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The popularity of digital radio is on the rise in Australia with a new report finding that sales figures have reached record highs, exceeding industry expectations. 

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has released their 2013 Digital Radio Industry Report, which shows that around 1.5 million people are listening to digital radio on DAB+ devices each week.

While this figure represents only 11.6% of total radio listeners, it is an increase of almost 300,000 people on the year prior. 

Digital radio household penetration is also currently well ahead of forecasts. In March 2012 it was predicted that household penetration would reach 16% by December 2013, and 18% by June 2014, yet currently penetration sits at 15.2%.

The report also highlights that more than 14,000 DAB+ enabled vehicles have been sold in Australia and that time spent listening to radio via a DAB+ digital radio is double that of time spent listening to radio via the internet.  

CRA’s chief executive officer, Joan Warner, said the findings are proof that Australians are embracing digital radio, even without an impending analog switch off date. 

DAB+ in Australia

When digital radio was first launched in Australia in 2009, many people believed that it was being released into one of the worst retail environments in decades as it directly followed the global financial crisis.

Yet despite this, uptake has continued to surpass expectations. 

According to report, around 60% of the Australian population has access to digital radio, with high powered commercial and public service DAB+ digital radio services on air in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. And as of March 2013 there are more than 150 DAB+ digital radio devices available for sale in Australia. In 2009 there were 20. 

Australians aged over 55 make up the largest proportion of listeners of digital radio (14.6%), tuning in for approximately 15 hours and 52 minutes each week. This is followed by 40 - 55 year olds (13.2%), 10 - 17 year olds (11.6%), 25 - 39 year olds (9.5%) and 18 - 24 year olds (8.6%). 

And when it comes to locations, home is where most of the digital radio listening is occurring (78.9%), but in-car listening has slightly increased from 5% in 2011 to 6.1% in 2012. 

Consumer awareness

In December 2012, the Hoop Group surveyed consumers to investigate awareness of DAB+ digital radio and its features, as well as attitudes towards digital radio in general. 

The survey found that 30% of respondents owned a digital radio, up from 21% in 2011, and that awareness of the DAB+ logo increased from 3% in 2011 to 13% in 2012. 

Unfortunately, overall awareness of DAB+ and its availability only rose 1% during the same time period. 

The main driver of digital radio awareness seems to be coming from word of mouth, with 28% of respondents hearing about DAB+ through a friend or family member. This was a 10% increase on 2011. 

The future - mobile DAB+

The development of DAB+ functionality in mobile handsets and the integration of DAB+ chips into mobile phones is going to be a top priority for the industry over the next twelve months.

Which is good news for the 58% of respondents who said they would like to have DAB+ available free-to-air on their mobile phones, a figure which represented a 9% increase on 2011. This desire is naturally highest among 18 - 24 year olds (79%) and 25 - 39 year olds (67%). 

[Image credit: Highways Agency]

Claire Brinkley

Published 4 April, 2013 by Claire Brinkley

Claire Brinkley is Econsultancy Australia's news and insight reporter. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ or connect with her on LinkedIn

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