Satellite switchoff 

21 May 2009 0 tbs.pm/1056 Article text released under the Creative Commons Attribution license Media copyrighted Report an error in this article

Radio Today: Bauer withdraws from Sky platform

If you want further evidence that commercial radio is still in a spot of bother despite a healthy number of listeners, look no further than this announcement that Bauer is withdrawing five of its stations from the Sky satellite platform (Q, Heat, Kerrang, The Hits, Smash Hits), leaving just Kiss and Magic out of the Bauer stable available via Sky.

This is ostensibly for Bauer to concentrate resources on the two ‘biggest’ platforms (DAB and Freeview), although the real replacement/threat for satellite-based radio stations is actually internet audio streaming; something that is not only significantly cheaper from a transmission perspective but a more versatile and flexible medium for home listening.

It will be many years before internet radio seriously threatens either FM or DAB transmissions, but satellite radio’s only potential advantage over internet radio – namely coexisting with television services plus a standard EPG system – won’t be enough to stop a station exodus unless Sky/Astra makes radio transmission costs ridiculously low.

The Freeview platform may still be dependent on a strong transmission signal, but digital terrestrial TV set top boxes are now very cheap and can be easily connected to existing aerial sockets, unlike satellite receivers that often require additional cabling and/or LNB provision to effectively operate.

And why mess around with such a setup for a few extra radio stations when a wireless router is all you need to make internet radio easily available in any room? Or for that matter a DAB radio will easily provide a selection of the most popular UK digital radio stations both around the home and outside as well, sound quality issues aside.

It’s easy to conclude therefore that when combined with a political will to promote the DAB radio platform, satellite radio can end up looking fourth best despite the potential audience numbers that are available, although radio listening via satellite and Freeview platforms is still a minority pursuit compared with FM and DAB radio listening.

Sky did try to make satellite radio listening via its platform more versatile with its Sky Gnome device that allowed its radio stations to be listened to in other rooms, but that idea didn’t catch on and it now looks as if satellite radio has missed its moment altogether.

   

Roger Bucknall

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