Mock Radio Markets

Okay, didn’t want to take the digital radio thread off topic, so here’s a brand new one for something I think could be a huge flop, or revolutionary for radio in regional areas.

My premise for this thread is that you’re rolling out digital radio into a regional area - you own and operate the only two commercial stations in an area. How would you position your two analogue stations, what digital services would you provide, how do you balance choice for listeners against splitting your audience?

The main thing that got me thinking about this today were the posts about the FM conversion of 3YB, and the place for talk radio once the station moved to FM.

So, may as well use that as a template, and consider a rollout of digital radio by Ace in the Warrnambool market.

Coast FM - “Nothing but hits” - A full time simulcast of the analogue station - keeping their current mostly top 40 format, with occasional 90s/80s.
3YB Music - “The hits you love” - part time simulcast of 3YB FM, opting out to continue playing music during the current networked talk programming.
South Coast Talk Radio - “The Coast’s News, Talk and Sport” - Primarily a 3AW simulcast, but taking any local talk shifts that ‘3YB Music’ opts out of.
Coast Rock - Male skewed 70s to Now rock, similar to the Triple M Greatest Hits feed.
Coast Classics - Female skewed AC/Classic Hits - something like Mix Adelaide/2Day FM.
Coles Radio - This is partly I think something that could help make the financial aspects of digital add up, but also, it is one of the highest rating stations so people voluntarily choose to listen to it
Smooth - Do a deal with Nova, who already supply a lot of networked programming to Coast FM, to carry Smooth Digital. Doesn’t really clash with their other stations.
Koffee - Same argument as Smooth - fills another format gap, and likely could get it supplied at no cost.
[Sports Station] - Crocmedia have talked about trying to syndicate their programming further, and if Macquarie remain serious about MSR, there are options here for carrying an all sport station. So a simulcast of SEN or MSR 1278, or a station that combines output from multiple sources of sports programming.

Boring technical stuff

Stations would get 128kbps per analogue license, with the ability to get as much again in a excess capacity process - which would likely be non-competitive in single owner markets.

I assume on that basis 512kbps to work with:

Coast FM - 80kbps
3YB Music - 80kbps
Coast Rock - 64kbps
Coast Classics - 64kbps
South Coast Talk Radio - 48kbps
Smooth- 48kbps
Koffee - 48kbps
Coles Radio - 40kbps
Sports Station - 40kbps

Okay, over to other people (hopefully) - would you do something similar? Or would you not try and get networked stations and instead either keep bits higher. Would you have opt-outs to an analogue simulcast, or try and keep the FM stations the same as the digital ones?


I suggested a similar idea in the Ace Radio thread last year with what I termed “a radio version of aggregation”. However I only came up with 4 station formats to start with. I like what you’ve suggested to take it further!

I like the idea you have suggested of opt outs when it comes to simulcasting digital/analog content but I suspect regional broadcasters would be too lazy to do this.
Continuing with your 3YB example, if there was say a full time simulcast of 3YB on digital that still provides the current mix of music and talk programming. Listeners on digital would instead have to switch to Coast Rock, Coast Classic, Smooth or Koffee themselves if they wanted music when there was talk programming on the main 3YB.


I certainly think that a big part of the regional digital radio rollout would be essentially the thing that was proposed as the alternative to aggregation - the solus operators providing channels affiliated with each network.

Obviously SCA are way ahead here - having already rolled out their brands nationally - but if Nova or ARN take the opportunity seriously I think you could have their brands roll out nationally.

Canberra is a good example - while ARN and SCA are somewhat limited by their joint venture, Nova could and should be doing a deal with Capital to get a ‘Nova Canberra’ station on digital.

It would get their personalities into a market they can’t currently reach, and not clash with 2CA/2CC and their limited stuff like MyCanberraDigital.

It’s the same for any market where SCA don’t have a monopoly - ARN/Nova can take advantage of digital radio in regional areas and try and make their own brands national, or be stuck with just having limited syndication of shows that don’t advance their brand.

To go back to the Ace example - I get not wanting to have a Nova station come in when they have a very similar format on their main Coast FM station, but Nova’s other brands would be complimentary.

Though maybe that is the future - instead of ARN/Nova buying up regional stations to compete with SCA’s reach, they affiliate instead, and you could see an Ace operated ‘Nova’.

The other question for me is if existing operators try and expand their reach on Digital - Rebel FM comes to mind. They will be locked out of the Gold Coast digital radio market, despite covering most of the region easily on FM, could they pay Hot Tomato to carry them on digital?

I’ll stop rambling now…

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I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already in metro areas. In particular in Brisbane I can’t believe River 949, Hot Tomato or even Hot 91 hasn’t done a deal with one of the Brisbane owners of DAB to run their stations on DAB in Brisbane. Surely Radio TAB for example would be able to lease some of their space?

Back on topic, what does the Darwin operators put on DAB there apart from Hot 100 and Mix? I seem to recall they have a classic rock station and maybe a country one?

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If it hasn’t changed in the time since I saw the last post about it, they have Top Country, Classic Rock Digital and a TAB station.

So only the one actual digital only station.

That’s a good lineup of stations to give a full variety, but I see some flaws.

Spliting in analogue station is a poor decision. It means that existing listeners won’t be able to find the station they know (as they know it) on digital, which will be confusing when every other station is available. It will also impact ratings when they occur as ratings measure the listeners on analogue, digital and streaming - splitting an analogue station will drop a whole segment - for example the listeners of “3YB Music” and “South Coast Talk Radio” wouldn’t be counted, despite essentially being the 3YB audience.

Presumably Coles Radio would only be carried if Coles pay for it, which is the only way to make it viable. Obviously this would also involve Nova in the deal since they program and produce the station. The ratings it would get as a popular format are insigificant though as the network can’t add in their own ads and would probably contibute little to how much they can charge Coles.

I’d also doubt they could take Smooth and Koffee free of charge. Firstly, I see no incentive for Nova Entertainment, but also, Nova don’t have the systems in place to syndicate a live signal. All their syndication outside of their 5 stations is in recorded blocks to be locally imported - they have no satellite network like SCA of MRN, and setting one up, of using MRN’s will cost them money. IP delivery, as they currently use between their metro stations isn’t suitable for regional distribution, and also involves local equipment. This could be overcome in Nova supply the playlists and the station is then played out locally, which also adds flexibility for inserting ads as necessary. - But why would they pay to for something they could do themselves, and for a brand that means nothing regionally?

I’d also question the commercial viability of adding too many stations. Apart from selling spectrum (eg. Coles radio and Kinderling), SCA are the only network to have monetized digital, and they’ve only been able to do so my aligning their digital stations with their analogue stations. The regional TV networks have been unable to justify the addition of all the multichannels in some areas since it spreads the advertising too thin, so I’d expect the same to be the case with radio.

Meant to respond on this one earlier.

I think the commercial viability of providing choice is going to come down to being able to target a wide variety of listeners by being able to target more diverse demographics than you can achieve with two analogue stations.

It is better for them to offer multiple music feeds, with their advertising and local news embedded in it, then to not cater for a listener who would go off to streaming services, or streaming an out of market radio station.

For the metro networks - I think it’s about competing with SCA. Nova and ARN aren’t going to be able to assemble a network with the reach to listeners of SCA - but they have an opportunity to expand their reach without doing so with an investment in regional digital radio, expanded reach that would help them compete for national ad buys, which would be how those services would help pay for themselves.

Compared to regional TV, they have the advantage in many markets of being monopolies - and in the others, most of them they’ll be facing SCA who are doing a very good job of their digital radio offerings.

In markets where they are monopolies for commercial radio, I think it’s all about trying to grow how much people listen to your network of stations - not the individual ratings of each station, you’re competing for listeners whose alternative is to just switch radio off.

For markets with competition - SCA can very easily format some digital offerings that would take the market position that their competitors occupy and grab an even bigger share of the pie. I think you have to fight that with a combination of working with SCA’s competitors - the formats that can beat SCA in the metro areas - and stations branded to complement their analogue services.

(Aside from Wollongong, I can’t think of many competitive markets without looking them up that don’t have SCA in them - so forgive me for basing this assumption on a BOG/ACE/Grant vs SCA market)

I agree though on the general point that financials are a big issue here - but I’d argue launching DAB at all is the financial risk - and that once you’ve done that, it’s best to leverage that spectrum with lots of offerings, then to waste it on two simulcasts and maybe one or two filler stations - like the Darwin example which I can’t see working to drive take up at all.

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