Kurt Hanson, RAIN Founder and CEO of AccuRadio, attended Radiodays Europe (RDE) this week in Amsterdam for RAIN, part of the media partnership between RAIN and RDE. This is Part 2 of his on-the-ground report. See Part 1 HERE.
One of the highlights of the recent Radiodays Europe conference in Amsterdam, attended by more than 1,500 public and private broadcasters from across much of Europe (see Part 1 of my report here) was an update on Norway’s current year-long, region-by-region shutdown of the FM band, designed to move listeners to DAB+ channels.
Moderator — and weekly RAIN contributor — James Cridland (pictured below) opened the session arguing that “All the data says consumers don’t want a device, an app, or data costs. They want live broadcast radio.”
Jacquelin Bierhorst, Director, Digital Radio (DAB+) for the Netherlands (below), gave an introductory presentation on DAB+’s rollout across Europe, noting that 405 million people in 36 countries now have DAB or DAB+ signals available in their markets, that 55 million of those individuals now own receivers capable of picking up those signals, and that in Norway 98% of new cars have DAB+ radios available.
The heart of the session was a compressive presentation from NKR’s Marius Lillelien and P4/MTG’s Kenneth Andressen — two executives from the largest public and private broadcasters in Norway — whose firms are working together to help drive the region-by-region transition over the course of this calendar year.
Lillelien and Andressen pointed out that Norway was a unique country in that it has a very low population per square kilometer, making the physical transmission costs of FM an expensive proposition. Whereas under FM broadcasting the country only had five national brands of radio (plus, of course, local stations), DAB+ now offers 30 to 40 national brands nationwide. “NRK now has channels for everyone from children to people age 60+,” noted Lillelien. (See photo below for relevant station logos.)
Norway’s famed egalitarian attitudes also seemed to play a role as they argued, “When you have FM and digital stations together, you have ‘A’ and ‘B’ class stations. It’s important that every station gets the same status and distribution.”
Another advantage of this deal for commercial stations, Andressen point out, is loosened regulations — e.g., loosening (or eliminating?) the requirement that stations play 35% Norwegian music.
“It’s no secret that the switchover has been controversial,” they noted. That said, they trumpeted a chart showing that in Nordland, the first region in Norway in which FM has been turned off (except for a few small local stations), radio’s daily and weekly reach remains high (although note in the chart below, left-hand side, that the “after” column includes 12% “Longer ago than last month” — i.e., ever) and that reach for music streaming did not increase.
One reason a showdown of FM seemed mandatory, they explained, was that consumers seemed unwilling to transition to DAB+ otherwise, with 59% of consumers surveyed, when asked when they might be willing to install a DAB+ radio in their car, saying “Only when FM is switched off.” (See chart below. ”Better programming,” “a good offer,” and better coverage were insufficient motivators for most respondents.)
They closed showing a TV from NRJ radio that compared the wonders of DAB+ radio to owning a unicorn, listeners puking rainbows, and owning a tree that grows free hamburgers.
To add a little local color here, I should note that I took a slight break during the day to fight jet lag with several cups of cappuccino (pictured below) alongside one of Amsterdam’s famous canals. Amsterdam is a great city, with delicious pancakes, fries (with various sauces), and raw herring; great public transportation (subways, streetcars, and buses); free WiFi at almost every restaurant, bar, and coffee house; and more.
Back at the RAI Convention center, one session of particular interest to RAIN readers was ”Radio in the Connected Home”, moderated by RadioPlayer’s U.K. Director Michael Hill and featuring speakers Jack Wetherill of the consulting firm Futuresource, Nick Hathan (pictured below), Product Partnerships at Google U.K., and Sono’s Global Business Development Director (based in Amsterdam) Mark Vellinga,
In the photo below, Weatherill is suggesting that Voice Personal Assistant-enabled speakers (“VPA speakers”) such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home may have a significant impact on radio’s future, as all of them may be good substitutes for kitchen, bedroom, and other tabletop radios, with, he predicted, 22 million in use in western Europe by 2019. Their success could widen radio’s potential audience, could accelerate the shift from AM/FM/DAB to IP-based delivery, and/or could raise challenges about how one’s broadcast station is discoverable among 100,000 other options.
Sonos’s Vallinga (pictured below, at left) noted that in the U.S., listening on Sonos devices is mainly to Pandora; in the Netherlands, radio is still ahead, and in the U.K., listening is split about 50/50 between streaming services and radio.
In a panel called “Creating Podcast Success” and moderated by Matt Deegan (below, at center), Edison Research’s Tom Webster (to Deegan’s right) pointed out that podcast discovery is difficult, as it is “too much under Apple’s inscrutable control,” argued that cross-promotion between different podcasts, as done so well by NPR, is currently the most effective promotional approach, and that podcasting now supports multiple financial models, including subscriptions, brand advertising (thanks to brand-lift studies), and even traditional recorded spots.
Podcaster Cathinka Rondon (at right above), of Norway’s Ulost, when asked by Deegan, “If you went back from podcasting to broadcast radio, what learning would you take with you?”, replied ”Talking like a normal person” (i.e., instead of using a traditional “radio announcer” voice).
Radiodays Europe will spend an entire day focusing on podcasting at its upcoming “Podcast Day” conference to be held on June 15th in Copenhagen.