Countdown to a digital only Norway begins

The Countdown to FMexit is on – a blog by Laurence Harrison, Market Development Director, Digital Radio UK.

I woke up to fresh snow and darkness this morning and went on a brief search for the Bodø Maelstrom. No joy. Harder to find than an FM radio in the run-up to FMexit (as it’s now known).

Less than 24 hours from the FM switch off in Nordland and our colleagues from Digital Radio Norway are still managing to exhibit an outward calm that does them credit. The big pre-switch-off conference must have sounded like a great idea in a team meeting 12 months ago but not so much now, as I suspect they may have a few other things on.

However, once it starts you quickly realise it is important to remind yourselves why and how you got here and the job you’ve still got to do. Digital Radio Norway CEO Ole Jørgen Torvmark tells us his organisation was formed in 2010 to see Norway through a switchover. Public broadcaster NRK and the major commercial broadcasters, now including Bauer, realised that they had to move to DAB+ to allow them to grow and innovate. In particular, the commercial broadcasters saw the opportunity for DAB+ to allow them to compete more effectively with NRK. Sounds familiar. Digital Radio Norway was formed to realise their shared digital vision and they are on the verge of delivering it.

But are Nordland and Norway ready? We hear that national coverage is 99.7% for NRK and 92.8% for commercial radio and all major tunnels and roads are covered. Car conversion, the biggest, fattest elephant in any room of digital radio people, is a hot topic. Only 32% of Norway’s 2.4M cars are digital so there’s a lot of work to do. Apparently 100,000 DAB car adaptors have been sold in the last month and most of them in Nordland. Research shows that half of people will wait to convert when switchover happens and we’ll see how that goes. Finally we hear that 80% of households in Nordland have a digital radio and less than a third of listening is now to FM.

No doubt they would want some of these numbers to be higher, but what shines through is the Norwegian broadcasters’ drive and determination. They know it’s the right thing to do. NRK have introduced 3 new stations on DAB+ for children, teenagers and “experienced listeners” (older people). Teenage digital listening has experienced 2 years of growth. Young people listening to more radio!?! Commercial broadcaster P4 tell us that advertisers are asking for digital inventory and that digital listeners listen to an average of 139 minutes a week compared to 97 on FM. In 4 of the 6 switchover regions, public broadcaster NRK will switch off their FM services a couple of months before commercial radio and that kind of collaboration has helped make it all work.

Our friends at Digital Radio Norway may be a bit frazzled but they’ve not lost their sense of humour. The term FMexit is regularly used with a smile while indulging in some gentle mickey-taking out of us Brits. The moment where a panel of esteemed digital radio experts tried on their new #FMexit beanie hats for the first time will live long in the memory. Bring on FMexit tomorrow.

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