A couple of interesting stories today with news that finally there’s a signed agreement to rollout local DAB coverage to 91.2% of FM equivalence. This has been a little while coming – to say the least – but now it’s here and the first of 182 new transmitters should be built in March.
Why 91.2% of FM equivalence? Well it’s a very nuanced balancing act with hundreds of transmitters required to cover every nook and cranny of the country. And the closer you get to 100% the gains disappear quickly. You might have to spend thousands of pounds on a transmitter that will only reach tens of people.
And the good news is that on many of those local transmitters, there is space for new services. While it’s an expensive way to reach a national audience, it becomes more achievable if you want to reach a local audience (And yes, I appreciate that cost is in the eye of the beholder – for some smaller ILRs or community stations, local DAB remains beyond their means).
The other interesting news is that UTV is reported to be considering selling its portfolio of English local services to concentrate on Talksport and its TV services including the just-launched Ireland Live, which has snaffled many of TV3’s ITV shows.
Media Guardian speculates that UKRD or Orion might be interested. I think it’s less likely that Bauer or Global will be rushing out because there are probably some ownership issues with either group snapping them up. And following Global’s tortuous negotiations over its GMG acquisition and subsequent sale, they’re probably not up for the fight. Bauer already has a position of strength in the north of England, and while it could strip costs out of the
What’s perhaps more interesting is who ends up selling the services, and do they do a licencing deal and re-brand? The former is especially important because Bauer and Global have the radio marketplace sewn up between them. The stations would instantly have improved revenues if either sales house represented them. If Communicorp bought them, then expect the services to quickly adopt Global brands and for Global to sell their national advertising.
The irony is that a sale to a group that hands the national sales contract to Global or Bauer, will only make life a little more difficult for Talksport who effectively stands alone in the radio marketplace. They have a strong proposition, but share deals mean that no matter how good that might be, they’re left with a diminished share to fight for.