Patrick Hannon is president, WorldDAB.
store for the radio industry in 2018? Over the next few weeks, we’re publishing
a series of interviews with thought leaders from around the globe in various
segments of our business. We ask them to weigh in about specific trends and
stories they’ll be watching this year. Patrick Hannon is president WorldDAB and VP Corporate Development at Frontier Silicon.
Radio World: What
do you see as the most pressing technology challenge facing radio broadcasters
Patrick Hannon: The key challenge is to
maintain radio’s share of ear in an increasingly digital world.
United Kingdom, broadcast accounts for 62% of audio consumption (all of
which is to radio).
In contrast, online accounts for about a quarter of audio
consumption, but only one third of that listening is to radio. As online
consumption of audio content grows, radio risks a gradual erosion of listening
retain its leadership position, radio needs a two-strand strategy. On the one
hand, it needs to compete proactively online, through platforms such as
Radioplayer — but the overriding priority must be to ensure that broadcast
radio remains as strong a proposition as possible.
stations need a strategy where free-to-air broadcast platforms offer compelling
and innovative new services. As analogue spectrum is full, the best way of
achieving this is to offer listeners exciting new services on DAB/DAB+. In
parallel, broadcasters should ensure that DAB coverage is at least as good as
FM and new services are promoted effectively.
from the U.K. underlines the importance of having a robust digital broadcast
platform. Today, digital accounts for 49% of all radio listening (up
from 46% a year ago). Significantly, this growth is being driven by DAB
(36% of total listening — up from 32% a year ago), whereas online
listening has remained flat year-on-year at 8% of total radio hours. For
radio to prosper in the coming years, a strong digital broadcast platform is
RW: What consumer electronics trends will
have the most impact on how consumers interact with radio and audio media?
Hannon: An obvious area of growing
importance is voice-enabled devices. Early evidence suggests that a high
proportion of online listening via these devices is to live radio — this is
positive news. One word of caution: broadcasters should ensure they do not
become over-dependent on the gatekeepers of these platforms.
RW: What do you think will be the
prevailing tech trends for the next three years?
Hannon: There will be great
excitement about voice recognition and artificial intelligence. Also we will
see major changes in the automotive sector with the rise of the connected car.
For broadcasters, maintaining a prominent positon in-car will remain a key
RW: What technology trends or changes
should we be watching for as regards digital radio?
Hannon: A key
development is likely to be in the area of receiver regulation — an issue where
there were several important developments toward the end of 2017.
significant was in Italy, where in December a law was passed requiring all
radio receivers (consumer and automotive) to be capable of receiving digital
transmissions from Jan. 1, 2020.
has a similar law, which will be triggered when DAB+ coverage exceeds 20% of the population. In a statement published at the end of December, regulator,
the CSA, confirmed that this threshold is expected to be passed in 2018.
for regulation at a European level is also growing. In October, the European
Parliament confirmed its support for legislation in the European Electronic Communications
Code (EECC) that would require radios to be capable of receiving digital
signals. In December, the German Federal Council (representing the Länder) also
announced its support for such legislation.
In total, stakeholders from
11 different countries have asked for receiver regulation. We now enter the “trilogue”
phase of EU discussions, which involve the commission, parliament and member
states. We expect to see outputs from these discussions later this year.
RW: Norway’s digital radio switchover drew
a lot of attention this year, what progress do you expect specifically for DAB+
digital radio in 2018?
Hannon: Established markets in Europe
and Asia Pacific will continue to make excellent progress — in particular
Germany where we’ll see more news on the second national multiplex and France,
which recently announced an acceleration of its DAB+ rollout.
There are also several new
countries looking at DAB trials in central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East
and Asia Pacific. We’re hoping to see trials and progress in Thailand and
Indonesia and, as the large populations of these two countries further explore
the benefits of DAB+, receiver sales will grow and prices will continue to fall.
We’re also expecting to see more
cars sold with DAB fitted as standard, as all major manufacturers now offer
digital radio and the first hybrid radio services are starting to hit the
This year we’ll also see the
full impact of Norway’s digital switchover, with new listening figures expected
in Q1 along with a final report to government and we’re also expecting to hear
more from Switzerland on their switchover timetable, currently planned to start
For the U.K., 2018 will be a
watershed year, when we expect digital for the first time to account for more
than 50% of all radio listening. This will trigger a review by
government of the UK’s digital radio roadmap.
The challenge will be to
balance the needs of listeners, broadcasters and industry. A clear lesson from
Norway is that setting a date for digital switchover is a critical factor in
focusing the minds and actions of players across the radio ecosystem to achieve
a specific goal (i.e. the switch-off of FM).
For the U.K., we need a
coherent roadmap which:
1. Sees the ending of the sale of analog-only
2. Meets the expectations of the automotive
industry, which has invested heavily in fitting DAB / DAB+ in almost 90%
of new cars
3. Sets a timeframe for switchover, whilst
ensuring no cliff-edge loss in listening when FM signals are switched off.
RW: How do you expect home and in-car
receivers prices to evolve in 2018 ?
Hannon: The growth in the volumes of
receivers sold will help deliver economies of scale. For entry-level products,
especially in newer DAB+ territories, this is likely to lead to lower prices.
For higher spec devices, rather than seeing price erosion, we are more likely
to see the inclusion of additional features, such as Bluetooth and voice
control, which will enhance the user experience.
RW: Where do you learn about new
technology each year, what trade shows or information sources?
Hannon: The WorldDAB General Assembly
and Automotive events provide an excellent opportunity to meet new people and
hear from a good cross-section of the industry. For other shows and events, we
attend IBC, IFA, EBU Radio week along with regional events and workshops and of
course keep up to date with Radio World and the latest news from the EBU, ABU