DAB Defections Continue

Media Corporation of Singapore, one of the country’s largest commercial radio and television broadcasters, has announced it will end its digital radio broadcast service on December 1.
MediaCorp was the first broadcaster in southeast Asia to launch DAB service (1999). It was also quite blunt about the rationale to end it: “[T]the growth in listenership…has remained stagnant. On the other hand, the rapid growth in the number of listeners through online streaming and phone app[s]…has shown that these platforms are serving the listeners more effectively than the DAB platform.”
This company was the exclusive purveyor of DAB in Singapore.
Singapore is just the latest in a growing list of countries who are ditching the digitalization of radio broadcasting. Finland discontinued its DAB service in 2005, the same year Sweden halted further investment in its digital radio infrastructure. Canadian broadcasters began phasing out DAB transmissions last year. Germany, having discontinued funding for its DAB infrastructure in 2009, re-launched the service with an improved variant of the technology (DAB+) this summer, but does not have high hopes for it. Portugal turned off its network this year, and Spain has drastically reduced its commitment to DAB. France, one of the countries that helped develop DAB technology, continues to postpone its launch.
In the United Kingdom – the first country to launch a DAB service some 15 years ago – only 14 million DAB receivers have been sold. That’s less than a million per year, not accounting for replacements. The U.K. has set a target goal for phasing out its analog radio broadcast service in 2015, but Culture, Communications and Creative Industries minister Ed Vaizey recently commented that this deadline is far from set in stone.
Singapore’s move is of note because their broadcasters are the first to openly bet upon the Internet as radio’s primary digital platform of the future. Other broadcasters are hinting in this direction, but nobody’s willing to say it out loud for fear of endangering their spectrum subsidy. Is the dirty little secret about radio’s digital future the fact that dedicated spectrum may no longer be necessary?