Radio industry boss: ‘Streaming will never replace radio but the future must be hybrid’


Warner: “DAB+ does not buffer or cause network congestion if large numbers of listeners tune in”

The head of the Commercial Radio Australia has dismissed suggestions there will ever be a time when streaming of radio content on the internet overtakes the terrestrial broadcast of radio.

Joan Warner, CEO of CRA, made the remarks at the media launch of the new LG Stylus DAB+ phone, where she announced the industry would provide $5m in contra advertising over six weeks aimed at promoting the phone, which is the first smartphone device to include a digital radio device.

On the future role of streaming radio, Warner dismissed it as viable replacement to the existing model, saying: “We frequently face the assumption that streaming will eventually or even now is replacing broadcast radio as the main method of listening to radio.

“First of all, it isn’t. Secondly, it can’t. Using streaming over a mobile network to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people – all listening to the same program at the same time in good quality – is not practical, nor technically possible.”

The new LG Stylus phone will target younger consumers at a price of $449.

LG’s new Stylus phone: priced lower to appeal to younger consumers

CRA is currently locked in a stoush which has been dragging on for more than two years with The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia which collects licence fees on behalf of recording artists, and is attempting to get radio broadcasters to pay a second licence fee for the music played on the radio shows simulcast online.

That dispute, which kicked off in late 2013, is currently before the Copyright Tribunal, but has seen a number of regional stations shut down their streaming offerings claiming they could not afford the extra licence money.

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) says it views the launch of the LG Stylus as an exciting development which can help drive growth in the digital radio numbers whose growth has slowed in recent years, at around 2.44m DAB+ devices.

“Commercial Radio is fully committed to supporting this new product and to this end we will be launching an extensive on-air marketing campaign beginning on May 9,” said Warner.

“This will be supported by radio station giveaways, online and station advertising. The promotional value of the campaign over the six weeks of the launch will be around $4m-$5m.”

Warner argued that CRA’s research showed that consumers were concerned about the cost of data in streaming their favourite programs on mobile but conceded that there would be a “hybrid future” for the industry.

“DAB+ does not buffer or cause network congestion if large numbers of listeners tune in,” said Warner.

“With DAB+ and a smartphone you are automatically solving a number of problems; we know that consumers sometimes stream radio on their mobile phones but research conducted for us by The Hoop found that consumers had significant concerns around their data usage, and it was a huge drain on the phone’s battery through streaming radio.

“That is not to say that radio does not consider streaming important – we do, and we believe we have a hybrid future where still the main mode of delivery will be broadcast with DAB+ supplemented or complemented by streaming/simulcast.”

Warner also noted that the integrated DAB+ smartphones would open up opportunities for advertisers and also provide clear consumer benefits.

Consumers will benefit in terms of radio in getting all of their favourite radio stations through their phone,” she said. “They will have access to up to 30 new digital radio stations, offering lots of new formats including a kids’ station, jazz, plus more news, more sport and more talk.

“They will also get broadcast – not via IP – but broadcast live to the screen of the phone; scrolling text, pictures, web links, with offers from advertisers.

“Commercial Radio has developed a tailored user interface that allows users to enjoy DAB+ radio alongside related internet content. Through the broadcast chip users can get station logos, branded landing pages all delivered by broadcast.”

CRA has long had a hostile relationship with streaming and in particular music streaming services, such as Spotify and Pandora, which the industry body insists are not a form of radio. 

Nic Christensen 


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