OSLO � It�s been about two months since the last of the national FMs were shut off in Norway. Listenership number continue to come in, and they�re worth looking at for us, despite the fact that there are no plans whatsoever to �sunset� the FM bands here in North America. What, if any, lessons can be learned from the way listeners are reacting there?
On Jan. 22, the Norwegian Media Authority published some results (from surveys conducted by Kantar Media) that show local FM stations (not subject to the shutdown) have, not surprisingly, increased in listenership, according to radionytt.no. �Local radio� has seen a 20% increase, year-over-year comparing 2016 to 2017. At the same time, the national networks, now only available over-the-air as DAB+ stations, have seen decreases in listenership. Norway�s public broadcaster NRK has seen the most decrease.
Despite the growth in use of local FM radio, overall in Norway radio listenership has declined year over year, with the exception of the Troms and Finnmark region, which had more radio listenership in the fourth quarter of 2017 than it did in the same period on 2016: Total radio broadcasting increased from 65.2 to 67.4% during the period.
�That the digital radio shift would lead to a fall in [listenership] in 2017 did not come unexpectedly.�It is also natural that NRK is experiencing the biggest fall since they first switched off their FM broadcasts in most regions," said Mari Velsand of the Media Authority, quoted in the same article. She also expects that the total radio broadcasting will increase somewhat and stabilize in 2018.�
Can we conclude anything from the results thus far? Probably not; I would say a couple of more years would be needed to really see how OTA radio is doing in Norway. (Radio set sales are up in Norway, so we can see how those sales trend.) Here in North America, with ever-increasing competition from streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, (not to mention the likes of SiriusXM) it would seem suicidal (from a business standpoint) to actually turn off our most effective means of reaching listeners. The question could then be put: Is it worth investing in digital over-the-air radio, when we see increasing (albeit relatively small now) use of broadband internet for radio? Some European broadcasters are wrestling with that question. This is a topic we will continue to closely watch � as you should.�