The DAB challenge: most radios stay tuned to one station most of the time

A ‘thought piece’ by Ipsos MediaCT, entitled ‘The Future of Radio’, identified the many challenges for the government’s proposed digital radio switchover to be successfully implemented by the 2015 target date:

• digital listening share has to more than double in just four years
• the UK’s DAB coverage [..] is currently around 90%, but there is now the need to extend it across all the UK population
• a requirement to improve the quality of [DAB] reception and sound
• the issue of people having to replace their analogue radio sets
• less than 1 in 10 of these [existing radio] sets is DAB, so a very significant number of replacements need to be sold
• all manufacturers are committed to producing sub-£20 sets in the next two years
• more digital radios need to be fitted in new cars and more digital converters need to be sold for existing cars
• take-up of digital platforms has been steady, but not remarkable
• digital listening has a long way to go to meet the Government’s targets
• there are a number of barriers to overcome to meet the demands of the Digital Britain Report, which require investment – in a recession – and co-operation between manufacturers and broadcasters
• DAB will have to be marketed properly and quickly

A Capibus study conducted by Ipsos found that a high proportion of radio receivers were tuned to the same station most of the time:
• 86% of kitchen sets
• 79% of bedroom sets
• 74% of living room sets
• 70% of car radios

Ipsos asked:

“What happens when the switchover occurs and the station now only broadcasts on DAB? Do listeners go out and buy a new DAB set for each room in the house or switch their listening to another station or stop listening? This will be a major issue for stations and their audiences. It will be the listener who will be in control of radio’s digital destiny.”