It has been a big radio week already with the Sony Radio Academy Awards on Monday. And next week will be big with the final Competition Commission ruling on its attempted takeover of GMG’s radio assets.
But let’s look at the latest RAJAR which is released today.
At first glance this quarter might look less than spectacular with few obvious stories emerging at first glance. But that isn’t quite the case.
First up is Radio 2, a station I recently described as a behemoth. And it continues to be just that, with yet another set of record reach and hours this quarter. Nobody really knows if there’s any way of stopping it. Chris Evans gets increased figures as a result (up 2.9% on the last quarter) and close to one in three UK radio listeners listen to the station at some point during the week. That’s quite scary given the breadth of radio we have on offer in this country.
On the other hand, Radio 1 has had something of a tumble. It’s seen reach fall 7.5% on the quarter and 7.9% on the year, but it’s also seen time spent listening drop 9.1% on the quarter and a massive 20.1% down on the year. It’s one thing if a small station falls to that extent, but Radio 1 is the third most listened to station in the country, so that kind of swing is very significant. Indeed Radio 4 is now bigger than Radio 1 – something that hasn’t been the case in the past. And that’s not because Radio 4 has grown especially (it’s flat on the quarter and up 4.4% on the year). I’ll return to Radio 1 in a while.
It may seem self-serving to list my own employer near the top of what I hope is a fairly unbiased report on RAJAR, but it’s true to say that the Absolute Radio Network has had some really good figures seeing its overall listening hours reach a record level, up 9.2% on the quarter and 22.6% on the year. To put that in perspective, you’d have to go back to 2001 to find a time when the team at One Golden Square (then Virgin Radio of course) had more hours.
This growth has been driven by its digital stations. Absolute 80s has close to its biggest ever reach and hours, in turn seeing it overtake other large digital commercial stations like The Hits, Smash Hits and Planet Rock. Absolute Radio 90s also has record high figures, and nearly all the other services have contributed. In a week that saw Christian O’Connell pick up two Sony Golds, he’s also had a decent increase at breakfast.
Elsewhere Classic FM has had a good quarter, while Talksport has had a so-so one with reasonable hours, but a reach that has now firmly slipped below three million.
Radio 3 has had a decent quarter with double digit growth on the year, while Radio 4’s performance has been solid as mentioned above. Five Live has good reach, but time spent listening seems to have fallen off recently. They’ve just had a bit of a schedule shake-up of course.
6 Music and Radio 4 Extra haven’t managed to maintain their reach momentum, although 6 Music’s hours are at a record high.
Disappointingly, the gap between the BBC and commercial radio has been widened a bit, with the BBC now having 55.7% of listening compared with commercial radio’s 41.9%.
Across the groups, Global is flat on the quarter in terms of listening, while Bauer at first glance seems to have had a good performance, up 4.5% on Q4 2012. However, this growth is due to its new ownership of Planet Rock, and indeed without it, its share would have slipped a fraction.
In the Midlands, the Orion group has turned in decent quarter on quarter numbers, and Jazz FM will be pleased with its hours.
What about breakfast? Well Chris Evans aside, the attention tends to fall on Nick Grimshaw, and the instant novelty of him taking over has rubbed off a little bit. It’s early days of course, but he’s down just over 900,000 listeners on the previous quarter are 1.3m on Chris Moyles’ numbers this time last year. Time spent listening is particularly bad for him year on year – perhaps a product of the vast amount of speech there used to be in Moyles’ show.
In London, the correct answer to the question “What is the most listened to breakfast show?” should always be the Today Programme on Radio 4. And that remains the case with very nearly twice as many listeners as its next nearest competitor, Radio 1. Dave and Lisa are just behind that, maintaining their advantage in spite of the station’s overall disappointing performance. Heart and Magic have done reasonably, but Kiss is the big faller this time around losing 18% of its audience on the last quarter. Interestingly, Christian O’Connell gets significantly more listening than all his commercial competitors with the exception of Capital despite being further down the table in terms of reach. Those who listen, listen a lot!
Let’s get on to digital. The first quarter each year usually sees a decent upturn in digital listening since DAB radios remain a very popular Christmas gift. And that’s still true with now 34.3% of all listening being digital, up from 33.0% last quarter. What’s more 26 million people or 40% of the population listen to digital radio every week – an increase of 2.6 million on last year.
Last time out, I said that we should keep an eye on internet listening as it jumped up quite a bit. This quarter, for the first time, internet listening has reached 5.0% and is level with digital TV listening. Clearly with lots more smartphone and tablet ownership, along with improved radio apps and streaming services, more and more radio is being delivered over IP.
In London, it hasn’t been an altogether good quarter in commercial radio. While All Radio listening is essentially flat (down 0.3% in listening hours on the previous quarter), listening to commercial radio is down 3.4% on the last quarter and 5.0% on the year. The BBC meanwhile has gained some, but not all, of that listening.
That’s why we’ve seen the big London commercial stations all take hits this quarter with Capital, Heart, Kiss and Magic all seeing declines in listening hours, especially if you look at year on year performances.
Global will be especially worried about Capital and Heart. Both have just over 9m hours, but in each case, that represents the lowest listening figure they’ve ever recorded since the current RAJAR methodology began in 1999. Indeed, in Capital’s case, you probably have to go way back into its 40 year history. There are bright shoots over at Xfm, but it’s not a good picture.
Indeed, the BBC has overtaken commercial radio in the capital in terms of listening share. While this has happened before, traditionally London has always been stronger for commercial services.
(Interestingly, “Other Radio” listening is up 44% on the quarter in the capital. That is listening to non-RAJAR measured stations including community and internet radio services. It’s up on a small base, but “Other Radio” is up from 2.1% of listening to 3.1%)
Let me just return to Radio 1. There’s an issue here with its results, and it’s something I return to all too often. Radio has to work harder to keep younger listeners because it’s losing them. Over the past five years, overall radio listening has stayed essentially flat (up 0.1%), but amongst 15-24 year olds it has fallen 16.9%. And if you look at 15-19 year olds it has fallen further – down 29.4%. The chart below goes back further than 5 years, but you can see the picture.
Look at the same chart for Radio 1 listeners. Over the same last five years, Radio 1 has seen listening fall by 38.1% amongst 15-24s and 40.9% amongst 15-19s.
By the way, I’m certain that both BBC, and indeed commercial groups that have stations that target this demographic, are doing what they can to stem the flow. It’s in their interests after all. But we can’t pretend that YouTube, Spotify, Rdio and now Google, aren’t all having some kind of effect on radio listening. We need to try harder as an industry.
Finally, let’s get back to my usual Google Motion Chart which I’ve updated again.
The first is the national picture. Although I’ve now increased the space on this blog which allows these charts to be bigger, I’d still recommend that you play with the larger version of the chart.
I’ve added back a London version of this bubble chart. You may find it easier to use the larger version, but it’s worth noting that there are a few more demographics in the London version of the chart including ages and digital listening! So do play with the different variables available and don’t just stick with the default state which usefully displays Reach v Reach %.
For more on RAJAR visit:
The official RAJAR site
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Media UK for lots of numbers and charts
One Golden Square for more Absolute Radio details
Paul Easton for analysis
Media Guardian for more news
Matt Deegan usually has plenty to say
And there are always RAJAR Smilies
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 31 March 2013, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they’re based on work I’ve done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.
[Amended to correct a fact about Absolute 80s]