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New Wave of Radio Highlights Continued Appetite for Lean-Back Experiences

With music streaming subscriptions approaching 400 million worldwide in 2020, helped by the ongoing investment in podcasts, it is easy to overlook the continued significance of radio worldwide. Futuresource’s recent Audio Collaborative on the 4th and 5th November included an esteemed panel session exploring the Future of Radio – an overview of which can be found here. The session summarised how the importance of community, companionship, localisation and being live were all key traits in helping maintain the relevance of radio.

In addition, the COVID-19 crisis and the stay-at-home orders imposed to contain its spread has brought a new focus on home entertainment, with radio playing a key role in this landscape. Futuresource’s Audio Tech Lifestyles consumer survey highlighted that amongst audio hardware owners, 28% said that they listened to more radio during lockdown than they did previously. This has encouraged companies to further invest in developing new iterations of radio-like experiences into their products.


This trend has been seen amongst established streaming services. Spotify has brought more storytelling through podcasts, even bringing full tracks into podcasts to provide a radio-like experience. Apple Music is doubling down on its online radio stations, with 2 new stations, whilst Amazon is offering a lean-back and increasingly curated experience with its Echo speakers thanks to the simplicity of voice controls.

The digital listening evolution has also spurred a new wave of radio services. Sonos recently announced that it will offer a high-definition subscription radio streaming service called Sonos Radio HD, available firstly in the US and UK, with plans to expand to more territories in the future. This new subscription radio service is another testament of the way radio is currently transforming itself, demonstrating the increasing value of curated and lean-back experiences in a world dominated by choice.

Sonos’s new service is different in the sense that it is entering the competitive market of paid-for radio subscriptions, joining leading players such as Sirius XM and Pandora in the US. Outside of the USA, the business model for subscription radio streaming typically remains limited in its reach, with the leading services Sirius XM and Pandora not operating outside of the US. One of the main differentiators of this service is also the fact that it brings higher audio quality to a radio experience, which is often associated with lower-definition audio. By offering radio in CD-quality, Sonos is helping drive the transition towards higher quality audio in radio, following a trend already witnessed amongst streaming services, with notably Amazon HD, Tidal and Qobuz.

Whilst there continues to be steady momentum in improving audio quality and experiences, this has been against a backdrop of increased choice of on-demand digital entertainment, which has continued to explode in 2020. As part of this, there has been renewed momentum in lean-back experiences, whether this is the growth in FAST (Free Ad-Supported streaming TV) channels, traditional radio or curated online radio services. On-demand choice can be overwhelming; it is therefore not surprising to see continued investment in the different forms of curated, relevant and personalised content – radio will continue to tick all of these boxes in the foreseeable future.

To find out more about the services we offer across the audio sector, please contact Leon Morris at leon.morris@futuresource-hq.com. If you were unable to attend Audio Collaborative 2020, tickets are still available for on demand access to view all of the panels and presentations from both days. View our events page here for more detail.

About the author

Alexandre Jornod

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.