UPDATE: MediaCorp to axe digital radio biz

MediaCorp will discontinue its Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) service from 1 December 2011.

The service was launched in 1999 and was slated to be the replacement technology for FM radio. The service was adopted by MediaCorp following the Singapore's adoption of the Eureka-147 Digital Audio Broadcasting System. Benefits touted were a clearer sound quality and the ability to retrieve current information.

However, the service received little draw from audiences.

A statement by MediaCorp said:" ...the effectiveness and reach of DAB has diminished over time with advances in technology which has widened the receptivity of radio through online streaming as well as mobile phone apps."

"Listeners now have a wide range of convenient access to radio alongside the FM services, which continue to provide excellent coverage and listenership in Singapore. Since the launch of the service some 12 years ago, the growth in listenership on MediaCorp's DAB service has remained stagnant."

It added that its online streaming and phone app MeRadio was showing fast growth and serving listeners more effectively than the DAB platform.

Sony Wong, managing director of PHD said multiple factors crippled the potential success of DAB for MediaCorp.

"It is in my opinion that there were several challenges that hinder the success of the local DAB venture - the awareness of DAB, the benefits it translated to the audience was not well publicised, the acquisition of hardware at the users level, and lastly, perhaps the content of the DAB programmes were not properly crafted. On hindsight, MediaCorp could have learned from BBC radio and emulated the key success factors of their DAB service," he said.

Neil Stewart, CEO of Maxus Asia Pacific thinks the closure is simply a reflection of how the technology is facing obsolescence.

"The announcement reflects the reality that a decade is a long long time in technology terms. And with such a huge shift in consumer behavior due to new technologies the way we consume entertainment and content continues to change. Digital radio has suffered from the need to have a singular piece of dedicated equipment - yet my phone can now do so much. As can my ipad or my laptop."

Both Wong and Stewart feel the closure has little impact on advertisers. "Advertisers can still reach music fans via a range of avenues - traditional radio ads and new interactive models suited to tablets and other devices. The one thing constant is the need to keep changing the way we connect and interact with our audience," Stewart said.

MediaCorp's statement also added that as a commercial outfit, it needs to channel resources where the growth engines are and having carefully evaluated the viability of the service, the decision has been made to discontinue the service. MediaCorp will re-deploy all its DAB staff to other operations.