Steve Penk: Bleak future for DAB radio sales

OPINION: I read with interest today a survey released from Ofcom. The subject heading was ‘Likelihood of purchasing a DAB set’.

Percentage of respondents who listen to the radio but currently have no DAB set in the home, how likely is it that your household will get a DAB radio in the next 12 months?

21% said they are very unlikely to buy a DAB radio.

25% said they are certain not to buy a DAB radio.

For some, these figures will be surprising and alarming, but I’m not surprised at all by this. Why would anyone at this stage of the DAB revolution feel the need or the desire to go out and buy a DAB radio, when most of what we hear being offered on DAB radio is just a relay or a slight brand extension of what we can already currently hear on FM.

There is nothing innovative, creative, exciting or compelling about putting Radio 2 on National DAB, a radio station that arguably has the best FM transmitters in the country and can already be heard everywhere. There is nothing exciting, interesting or compelling for the listeners by simply offering Capital Xtra, Smooth Extra and Heart Extra on DAB.

Who the bloody hell wants that?

If Global truly believes that the public want even more bland repetitive music, God help us all, but it sure as hell isn’t going to help drive sales of DAB radios, why would it.

Surely the only thing that is going to grow sales of DAB radio in the UK, is to offer the listening public something different on DAB, something they currently can’t get on FM radio. Make it interesting, make it different, make it compelling, offer variety and choice, make people feel like they’re missing out if they don’t own a DAB radio. Simply extending existing brands or relaying already national radio stations on DAB is stupid.

All I’m seeing is those with the deepest pockets get the prime slots regardless of content and diversity, and we then expect the public to rush out and buy a DAB radio, I don’t think so, why should they?

The deepest commercial pockets belong to Global, they have the money, they have the resource, they have the brands, but rolling out Capital Xtra, Heart extra and Smooth Extra offers nothing new and exciting for potential DAB listeners.

Ofcom and Ed Vaizey need to step in and offer some slots on national DAB to stations that can’t afford the huge costs involved, but are different, unique and compelling, and most of all offer something that helps drive interest in DAB, something that makes the public want to go out and buy a DAB radio.

It shouldn’t be a national platform solely for the BBC and the super rich who in most cases are just relaying or watering down already national brands.

Let’s be honest here, I think Global already have a big enough slice of the radio cake and it’s time to stop them driving over everyone else, someone needs to say something and voice concerns.

The public aren’t stupid, although they’re often treated that way, they’re more media Savvy than ever, we all have more choice than ever before via Digital TV, Smartphones, YouTube, plus access to thousands of online radio stations worldwide via Tunein Radio, so if DAB radio growth is to happen in the UK we have to offer something interesting, we have to make DAB Radio different, creative, exciting and compelling, get people talking about it.

Six months ago I was asked to join the Manchester DAB multiplex with the launch of The Steve Penk Wind-Up Channel, a unique radio station and the first radio station of this type/format in the UK.

I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, my style of radio polarises, I polarise, I know the Wind-Ups are not for everyone, but isn’t that what DAB should be about at this stage, offering something different, giving the listener more choice.

Feedback from the public has been amazing and positive, mainly because what I’m offering on this radio station can ONLY be heard on DAB. listeners have actually told me it’s made them go out and buy a DAB radio because they can’t hear anything like it anywhere else. Same goes with Chris Country, Business Radio and New Sunset Radio.

All of these stations are driving people to DAB who wouldn’t normally have listened or bought a DAB radio, surely that’s what we should be doing more of, but on a National platform to help promote DAB radio.

Variety and choice is the only thing that will drive public interest and ultimately growth in DAB radio sales.

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