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This news follows recent national FM switch-offs and transitions to digital radio

OSLO and BERLIN — In a recent article , I wrote that we can gain some sort of idea about how radio listening in Norway will trend based on the sales of radios there. If you agree with that then you will likely agree that there is likely to be an uptick in the use of radio there, even after the FM switch-off.

Over the course of 2017, while the nationwide FM networks were being switched off, Norwegians bought 1.1 million home and portable radios and 700,000 DAB+ adaptors for in-car use, along with 159,000 cars with pre-installed DAB+ radios, according to Radio.no . Prior to last year sales of radios were typically around 750,000 pieces including home and car products. By November 2017 85% of Norwegian households owned at least one DAB+ radio and 49% of all Norwegian private cars had a DAB+ radio (Digital radio survey, Kantar Media).

Meanwhile, the number of cars sold in Germany with digital radios installed has almost doubled since 2016, with The German Automobile Trust (DAT) announcing in its 2018 annual report that the take rate of new cars sold in Germany with DAB+ radio in 2017 was 39.1%. In 2015 only 13% of new cars were sold with DAB+ radio and by 2016 it was 21%. The data is based on surveys of new car buyers by the Society for Consumer research (GFK, commissioned by DAT), reports WorldDAB.org .

Ninety-eight percent of German highways are covered by the national DAB+ radio network coverage, along with 96% of the German population. National services include three programs from Deutschlandradio and nine from private broadcasters; from 2019 onwards, the national DAB+ offering is likely to increase from 16 to 30 stations. Already, regionally broadcast services include over 150 different DAB+ programs from the ARD regional broadcasters and private broadcasters, according to the same article. 

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It’s too early to tell what the end result will be, we’re anxious to answer this question

OSLO — One of the advantages radio has over the years had with respect to other services like Pandora, Spotify (and other online sources) is that everyone already had one or more radios in their homes or cars.

Now, though, with the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, that advantage is gone, with the possible exception of inside the car.

So the question must be posed: Why would you force all of your listeners throw out all the radios they already have and buy a new one? How many of them will bother? That’s the operative question as we watch the results of the FM switch off in Norway. By the way — though it’s too early to tell what the end result will be, we’re anxious to answer this question and I, for one, can’t help but pour over the initial findings.

“The number of weekly listeners is almost the same as before the switch off. However, the number of daily listeners is down by 463000, according to listening figures just published for January 2018,” reports Radio.no . The Director of Digital Radio Norway, Ole Jørgen Torvmark, thinks that since there are fewer radios in Norwegian households, that there are fewer places and times to listen, thus explaining the drop.

The number of radio devices that can receive national radio stations has been reduced by almost 50% after the FM-switch off, according to the Digital Radio Survey, citing research from Kantar Media. Notably, though, according to the PPM survey (also Kantar Media) almost 3.7 million Norwegians listened weekly to radio in January 2018. That is only 44,000 less than in 2017. 2.6 million Norwegians listened to radio every day in January 2018, 463,000 fewer daily listeners compared to 2017, according to the same article.

“Our experience from the early switch off regions has shown that the listening figures drop at first, and they then start to rise again when consumers have had time to replace their FM radios,” said Torvmark, quoted in the same article.

Our correspondent in Norway doesn’t share the optimism of Mr. Torvmark. Eivind Engberg, whom we have quoted previously, thinks local FMs will be unprofitable with two–three years, and many of them will have to go dark. “It’s a really bad idea to shut down the FM system. Reason number one is clear: Every listener has access to many FM radio sets these days. So lesson number one is to not shut down the feed that can access millions of receivers and end-users,” writes Eivind. “The second reason: Don’t forget the end users. If they are not happy — then you’re out of business very soon. It’s the end-user that will decide the future distribution of radio — not the broadcasters. If the end-user loves the radio — don’t make him lose the signal so that he’s forced to find other workarounds…then the end-user might end up at Pandora or Spotify.”

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