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Digital Radio Gets Personal With Local On-Demand Audio
Is AM/FM radio destined to retire in the land of the eight-track?
By Heather Johnson
(more articles from this author)
2001-03-08
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Digital radio is quickly becoming the "wave" of the future and a new corporate partnership is helping to clear the path. Multiplex operator MXR, founded by Chrysalis Radio, Capital Radio, jazz fm and Guardian Media Group, recently reached an exclusive agreement with California-based technology firm Command Audio to help add local flavor to digital audio.

Local on demand audio will now be available through regional multiplexes operated by the consortium, reaching 8 million listeners in North East England, Severn Estuary/South Wales and West Midlands. MXR license bids hope to reach an additional 18 million listeners in the NorthWest, Yorkshire and London areas in the near future.

The new form of "personal radio" will allow digital listeners to select from local news, sports, traffic, travel and business bulletins. Through Command Audio's technology, listeners can personalize their radio programming, selecting certain programs at certain times.

Command Audio-UK, a joint venture between Capital Radio and UBC Media Group, will produce on-demand interactive programs, as well as handle licensing for other programmers and service providers. When the technology is fully deployed, listeners will be able to choose from a wide range of programs from a variety of different media, then listen to them whenever and wherever they want.

Command Audio-enabled services will provide listeners with an Electronic Program Guide. The guide will allow listeners to control how and when to listen by instantaneously scanning from story to story, pausing, skipping, or saving programs for later listening.

"Command Audio-UK will enable digital broadcasters to deliver a truly new media experience that will clearly differentiate their services from conventional FM radio," said Don Bogue, co-founder and CEO of Command Audio. "On-demand interactive audio is about providing listeners a 'personal radio' experience that appeals to their individual lifestyles and satisfies their particular interests. It is the ultimate application of digital broadcast technology. By teaming with industry leaders Capital and UBC, we have created the basis for rapid proliferation of this revolutionary new media."

Command Audio's partner, MXR, has promised in each of its bids to be "Local from Launch," according to Phil Riley, Chairman of the MXR Consortium. "The importance of local programming is imperative to listeners as we discovered through extensive research undertaken across the country," he said. "By joining up with Command Audio, MXR are adding even more value to that promise."

In addition to hearing local news at any time, radio listeners also want to hear their favorite music. The MXR radio operators have pledged to offer their existing analogue stations exclusively to the MXR consortium [Century and Galaxy in the North East, Century and jazz in the North West, Galaxy in Yorkshire, Heart in the West Midlands and Galaxy and Real radio in the Severn Estuary/South Wales], along with a range of additional digital-only programming. Another MXR operator, Soul Media, joins the company's founders to provide personalized, on-demand and interactive audio.

Simon Cole, founder and CEO of UBC Media agrees that consumers enjoy having the right to choose. "This powerful platform gives broadcasters new and innovative program opportunities and consumers more choice," Cole said. "The technology available to this joint venture takes digital radio to another level as it brings the on-demand element, now increasingly expected by consumers, into the radio medium. The result will be the development of new kinds of programs which will lead to exciting new services for consumers."

Command Audio plans to bring personal radio to a larger market through the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) network.

The latest developments from MXR and Command Audio are attracting interest from broadcasters, who will be able to make better use of their bandwidth, appeal to a wider range of listeners in a more targeted fashion and create new advertising and revenue opportunities. Capital Radio is particularly intrigued. "As leading players in the provision of digital radio services and internet radio, Capital is keen to apply innovative applications such as on-demand audio," Sally Oldham, Strategy and Development Director for Capital Radio, said. "By partnering with Command Audio and UBC we will benefit more fully as the take up of digital radio rolls out."

Capital Radio, the UK's leading radio group, has even developed a new marketing structure for its stations in and outside London to foster the growth of digital technology. David Andrews, currently Managing Director for Century 105.4 FM, will serve as the company's Regional Marketing Director. A creative services division will also be established to oversee all print production, design work and media buying for the group.

While DAB is still a relatively new name in the United States, it is nearly a household word in the UK, with over 40 digital stations available in the London area alone. BBC national radio and Digital One both operate their own multiplexes. There are five additional multiplexes for local radio in England, and national stations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (BBC and commercial), according to BBC Online.

Digital audio is a popular option for drivers, and MXR and Command Audio are working to include this technology in more vehicles this year. The companies plan to use their combined power to encourage auto manufacturers to include local, on demand audio into the next generation of radio receivers, with many available by the end of this year.

MXR doesn't have to convince global car manufacturer Ford of the advantages to digital audio. A founding shareholder in MXR, Ford UK intends to fit digital radios as original equipment in Ford new cars sold in the UK by 2004, and to promote digital radio upgrade availability in its authorized dealerships.

With a digital radio receiver installed in the dash, drivers will no longer have to re-tune their radio to follow a program on the road. The new receivers will be free of static and will allow drivers to choose from digital radio, CD, cassette, or standard AM/FM radio.

With the launch of local on-demand audio, digital radio is expected to become the interference-free sound of the future, joining the ranks of the CD and the DVD, and leaving AM/FM radio for the history books.

Linkography

BBC - www.bbc.co.uk
Capital Radio - www.capitalradio.plc.uk
Chrysalis Radio - www.ChrysalisRadio.com
Command Audio - www.commandaudio.com
DAB - www.dab.org
Ford - www.ford.com
Guardian Media Group - www.gmgplc.co.uk
jazz fm - www.jazzfm.com
UBC Media Group - www.ubcmedia.com

Related News from Mi2N:
» MXR And Command Audio Bring Local "Personal Radio" To UK : New Partnership To Deliver Revolutionary Service Via Digital Audio Broadcast System
» "Personal Radio" Coming To U.K.:Command Audio Teams With Industry Leaders To Bring Revolutionary Service To Digital Radio
» Capital Radio Steps Up Its Commitment To Marketing 14th February 2001


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