Smith did not reveal the new station’s language and also indicated that its format has not yet been determined, but he indicated that the network had been researching this endeavor’s feasibility for two years. Once final details are hammered out, Smith predicts the station will be on the air sometime in the next quarter.
“We think there are great opportunities in the UAE market, and we are going to service that; and that is part of our mandate too. We are government-owned and it is important that all communities have their own entertainment,” Smith said.
Digital listenership is another area of focus for the network, and, according to reports, its shows currently attract approximately 3.3 million listeners daily.
“We make up about 54 percent of the overall market share and with the new stations planned, it will definitely grow,” Smith said.
The network is averaging 900,000 unique listeners online through websites, mobile applications and other online feeds, up from about 556,000 in 2011, said reports. The rise of smartphones in the UAE has also raised digital listenership; nearly 800,000 radio apps were downloaded last year, compared to 499,000 in 2011.
“Commercially we are catching up. Currently radio accounts for 4 percent of total advertising revenue, whereas the average globally is about 7 to 12 percent,” Smith said, adding that he sees great potential for market growth.