It’s that time of year again. The latest RAJAR’s are out.
It’s fair to say that there are few interesting things that come out of it. Overall radio listening remains firm, although there’s a 0.9% decline in listening hours, although listening is actually up 5.9% year on year, so this isn’t a significant change. The gap between the BBC and commercial radio share has opened up a bit though, with the BBC gaining 1.0% to a 55.3% share, while commercial radio slipped back 0.9% to a 42.5% share.
In London, as we’ll see, the difference is a bit more extreme, with listening hours being down 5.3% on the last quarter, with all of that decline coming from commercial radio. And this is seen in respective BBC and commercial radio shares in the capital with the BBC increasing from 44.0% to 46.6% while commercial radio has dipped from 53.9% to 50.9% this quarter.
Reach among the main BBC networks is largely flat (a percentage point up and down, here and there), with the exceptions being Radio 3 which has seen a 3.3% increase in reach, and counter-intuitively a 4.5% decrease in hours on the last quarter, and Five Live which has had an impressive 12.3% increase in reach and 12.1% increase in hours, giving it record highs in both.
Classic FM has seen an increase of just under 10% in listening hours, while Talksport has also had a good set of results increasing 11.5% on the previous quarter to a record 24.5m hours. Meanwhile Absolute Radio has seen a fall – largely as a result of a significant London decrease, decreasing by 22.6% in hours. It’d be remiss of me not to point out that our figure excluding London FM, actually shows a 0.8% increase on the previous quarter. The decline comes in London as I say.
In the digital world, Planet Rock got a record reach of 827,000, while 6 Music ascent through 2010 has halted with a 4.9% decrease in reach and a more significant 24.0% decrease in hours. Radio 7, much rumoured to be shortly rebranding as Radio 4 Extra, saw a 10% fall in reach to just below 1m and a 20% decrease in hours. 1Xtra and Asian Network both posted increases in reach.
Elsewhere, all the digital Absolute Radio brands – Absolute Classic Rock, Absolute 80s and Absolute Radio 90s – all saw increases to one extent or another in reach. Absolute Radio 00s gets its first figures next quarter.
NME didn’t have a great quarter slipping 8.6% in reach, and a more significant 33.5%, while Jazz FM saw a small increase in hours. Fun Radio has taken quite a hit in listening, but unfortunately for them, RAJAR no longer measures children under 10, and so isn’t as relevant a measure. The ongoing curiosity remains The Hits, which as far as I’m aware is only available on DAB in London, on Freeview and the internet, yet has 1.1m listeners spending nearly 4m hours with it. But it does share its name with a previously available free-to-air music TV channel.
But it’s London that’s most interesting, and in many ways, most concerning. As I noted before, commercial radio has not had a great time. Quite why it’s performed so poorly isn’t really clear. As well as a very significant decrease for Absolute Radio (-41.8% on the quarter in hours), there are also highly significant decreases in hours for just about every major London commercial station. In terms of hours, Smooth is down 35.7% on the previous quarter, Gold London is down 35.5%, Capital FM is down 18.6% (in the quarter when it had all the excitement of the Jingle Bell Ball!), Heart London is down 18.2%, Magic is down 11.1% and LBC 97.3 is down 10.3%. Only the comparatively small Xfm London can show a significant increase of 17.4%, while Kiss rockets to number 2 in London, as much as anything by virtue of the fact that it only fell by 3.2% in hours!
Explaining this dismal picture for the commercial sector away is not easy, and I’ll happily predict right now, that most of those numbers will “right” themselves next quarter, and we should perhaps write these results off as some kind of freak occurrences. I remain firmly of the belief that unless you make some major changes to a station’s line-up or music policy, or spend gargantuan amounts on marketing, then listeners only ebb and flow between stations. When you see significant double digit changes, you should probably question them. We’ll have to wait until Q1 2011’s results to see if I’m right, or whether commercial radio just isn’t as popular in London as it was.
What this all means is that in terms of bragging rights, it’s Magic that comes up trumps in London overall, both in reach and hours.
At breakfast, there are the usual changes. Both Chris Moyles and Chris Evans saw increases in their shows. Evans in particular grew its audience by 3.6% (comparing like with like periods. Evans’ show has extended now to a three hour length). Importantly for Capital, Chris Moyles’ short term reign as number one in London (amongst popular music services) has ended, with Johnny and Lisa regaining their crown.
Overall Bauer has seen a modest 1.0% decrease in listening, while Global has experienced a more signficant 3.8% decrease on the previous quarter, in part due to those London figures. The rebranding of Galaxy as Capital Radio begins to hit RAJAR from Q1 2011, so that’ll be worth watching. Global remains the biggest player in UK commercial radio with a 37.9% market share. GMG saw a very small increase of 0.3% in hours, while UTV is buoyed by its Talksport results and is up overall 11.2% in hours. Absolute Radio Network (TIML) is down 12.8% on the previous quarter, and Orion is down fractionally, 0.6%.
But putting those decreases in context, it’s worth noting that every one of these groups has recorded year on year increases in hours – most notably UTV up 13.1% and Absolute Radio Network (TIML) up 27.1% on the year.
Digital listening increases slightly to 25.0% – so now one quarter of all radio listening is via digital platform, with 15.8% being DAB, 4.3% digital television and 3.1% the internet. 1.8% of listening is not attributed to a platform. We’re now only a few weeks away from the Radio Player being launched, so that 3.1% of internet listening is the number to watch – as well as the overall picture obviously.
RAJAR publication rules mean that I can only really say that the BBC is at 25.5% digital overall while commercial radio is at 24.0%. But I can say that amongst the Absolute Radio family of brands, this figure is now 65.2%. And even for the main Absolute Radio station, it’s now at 41.6% of listening (in other words – digital is very important!).
One final interesting snippet is listening via mobile phones. While RAJAR doesn’t break out mobile phone listening as a separate platform – it can obviously be FM or internet listening via apps – it does report the overall number of people who say that they’ve listened via the device, and it increased by 4.1% on the previous quarter to 13.3%. Amongst 15-24s it remains significantly higher at 30.7%.
For those interested about how RAJAR is collated, Paul Kennedy from RAJAR has written a RAJAR primer over on the BBC’s website.
Drop a comment if you have any questions, although the full results are available to read on the RAJAR website.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending December 2010, adults 15+.
[Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. However, this piece is based on work done for Absolute Radio, and the access I have to the data is only due to who I work for. Read about Absolute Radio’s results here.]