BBC developing hybrid DAB radio service for smartphones

Saqib Shah
October 14, 2014

The BBC aims to boost uptake of DAB radio by launching a new service that it hopes major smartphone manufacturers will adopt in their new handsets.

Partnering with the government and a coalition of radio broadcasters, the BBC aims to woo device makers such as Samsung and Apple to include DAB hardware in their new phones.

As sales of DAB devices continue to decline, the BBC hopes that its new project will boost digital radio listening figures, bringing the service to a broader audience via smartphones.

The hybrid software that the broadcaster is working on combines DAB, FM and Internet radio along with the advanced features of online streaming apps, including extra visual content.

The government’s Communications Minister Ed Vaizey is holding a meeting in Salford today in order to further promote the project among radio executives.

Despite DAB radios going on sale 15 years ago, digital broadcasts account for just a third of listening figures. Overall, broadcast radio remains extremely resilient with 90% of adults tuning in every week, according to Ofcom. Consequently, the government was forced to cancel plans to completely tune out FM transmitters last year.

BBC hopes that its push into the smartphone arena will increase the popularity of DAB among the crucial younger audience demographic. Evidence shows that the boom in smartphone sales is causing users to navigate away from radio toward music streaming services and other multimedia, such as apps and games. A recent study found that on average 15-24 year olds listen to 13% less radio than they did in 2008.

The increased rollout of connected car systems with access to music apps, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is thought to be an additional threat to radio listening figures.

The ‘Universal Smartphone Radio Project’ as the BBC has termed it is also being backed by commercial radio broadcasters from the UK, America and Australia.

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

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