters and also transcodes content for delivery on other platforms.

Another example is ALEF Technology, a Dubai/Afghanistan company that delivers storage, playout, archiving, compliance monitoring and OTT services from its IP playout centre (slide from presentation below).

Ahern concluded by urging broadcasters to rethink their business models and question whether they can do things more efficiently, in different ways, with new technology in today’s more competitive environment.

Find more reports from DBS2020 on our sister site www.AsiaRadioToday.com

Photo credit: Nadzim Zainal, ABU


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