Radio

  • Radio remains relevant in Switzerland.
  • Switzerland is among the first countries to switch completely to the DAB+ standard, with a successful transition so far.
  • Brands and community are important to gain a relevant market share.

The radio market consists of revenues from public and private radio license fees, advertiser spending and sponsoring on radio stations/networks. All radio advertising figures are shown net, excluding agency commissions and discounts.

Not included are radio programmes offered by online music or music streaming providers, that are financed through subscription models and advertising because no such data are available at the moment.

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Market Overview

Radio in Switzerland is still popular. According to surveys, about 6.8 million Swiss (out of 8 million population) listen to radio. Average consumption has been almost constant over the last years, with slight negative tendencies and currently standing at roughly 100 minutes per day.  About three-quarters (76.56 per cent) of radio revenues are generated by license fees. In Switzerland, the number of households, thus the amount of fees paid is continuously growing. Along with 90 per cent of public license fees, public broadcaster SRG SSR takes responsibility to provide all of Switzerland with adequate radio programming. This “public service” includes programs in all four national languages. Unlike the public radio channels, private radio stations get income in addition to license fees from advertising Private radio is therefore especially vulnerable to a possible decrease in advertising spending, whereas such a decrease is not foreseeable due to the unsurpassed and unique local focus of this advertising format. The advertising market is volatile to economic events. However, this is buffered, in that radio advertising is most commonly used if local businesses fear a short term decrease in revenues.

With growth of the Internet and more advanced possibilities for advertising online, especially on mobile devices, traditional media face declines in ad revenues. However it is unlikely that the Internet will supplant traditional radio advertising. Radio advertising reaches a significant number of consumers as it is embedded in the daily routine of most Swiss, be it during breakfast, in the car, at work or in public places. In addition, the format is very localised, so it offers little potential for economies of scale that would increase chances of disruption and attract global players. 

 

Jürg Bachmann
Jürg Bachmann President of the Association for Swiss Private Radios and Head of Communication and Marketing/Public Affairs Goldbach Group
Radio is the advertising medium for short-term results. If you have a truck full of berries and you need to sell them soon, then you should advertise them on the radio.

Compared to Music, TV or Filmed Entertainment, Radio serves a particular consumer need not replaceable by any other broadcast format: first, it is (hyper-) local. Local news and local advertising address a narrow geographic audience, and they allow advertising at affordable prices. Second, radio allows listeners to hear music passively, without forcing the consumer to make a dedicated choice. Although streaming services such as Spotify or Apple are headed in this direction, passive listening remains a USP of radio. This, plus the fact that most radio income comes from regulated license fees, means that Swiss Radio will remain stable. Radio advertising is difficult to forecast precisely, but in any case will remain relatively insignificant.

Radio reception in Switzerland is of three types: conventional FM transmission; digital transmission; and internet radio. As communicated August 25th 2016 at the Swiss Radio Day, for the first time in history in Switzerland more radio is consumed by digital submission modes than via analogue channels (53 per cent via Internet or DAB+). FM radio comes to a level of 47 per cent of minutes listened via analogue technologies, whereas Internet and DAB+ stand at roughly the same level of 27% each. All Swiss radio stations stream their broadcasts online, and most offer their own apps that allow users to listen via Internet-connected devices. Switzerland was one of the first countries to implement the digital radio standard DAB. In December 2014, the Digital Migration Working Group (DigiMig) formed by representatives of all major stakeholders proposed a measurement programme that should result in a shutoff of all radio transmission via FM by 2024. Ahead of Switzerland, only Norway announced an earlier shutoff for the year 2017.Strategically the working group decided that first of all it was important to have a great market share of digital reception and secondly shutdown the FM submission when it is not necessary anymore. The last step would be a transformation to mostly broadcasting radio, since IP-Radio is not yet of the same audio quality as DAB+ (and won’t be, until 5G technology covers Switzerland by 2025-2030). So FM radio will be followed by several technologies, not just one (as was the case with the change from medium wave to FM). Huge marketing campaigns for DAB+, financed by federal funds, are planned in 2017/2018 to assure market share. State funding of the migration to digital will peaks then, declining to nil by 2024. Only one country will shut down FM earlier than Switzerland: Norway will close its FM in 2017.

Swiss listeners owned 2.4 million DAB and DAB+ compatible radio receivers at the end of 2015; they can receive 96 programmes broadcast by 61 stations Swiss-wide. Outdoor reception of DAB+ reaches to 99 per cent in Switzerland including streets and all the important highway tunnels. Digital radio took off slowly, probably a result of two factors. The obvious advantages of digital radio were few (unlike digital TV, which introduced on-demand viewing, mobile TV, HDTV and interactive functions). Also, the automobile remains one of the bastions of conventional FM. 

Jürg Bachmann
Jürg Bachmann President of the Association for Swiss Private Radios and Head of Communication and Marketing/Public Affairs Goldbach Group
Performance contracts are key for private radio, since they are the best way to stay on the political agenda. This was not articulated enough in the euphoria over new technological possibilities with DAB+, but we noticed early enough.

Increased use of digital radio in the last year can be explained with technological improvements of home radio equipment and also by sale of 150’000 new cars equipped with digital radio technologies. About 65 per cent of new cars in Switzerland offer the DAB+ as standard, and an upgrade to DAB+ costs only CHF 160-500. Today, about 30 per cent of the radio received in cars is digital whereas there is no indication of sources in terms of DAB+ via Internet. And the smartphone is gaining ground. Until recently, cars were the last remaining smartphone-free zone, but now the car, has also been impacted by new technological possibilities to include smartphones as the new multimedia solutions’. With more Internet streaming, less DAB+ and FM might be used in future. If this trend continues, the success story of digital radio might be interrupted harshly.

65 per cent of new cars in Switzerland offer the DAB+ as standard.

With the acceptance of the new radio and television law (RTVG) in June 2015, not paying for received radio services will be a thing of the past. With additional radio fees, the state plans to expend distribution of digital radio. Especially private radio stations are struggling with the extra costs associated with simulcasting. The new law will be effective as of January 1st 2018.

Market growth

Advertisers are becoming more aware of the Internet. Still, over the mid to long term, radio advertising and sponsoring spending are expected to remain steady, thanks to its unique proposition of the (hyper-) local format. In licence fee revenues, we expect to see a modest increase as the amount of registered households continuously grows. License fee income after 2018 is likely to differ significantly from our forecasted revenues, as the new RTVG has not been published yet, whereas it is foreseeable that in 2018 the private license fees will increase with the new law.

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Key Players

Most-listened-to are public radio stations. SRF 1 leads the field, with a Swiss-wide market share of 24.6 per cent. Its French counterpart, La Premiere, represents with 13.6 per cent the third-most listened-to. 

The most successful private station is Energy Zurich, which together with other Energy stations in Bern and Basel, is part of Ringier, the largest private publishing company in Switzerland for the first time in their 13-year history. Radio 24 is second most-listened private radio. It belongs as Radio Argovia to Radio Medien AG. Radio BNJ FM and 3i are popular private stations in the French respectively Italian parts of Switzerland. Foreign stations hold a Swiss-wide market share of about 2 per cent. The private radios have two associations whereof one represents the German and Italian speaking radios and one the French speaking radios. This is based on different market forces since in the French speaking Switzerland SRG doesn’t have regional programs whereas in the German speaking Switzerland SRG directly competes with the private radios in that area. This leads partially to inefficiencies in the market. Moreover, the market entrance of Admeira holds potential for significant changes to the competitive landscape regarding radio advertising.

Principal Drivers

Traditional radio has a huge advantage over global radio and streaming services. Broadcasters can customise the information they send based on the location of their listeners and thereby gain relevance. By combining social media, live events, trendy music and appealing and significant content, radio will remain strong. Listening to music has become a private experience; radio can differentiate itself from that tendency by actively supporting a personal relationship with and among their listeners, as well as by satisfying their individual needs. People are longing for individualism, so tuning into the same sound as everyone else is not appealing. Instead, radio might need to further engage with its community of listeners to profit from the social and local networking dimension.

Private radio stations that rely on advertising revenues are particularly vulnerable to decreasing advertising spending or price erosion. Although the advertising inventory still serves a particular group of local advertisers, new advertising formats may put that inventory under pressure. An increasing number of apps and mobile services are capturing users: new advertising offerings that are even more local and combine different formats (e.g. text-over–voice, video, etc.) can be observed in the online and mobile segment. Although these offerings are still in their infancy, private radio stations should catch up with this trend and innovate themselves, which will be possible in new ways with DAB+. Ever more adverts will be multi-channelled (broadcast, online, streamed).

The lion’s share of consumer spending in Swiss radio is originated by license fees. These are mandated by the state to guarantee adequate public service not predominantly driven by business considerations. This ensures public stations predictable and safe sources of revenue. With the change of the law (RTVG), private radio stations will probably receive more public licence fees in the future (details are yet to be defined). The SRG must contribute to the cohesion and exchange of all language regions. Private radio must broadcast relevant news from the regions (as part of its ‘public service’). Some of licence fee revenues are available to support technical changes.

Apple Music last year launched its own radio station, Beats 1, which unlike other “radio” services offered by streaming providers, is hosted by three DJs and includes special features such as interviews with musicians. Like most music services, it uses the information from the web to arrange playlists, report on news and gather feedback. Traditional radio needs to recognise the Internet as source of inspiration and valuable consumer data, not as a threat. The digitization of radio might continue, but local radio will remain a unique offer for regional advertising.

Due to the change to DAB+ and the possibility of online streaming even in cars, radio is facing heavy changes. Simulcasting will put even higher pressure on cost structures of private radio stations. On the other hand, private radio will profit from better reception throughout the country, which will allow market share increases. The big change of upcoming IP-radio is the end of the independent business model. Whereas radio broadcasting is a well-functioning business model, internet radio gives network suppliers the power to interfere in radio stations operations with additional radio fees – as Vodafone does in Germany. Radio is in danger of a paywall, with a change of the entire market and business models.

Traditional radio stations are confronted with new competitors in the form of online streaming – companies such as Apple Music, Spotify or Pandora. These global streaming radios are implementing podcasts, live DJs, live moderation and targeting the core functions of news, weather, sport and traffic.

SRG and especially local radio stations can no longer assert themselves only through news and music. Radio stations are enhanced by interaction with the audience through social media, professional online presence, promotions and events. Popular examples are the live broadcasting of Radio SRF 3 on the television channel SRF 2, including video broadcasting of the studio, or live streaming of studios on the Internet. Another example is Energy Zurich, the no. 1 among the local radio stations, which has become a radio community, organizing annual fashion shows, film events and the concerts "Energy Stars for free". Tickets to these can’t be purchased but only won on airtime, including that of Energy TV or 2nd and 3rd music channels.

Jürg Bachmann
Jürg Bachmann President of the Association for Swiss Private Radios and Head of Communication and Marketing/Public Affairs Goldbach Group
I am not greatly concerned about the classical business model of radio stations, if we do our homework and keep adapting to the state of the art. It is clear that radio needs an online presence, that we need to implement videos and that we have to develop new ideas, but so far, the mix of the business model is working.

Radio is more and more reliant to adapted business models. The target audience will change from listeners only to a community of similarly-oriented people. The financing is then more attractive to bigger companies, who want to be associated with the brand. With the advent of digital broadcasting, these brands can be used in larger geographic regions. Whereas FM transmission was licensed by the Federal Office of Communication, DAB+ does not need concessions. So, well-known brands can penetrate an entire language region while still maintaining the regional character of radio (as SRG does with its regional journals). The rise of strong brands is highlighted in the latest brand awareness study of publicom.

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Swiss public perception of radio is similar to that of all Western Europe. Radio is part of one’s daily routine. Stations are usually chosen to fit a certain taste in music, but also to receive news updates. Switzerland is among the first Western European countries, along with Norway and the UK, to implement DAB/DAB+ technology. After Norway, Switzerland was the second country to announce the shutdown of FM broadcasting. Still, by far the biggest radio market is Germany, mostly as a consequence of its high license fee revenues: Germany accounts for 34.9 per cent of the Western European radio market.