So, you don't think internet radio (or IP-delivered radio) is going to become the main platform for radio delivery in the long term?
The majority of listening will still be broadcast. How do you monetise streaming to, for example, eight million Terry Wogan listeners… or seven million Chris Moyles listeners, every morning? There is no business model that I am aware of – or that anybody I've spoken to is aware of – that would allow you to convert those eight million Terry Wogan fans to IP-delivered radio. Nobody could handle the streaming that would be necessary to deliver it to them. It is just a nonsense!
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Where do you think this anti-BBC and anti-DAB sentiment comes from that we read about on various media-focused and technology media outlets?
A lot of the bad feeling about DAB is around the bit-rate issue. It certainly started there, at least. And this is fair enough, because in the very early days when the BBC started talking about and promoting DAB – they talked about it as a replacement with the main benefit of improving the audio quality of radio listening. And that held for a while and then they realised that that was wrong. They realised that there were other, more important, benefits. One of them was 'potentially' better audio quality, for sure, but that was actually seen to be the least important benefit, from the consumer perspective.
For consumers, more content is easily the number one benefit of DAB. Ease of use, boring though that may be, is number two. Extra functionality (boring as it may sound from our perspective, but that scrolling text is really, really appreciated by people) is number three. And number four is sound quality. And it was on realising this was the case that the BBC made the extra effort to get the extra digital channels out there –that's when DAB took off. And they [the BBC] were absolutely right to do it. And they absolutely pissed off a small number of people.
But the fact of the matter is that if you ask DAB listeners 'are you unhappy, happy, or very happy with the audio quality of your DAB radio?' then the vast majority are either happy or very happy. The tiny minority that isn't just happens to be very vocal.
What are the differences between DAB and DAB+?
Technically, with DAB+, it is predominantly a new codec – AAC version 2HE – which is more modern and provides you with about three times the compression. That allows you to do one or two things, or a combination. As the audio-unhappy ones would like, it would allow you to massively increase the audio quality for the same bitrate. Or, which is much more likely from the broadcaster's perspective – as they understand that it's content that drives digital radio – you could have three times as many stations.
Or you could have a combination of the two. You could improve the audio quality of all or some stations slightly and drop in more stations. Ultimately, it's going to be some sort of sensible mix along those lines. So, that's what DAB+ gives you. But, of course, you need a DAB+ radio to receive and decode it, because it is a more complex codec and it requires a chip that's a bit more powerful than the one in the majority of radios currently out there.