In Context: Radio Caroline’s brave (but wise) move to exit Sky EPG

News this week from Radio Caroline which has confirmed today that it will be leaving the Sky EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) in a calculated move to focus its media spend on the forms of distribution which are most productive in terms of audience. The station will continue to broadcast on a satellite channel, which will be available by manual tuning, details of which are to be announced later.

The Radio Caroline statement:

Our recent survey into the listening habits of our audience has shown that only a small percentage are listening using SKY 0199.

The findings duplicated the results of a similar survey we carried out 2008 but showed satellite listening had fallen by a further 9%. At the same time on-line listening has increased by around 40% and continues to grow. This information came as we were considering whether to also obtain an EPG on FreeSat.

As a result of this we have tried, but without success, to renegotiate prices with both providers. Therefore we have decided not to proceed with FreeSat and to give up our SKY 0199 Electronic Programme Guide. This change may happen either soon, or in the medium term.

We will still have a presence on satellite but this will require manual tuning. It is hoped there will be no interruption to the service, but there may be a brief period of satellite silence while the changes are made. We will then explain how to tune Caroline in manually via SKY, FreeSat and any UK standard satellite receiver.

When the required information is provided to us, we aim to set up a dedicated telephone help line to assist listeners affected by the change. Information will also be on the web site.

There is a substantial cost saving that will result from this decision and we hope that this can be used for future expansion and to improve our current facilities.

As a presenter with Radio Caroline in both its offshore days and the current day operation, and as one of the people involved in the start-up of the satellite service in 1999, I can tell you that, despite a little apprehension at first, I can embrace this move as a positive step for the station.

When Caroline started its regular and ongoing satellite transmissions in early 1999 (taking in its own right a channel vacated by EKR, from whom it had been leasing airtime for the previous six months) satellite was pretty much the only game in town for moving forward on a legal footing, unless you wanted to sell out to corporate investors. Internet broadcasting, while technically an option, was in the most embryonic of states, with pretty dreadful quality, very limited numbers of streams, and dial-up connections making the listening experience one of limited bursts of music followed by “buffering” for most people.

In recent years, ever-increasing access speeds and technological advances in consumer hardware has changed the game profoundly, to the point where even TV (with its much greater bandwidth demand) is watched online frequently. (One example of this is that, according to official figures, 1 million people watched the latest episode of Doctor Who online via the BBC’s iPlayer within a week of broadcast).

There is now no real barrier to being able to serve listeners professionally online, and the advent of wifi radios and smart phones has made things even easier. I now routinely listen to Radio Caroline in the car in Dublin via an iPhone hookup, in a close to FM quality that is better than anything we could have wished for in our offshore days. And  it’s not just Caroline that I listen to this way – BBC Radio 4 can now be listened to in areas outside its longwave coverage, and I use the iPhone to listen to the evening news on RTE Radio if I am travelling by public transport.

Broadcasting live from the Ross Revenge recently, I was delighted to see how many people were listening from all around the world – the USA, South America, Tokyo, Australia – where there is the net, now there is Radio Caroline. By far the vast majority of emails were from people listening online. Here in Dublin, many people I know listen to radio online via apps or wifi radios, but none use the Sky option (or are even aware that it is there – I’m talking “normal”, non-radio people here).

With such a growing and international audience for radio online, it now makes real business sense for Caroline to stop paying a huge five-figure sum just for the benefit of a few inches of screen space on the EPG, and concentrate that money on maintaining and improving the service in more productive ways. And, of course, the satellite will be there too, as a manually tuned option – just as it was for most of the early 2000s.

It’s very easy to cling to the familiar, but to survive in any business you have to not only become good at doing what you do, but also to know when changing what you do is the right thing to do.

Stay tuned to Radio Caroline for details of upcoming changes – via www.radiocaroline.co.uk – and keep enjoying the great album tracks from the last 47 years.

Steve


3 Comments on “In Context: Radio Caroline’s brave (but wise) move to exit Sky EPG”

  1. DL2MCD says:

    Hi Steve,

    I was never in favour of paying a lot of money for the Murdoch EPG. Listening from Germany I do not use a sky box and so I do not have any benefit of it.

    However, in your post you miss the point. You are not talking about skipping the Sky UK proprietary EPG any more, you go on giving up Sat transmissions completely and listening on the net instead.

    This is not the point. Caroline will not go off satellite! Just the Murdoch EPG will cease.

    I would actually like to see the saved money to go into having stereo on satellite!

    And NO, I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE TO LISTEN ON MY INTERNET CONNECTION!

    It is good, that you can listen to Radio Caroline online!

    But I only want to use that choice if I really have to.

    I have my internet connection to communicate with people. Something, that German Public Broadcasters hate. They stopped me from staying in contact with my friends once with a cease and desist letter. Result: Me being in depts for the next 20 years and a friend of mine dead because she could not reach me. Yes, the German Public Broadcasters have shows where people in despair can call and talk about their problems on the air, and they would have preferred my friend calling there instead of calling me, so they could make a show out of her misery. But then she hung herself. That was 11 years ago.

    They also were after “conquering the internet”, so that you have to pay a second radio license fee for doing business with your computer. If I write an article and use e-mail to send it to the publisher and not a disc in an envelope, they say, I am using “their” internet for business, so this e-mail will not be covered by the radio license I already pay!

    THAT IS, why they want to broadcast over the net and I really hate that!

    If everyone does TV and radio online, all the bandwith would be used up. Also the broadcasters would have to pay enormous amounts, as every listener is one stream. That is expensive and unenvironmental. Also, it would collide with other things I’m doing with my computer.

    Of course I like Caroline to be on the net, but I would not want that to replace normal broadcast channels.

    Do not let yourself be fooled by online surveys. In online surveys a lot of people – surprise, surprise! – will be listening online. If you do a regular survey (which Caroline could not afford), things will look different.

  2. Steve Ralph says:

    Hi Steve,
    As you rightly say, internet radio is now a really viable technology, one I love to use, like you via my smartphone and internet radios. With very inexpensive 3G data, I listen most days in the car and in the office at work.
    I am a fan of satellite radio too, but one reason for me preferring the internet way of listening for Caroline is that the current satellite output is sadly only in mono which is a big shame. If this was resolved then satellite would be the preferred method for Caroline at home.
    Kind regards
    Steve
    Herne Bay, UK.

  3. peter says:

    The survey was flawed , it should have asked what pwercentage of listening was online , and satellite.

    Also , of course most emails are from people listening online , if I am in the lounge listening on satellite then I would have to go upstairs to my pc to send an email. If I am listening whilst on my pc then it is very quick and easy to send an email

    I personally don’t mind losing the 0199 as long as the satellite is kept – when I am abroad I can listen to caroline on the satellite , but not on my smartphone because it would cost a fortune


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