Sound Digital Applies for National Digital Radio Licence

From a press release to
Posted 29 January 2015, 10.42am est

Sound Digital, the joint venture company formed by Arqiva, Bauer and UTV in 2014, has today unveiled its ambition to deliver a step-change in choice for listeners by providing access to 15 distinctive national digital radio stations. The plans are detailed in Sound Digital’s application to operate the licence for the UK’s second national commercial DAB multiplex.

Sound Digital’s goal is to play a leading role in the development of digital radio. This will be driven by the unprecedented strength of the digital-only brands broadcast on its network, its strategy for promoting digital take-up and the financial security provided by its shareholders’ firm commitments to the company.

Sound Digital’s line-up comprises popular, well-loved brands which will be entirely or predominantly exclusive to digital radio:

  • UTV will launch three original speech stations – talkRADIO, talkSPORT 2 and talkBUSINESS – significantly extending choice and plurality in a sector currently dominated by the BBC.
  • Bauer will offer high quality music stations catering to a broad spectrum of musical taste, including Magic Mellow, KISSTORY and heat radio, along with highly successful digital stations Absolute 80s and Planet Rock.
  • Virgin Radio will return to the UK airwaves under a partnership between the Virgin Group and UTV. Sound Digital will also offer a non-mainstream music station, which Jazz FM has signed an agreement to provide.
  • Stations will also cater to specific areas of interest for which there is additional national demand: UCB Inspirational and Premier Christian Radio for Christian audiences, Sunrise Radio and British Muslim Radio.
  • To lay the foundation of a future migration to DAB+ and accelerate take-up of DAB+ compatible radios, Sound Digital will launch a DAB+ channel. The programming content of this ground-breaking channel will be revealed ahead of launch.

Independent research by YouGov with over 4000 adults shows very strong collective appeal for Sound Digital’s stations, with 79% saying that they would listen to at least one of the stations.

Each of Sound Digital’s 15 services is fully committed under binding commitments made by the shareholders and by third party content providers, providing certainty to Ofcom that Sound Digital will deliver on its licence application proposals.

Sound Digital’s planned transmission network is differentiated from the existing national multiplex by its focus on digital-only stations including start-up operators and new entrants. The network balances cost-effectiveness with high quality national coverage, reaching over 46 million people and an estimated 88% of vehicles on the move.

The presence within Sound Digital’s line-up of recognised brands which will be exclusive to digital radio heralds a major new chapter for the DAB platform. To realise this potential, Sound Digital will initiate a high-impact promotional strategy for digital radio, coordinated with partners including retailers, manufacturers and the vehicle industry. Sound Digital is committing media support and cross-promotion worth £15m over six years.

If awarded the UK’s second national DAB multiplex licence by Ofcom, Sound Digital will launch its network within 12 months.

Steve Holebrook, Managing Director of Arqiva Terrestrial Broadcast, said: “Sound Digital’s goal is to play a leading role in the development of digital radio. Our application pools our collective experience, expertise and financial backing to provide certainty that Sound Digital will deliver on its commitment to build and launch a new national digital radio network within 12 months of Ofcom’s decision, and to maintain the network for the full 12 year licence term.”

Dee Ford, Group Managing Director Radio, Bauer Media, said: “Sound Digital’s proposals are fantastic news for radio listeners, with an unprecedented expansion of choice in speech and music radio content. As well as providing expansion opportunities for existing successful digital broadcasters like Bauer, our network’s cost-effectiveness and open and accessible approach ensure that Sound Digital caters to the full range of digital radio content providers.”

Scott Taunton, Chief Operating Officer, UTV Media plc, said: “Sound Digital’s plans combine popular, well-loved brands such as the return of Virgin Radio with unique content including three brand new speech radio stations. The result will be a major increase in choice for audiences that already have digital radio, and a surge in take-up from those that don’t. This is fantastic news not just for listeners but for the wider radio industry.”

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