The champagne corks have been popping in the 4 digital group offices this morning, as they hear from Ofcom that they have been successful in their bid to gain 10 national DAB radio licences.
The group, lead by UK TV network Channel 4, has the ambition of providing a serious competitor to the dominant national BBC radio services, to provide a “distinctive and different experience of radio.”
We at Digital-Lifestyles are huge fans of audio, seeing it as seriously under exploited, with the majority of content producers being blinded by the allure of TV. It sounds like 4 Digital will be putting the required effort and talent behind their words.
They plan to achieve this through innovative content and exploiting the technology, in their words “deploy the full potential of digital radio to open up new opportunities for interactivity; develop an enhanced electronic programme guide, screen-based information and mobile television services; and provide specialist traffic and travel information for road users.”
Podcasts will also be central to the offering, with the UK creative industry being offered the chance of growing, with much of the production being handled by external production companies.
The dominant company is Channel 4 Radio Limited, with a controlling 55% slice of the pie.
Four of the other partners Sky News Radio Limited; Emap Digital Radio Limited; UTV Radio (GB) Limited and UBC Media Group plc are media partners, will run stations of their own. The first three have 10% each, with UBC Media have 5%.
The final partner is an interesting choice, The Carphone Warehouse Group plc. They have a strong connection to Da Yoot through their shops, as Da Yoot are endlessly upgrading their mobile phones. This also gives the group a highly visible presence on the high street, through the 650 shops scattered around the UK. They have a 10% interest.
Building the uptake of DAB
The uptake of DAB in the UK has, to date, been driven by the BBC, who had spent a fair bit of airtime telling people how great airtime is. One of the three central strands of the 4 Digital bid was a commitment to spend at least £4.5m marketing DAB, in their words to “provide a level of marketing never before seen in commercial digital radio.”
The government and Ofcom would have loved this, as it takes them one step closer to being able to close down analogue radio transmissions, giving the opportunity to auction the bandwidth, raising extra income.
The losing competing bid was National Grid Wireless Limited.