This time last year, Sound Digital won a competitive bid to take charge and launch the new commercial digital radio multiplex. The move was heralded by Scott Taunton, COO of UTV Media, as “the biggest expansion in radio choice for a generation”. Twelve months on, with 18 stations about to hit the national airwaves, here’s an update on what the new DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) multiplex means for UK listeners and advertisers alike.

UK radio has remained robust despite initial fears that traditional broadcast radio might be eroded by shifts in consumer consumption towards streaming and curated playlists. What has no doubt helped maintain the weekly reach of 90% of UK adults is that the channel has adapted to fit naturally across any platform – be that analogue, desktop, DTV, mobile or DAB. In fact, digital radio listening has grown by 10% in the last year according to RAJAR. Of specific interest to the broadcasters backing Sound Digital (a conglomerate of Arqiva, Bauer and UTV) is that the share of listening hours via DAB has increased by 9% year on year, with share now at 28% of all listening.

There is already one DAB multiplex which has enabled listeners to tune in to stations such as LBC, Capital Xtra and talkSPORT across the UK. However, as broadcasters have sought to take their radio brands to the masses, this transmitter is at capacity. The growth in DAB stations is such that back in 2009 there were only four national commercial digital radio stations, and by the end of March 2016 there will be over 40 digital national stations, 30 of which are commercial.

When launched, the new Sound Digital multiplex will see a combination of existing stations going national and new stations launching. The assortment of stations will appeal to a range of radio listening tastes – namely talk (talkRADIO, talkSPORT2, Share Radio), music (Virgin, Mellow Magic, Magic Chilled, Absolute 80s, Kisstory, heat, Planet Rock, Jazz FM), Asian (Sunrise, Awesome, Panjab), religious (UCB2, Premier Christian and Premier Praise!) and children (Fun Kids).

Sound Digital is forecasting that via its network of 45 transmitters, these stations will be available across 75% of UK households and 65% of major UK roads, providing substantial potential reach.

The new DAB multiplex will give UK listeners the gift of choice, allowing greater ease of access to much-loved stations, the opportunity to explore new offshoots of existing radio brands (like Mellow Magic) or the chance to revisit former loves reimagined for the 21st century (like Virgin Radio).

For advertisers, these stations provide a new avenue to engage with consumers nationally around key passion points. While the first stations don’t officially go live until February 29, many are already broadcasting test transmissions – so rescan your DAB radio this weekend for a sneak peak of the future of digital radio.

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