I like the music without the interruptions: Comments on SCA’s breakfast experiment

Last week we brought you the news that SCA’s Adelaide stations were trialing a new system which allowed the local breakfast hosts to be heard across all the network’s DAB+ stations, as well as on the main FM station in the market.

SCA’s Grant Blackley told radioinfo about it saying, “it is a test of what can be done… We know that local audiences want to laugh, get the news and be informed about things happening in their cities at breakfast time… If this works it will give a high level of personalisation, with different music choices for listeners.”

Reader comments were mixed, with some priasing the technological initiative, but others criticising the move for compromising the more music nature of the digital formats.

Jose Auditore commented:

I think this is a terrible idea. I listen to different SCA stations on DAB at home, work and in the car in Sydney Melbourne and Brisbane because I like the different content on each one and until recently, stations like Buddha and Ol’ Skool had a lot fewer ads and ad breaks and no breaks for news and traffic etc.

But now, on every SCA DAB station you’ll get the same breakfast show but with different music and no forward or back announcing any songs.

So Jamie Angel or Fifi Box will play Pointer Sisters I’m So Excited but on Buddha you’ll hear Jamie and Fifi do their breaks followed by Lana Del Rey, on Ol’ Skool it might be Outkast, on SCA Dance Calvin Harris, on SCA Easy, Smooth Operator (or other songs of similar length). So we’ll get the same comps and teasers and other talk and speed breaks across every station.

That’s not why I listen to Buddha and Dance and the other stations. I like the music without the constant ads, interruptions and other elements that make up a hosted breakfast show and sometimes, the things that HIT 105 or FOX do in breakfast aren’t really suitable for stations like SCA Easy because it’s a lot more talk for breakfast on stations that normally just play music and less ads.

SCA testing in Adelaide but it won’t be long before it rolls out right across the whole country and that means finding an alternative where the same show isn’t streamed across six different stations.

Jose, who is the moderator of the Radio Green Room facebook group, listened further and added a few more observations for radioinfo:

I’ve noticed the breaks are lining up on all the SCA HIT DAB stations already and not just at the top of the hour where there is news on the main 2DAY or FOX station but right across Buddha, Old Skool, Dance, Urban etc.

On the weekend every station was playing some sort of live festival with all live tracks and most of that music didn’t fit on Easy or Buddha or Urban. So Buddha no longer has a good run of songs and pretty soon it will have more interruptions, every time Fifi Fev and Byron or Jamie Angel turns on the mic.

And the other thing is that Buddha and Easy are supposed to be relaxing but in the breaks now they both have very loud ads for JB Hi Fi with a guy shouting and other ads that just sound like an anomaly so it completely takes away the mood of the station.

Smooth and 2CH wouldn’t allow an ad with yelling to go to air but SCA are just letting anything go on in the breaks because it sounds like no one internally is listening to the output.

In the Radio Green Room group there were about 100 responses to the SCA initiative and Jose’s comments, some for and some against. A selection of the most interesting comments is reprinted below (with permission).

  • I wonder if the ‘research’ about the DAB stations has been along the lines of “Great music but I also like the personal touch of an announcer”. I have always said that the networks could use the DAB stations as training grounds for their next wave of announcers. It’s easy to pay for, and the CD/PD/MD could think outside the box and only have a short talk break every 4 songs. Cruisy role if you can get it.
  • Absolute Radio in the UK was one of the first to do this – about 6 or 7 years ago, with Christian O’Connell. The response from listeners was also mixed – with many people stating what you mention above, Jose. Regardless, they are still doing it…
  • Is anyone really surprised,?
  • These DAB+ stations should be used for one of 2 options:
    1)- A place to breed new talent & develop content for transition onto the main station (as someone suggested above), or
    2)- A place where listeners have an alternative to endless ads & talk breaks if that’s what they want – in other words, a place where the old adage “shut up & play the next track” can still ring true.
    Why give digital multiplex channels to commercial operators & shut out the rest if all groups like SCA want to do is share the same programming across all of them? It’s a waste of spectrum bandwidth & will no doubt drive listeners off your network for good, not to mention the format clashes that Jose mentioned.
  • Regardless it’s a massive technical achievement. Programming tunes of same length on 6 stations must be a head-f*&k of immense proportions.
  • I agree with you on the technical side – that is a hell of a challenge if all talk breaks are live!
    However, just because they can do something, doesn’t always mean they should.
  • Jose you are 100% correct. They aren’t “listening” to their listeners. It just demonstrates an ignorance as to how music today is consumed. Listeners will take their tastes elsewhere – and there’s an increasing number of choices outside of a traditional radio spectrum to access. The “powers” just don’t know or understand their audience.
  • Time Shifting is very clever and can be put to good use especially if running shows across many markets. The challenge I see is music being a big part of the energy and flow in a show, especially breakfast.
    Being in the studio effectively voice tracking breaks in breakfast could prove difficult to maintain energy and flow that fits with the songs. iHeart does a little of this in the US where local markets play their own songs and spots then meetup with network program.
    It can work if done right.
  • I mean it was just a test, doesn’t mean it will happen or rollout in the same way it was tested. I’m sure they’ll look at listener feedback ect. Before making any rash choices.
  • I used to enjoy some of the Digital station as an alternative to my i-Tunes, but now I can’t listen because of the ads and annoying promos for stations I don’t listen to.
  • SCA are clearly just focused on quantity over quality. They’re running most of their digital stations on 40kbps in Melb so they might as well drop music completely. No real music fan or audiophile could really appreciate listening to them for the music at that bit rate. ARN and Nova are no better with some of their stations only running 32 kbps. So much for improved sound quality on DAB!
  • You’d think that the setup would be really restrictive, but it’s actually pretty flexible. The anchor can drop songs, move songs around anywhere within the show, drop commercial breaks (yikes! naughty!) and can even add content to commercial breaks in the hit log. Get this, if they add or erase content from/to a commercial break, all the DAB stations commercial breaks will shrink/grow to meet the length of the matching block. Adding songs that weren’t scheduled in the log to start with is a bit more time consuming.. But being a radio guy, you’d know that it’s not uncommon for a Music Director to burst into the studio brandishing a blunt but harmful iron implement to take on he who dares to touch the music log. Or at least get pretty cranky.
  • It’s undeniably a great technical feat that RCS and SCA’s boffins have achieved here, and kudos to them for pushing playout tech to new limits.
    Given the timing of the launch (i.e. close to the end of the 2019 ratings season), the choice of a relatively small market, and SCA’s prior form of using DAB+ as a test lab for various formats over the years, I don’t expect this experiment to become a permanent thing on DAB+ in Adelaide (or anywhere else for that matter).




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