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LONDON — At the beginning of 2020 the radio sector in the United Kingdom reported strong radio listening numbers with the shift to digital listening well advanced and heading for 60% of all listening. Now, a year later with the U.K. still in lockdown and people being urged to stay at home, digital radio is booming.
During the pandemic, radio stations have done an outstanding job in supporting listeners and communities and in turn listeners have spent more time listening to radio and audio content. As a result, broadcasters are reporting increased levels of streaming on digital platforms with listeners discovering new digital stations and more digital stations launching all the time.
Government and Ofcom Support
The U.K. government has continued to support the radio sector through the pandemic with short term financial measures and looking at the long-term health of the sector through the “DCMS/Industry Digital Radio and Audio Review,” which is well advanced and due to be issued later this year.
Another government backed digital radio initiative has been the development of the capability for local stations to broadcast on small-scale DAB and this year media regulator Ofcom has begun to award the first licenses for the first small-scale DAB multiplexes. The Ofcom plan is to license these multiplexes in more than 200 areas across the UK, which will see a significant boost in the number of ultra-local and city commercial and community digital stations launched.
Digital Radio Content Proposition
The digital radio consumer proposition in the U.K. has never been stronger, with more stations than ever before providing unparalleled breadth and diversity of music and speech content, including 54 stations broadcasting on national DAB or DAB+, 125 in London, and many more available locally, online and on smart speakers.
In recent weeks, two new national digital stations have launched, and new major local station launches, and expansions have been announced.
Boom Radio — a brand-new digital station aimed at listeners over 55, launched last week on DAB in London, nationally online and on smart speakers, and in DAB+ in a number of local areas. Boom Radio was conceived by broadcasters David Lloyd and Phil Riley and will offer an alternative for the UK’s 50, 60 and 70-something Baby Boomer population. Listeners can expect a mix of Boomer music favorites from across the decades, along with selected contemporary hits.
We spoke with broadcaster, producer and Boom Radio Cofounder, David Lloyd to find out more. Watch the video here.
Union Jack Radio — Jack Radio Group has launched two new national digital radio stations building on the identity of the Group’s national digital radio station, Union JACK radio. The two new stations are available nationally in DAB+ on Sound Digital, online at unionjack.co.uk, and via their own app.
We had a chat with Dick Stone, JACK Radio Group’s newly appointed Group Content manager about the new stations. Find out what he had to say here.
Absolute Radio — Bauer Media has announced the expansion of its leading digital network, Absolute Radio, with the addition of a new musical genre and increased DAB distribution. Offering greater choice to Absolute Radio’s “gig and guitar loving” audience, Bauer’s Country Hits Radio will be made over and reintroduced as Absolute Radio Country, available online, app and smart speaker, and on DAB in London and a number of local areas.
In London, Absolute Radio 00s will be added to DAB while Absolute Radio 70s and Absolute Radio 10s will be added to DAB+. Sister stations, Absolute Radio 80s and Absolute Radio 90s already broadcast nationally on DAB.
Capital Dance — as well as new digital stations for older audiences, broadcasters have been targeting younger audiences and dance music-lovers with the development of a range of dance-orientated digital stations and services. In Q4 2020, Global launched Capital Dance, joining Heart Dance on national DAB+, while BBC launched BBC Radio 1 Dance on BBC Sounds.
New Digital Radio U.K. campaign
This week Digital Radio UK has launched a major social media campaign, which showcases the span of the digital radio content proposition under the banner of Radio’s Digital Revolution: Listen Right Now.
The campaign highlights the 50-plus national stations, the hundreds of local digital stations, and the thousands of radio podcasts available, targeting a general audience interested in digital radio and young audiences interested in music. The digital radio social media campaign is planned for six weeks throughout February and March and will be followed by a Spring on-air campaign on commercial stations at the end of March and over Easter promoting digital listening and purchasing of digital radio and audio devices. As part of the social media campaign there are 4 video ads featuring leading digital radio presenters. Catch a preview here.
Linked to the “Radio’s Digital Revolution” campaign, Digital Radio UK has developed a digital radio retail e-learning site to help radio and audio retailers and their staff communicate the great content offering from the U.K.’s radio and audio broadcasters and the exciting range of devices for radio listening now available to their customers.
Alongside the microsite, which is available to all retailers, John Lewis & Partners are building the module directly into their internal staff learning management system exclusively for partners. Visit the digital radio Retail E-Learning site here.
The author is CEO for Digital Radio UK.