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Digital Initiatives Look to Give Radio a Boost in Western Europe

Audi, Radio France plan new ways to access content

September 1, 2017 | Media & Entertainment

Digital radio is getting a boost in Western Europe. UK-based Radioplayer recently announced a deal to put smart radios in Audi automobiles, while Radio France will soon let its listeners curate their own playlist of the public service broadcaster’s content.

Radioplayer is a digital radio platform first launched by the BBC that’s now owned by a consortium of UK radio broadcasters. It allows radio listeners in the UK to stream broadcasts from more than 400 UK radio stations through web browsers, mobile devices and other connected devices.

In February 2017, it debuted Radioplayer Car, a voice-controlled “hybrid” radio receiver that allows older car stereos to switch between FM, digital audio broadcasting (DAB) and streaming options to find the strongest signal.

This week, Radioplayer announced that Audi would become the first car manufacturer to place the hybrid radio technology in its new cars. According to a Radioplayer spokesperson, it will be available in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Canada and Peru.

The new hybrid radios will also feature an application programming interface (API) that allows for the creation of personalized radio recommendations, search results and other content.

The Audi agreement comes as radio listeners in Radioplayer’s home market of the UK increasingly turn to digital options. More than 61% of adults in the UK listened to radio on a digital platform on a weekly basis in Q2 2017, according to Radio Joint Audience Research Limited (RAJAR) - UK, Ipsos MORI and RSMB.

In addition, the researchers found that 48.7% of radio listening during the quarter was done through a digital platform, up from 45.3% in Q2 2016. Digital radio is now closing in on parity with AM/FM broadcast listening in the UK.

UK Weekly Radio Reach and Listening Share, by Platform, Q4 2016-Q2 2017 (% of population and % of total)

When that happens, the country’s government has suggested that a planned phase out of older radio technology will be triggered, akin to the complete digital switchover that occurred in Norway earlier this year.

Digital radio listening in France is on a similar trajectory, but is at a much earlier stage of adoption.

According to data from industry group WorldDAB, household penetration for DAB stood at just 12% as of April 2017, compared with 58% in the UK. DAB rolled out to Paris, Nice and Marseille in 2014, while Strasbourg, Lyon and Lille joined the list of cities with DAB stations this year. And in July, the country’s electronic media regulator began a push to accelerate digital broadcasting’s deployment throughout France.

Internet radio penetration among internet users ages 15 and older in France stood at 35.0% as of Q4 2016, according to Médiamétrie. Meanwhile, time spent with traditional radio has been slipping by a minute or two each year since 2014, according to Médiamétrie data cited in a Zenith report released in May 2017.

A new initiative by public service radio broadcaster Radio France could further spur the country’s digital radio listening. This week it announced a plan to launch One World of Radio France, an app that allows listeners to cherry-pick content from across the spectrum of Radio France’s seven stations, according to business newspaper Les Echos.

Radio France plans to launch the One World app in the first quarter of 2018.

—Cliff Annicelli

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