To remain competitive radio operators are turning to digital streaming as part of their long-term digitisation strategies: PWC

21ST edition of PWC’S Annual Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook has been released and provides a range of potential outcomes.

These are based on Australia’s progress against factors largely outside the control of the industry, including the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, regional and overseas geopolitical instability, and their effects on supply chains, plus the impact of macro economic turbulence in Australia having the potential to affect business and consumer confidence.

For radio there is plenty to be optimistic about as the report has found that, despite some perceived uncertainty, consumers are continuing to habitually use online streaming platforms for radio, podcasts, music and audiobooks at high rates, supporting a year-on-year increase of total Listen revenue of 11.4 percent, and that total Listen revenue is forecast to reach A$3.7 billion by 2026.

Broadcast radio has successfully transitioned to “audio” as digital streaming and podcasts drove both listener growth and listenership.

The podcast sector has also grown significantly driven by an expanding listener base and diverse content library, with podcast advertising now one of the fastest growing channels in audio media.

According to PWC, radio is is slowly recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, reaching a total revenue of A$1.07bn in 2021, and is forecast to return to prepandemic revenue levels in 2024.

Digital audio listenership, which includes live AM, FM and DAB+ radio and catch-up radio programmes listened to via online streaming platforms, reached record highs in 2021, and according to the sixth annual Infinite Dial Australia study, published by Edison Research, the number of Australians listening to online audio each week grew by 8 percent, reaching a total of 71 percent of the population.

The average time spent listening to online radio audio also increased to 13 hours and 31 minutes per week, up from 12 hours and 11 minutes last year.

PWC says that in response, radio operators are increasingly turning to live and on-demand streaming services as part of their long-term digitisation strategies, which already appears to be paying off.

SCA’s LiSTNR network hit a record high of 10.9 million active streams in May 2021, up 20 percent on the same month in 2020, and Nine was also reported to have reached a record high of 11.2 million streams in July 2021.

With 2021 recording the highest level of growth and migration of people from metropolitan to regional centres HT&E’s acquisition of Grant Broadcasters is expected to contribute to the forecast sector revenue and listenership growth.

The report also says the line between radio and podcasting is becoming increasingly blurry as radio continues to develop its digital offerings and podcasts make their way onto linear radio.

For radio operators one of the primary methods adopted is the conversion of live radio talk shows into catch-up podcasts, while some of the major industry players have acquired podcast assets for broadcasting and streaming.

For example, in December 2021 SCA acquired kids radio and podcast company Kinderling to add to its LiSTNR inventory.