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Here we are with the first RAJAR release of 2015 and one of the usual times to take stock of the UK radio market.
In overall terms, radio remains strong with 47.8m people listening each week (89%) – fractionally down on last quarter, but generally holding its own. And adults who listen to the radio do so for 21.3 hours a week, again consistent with recent quarters.
Of course, I don’t have to tell readers of this blog, that the amount of listening you do to the radio is almost directly correlated to your age.
The older you are, the more radio you listen to. And the younger you are…
In the past, radio watchers like myself have always paid close attention to the amount of digital listening there is in the first quarter of the year. That’s because DAB radios have been given as Christmas presents to quite a large degree. But those jumps have lessened over the years, essentially because digital listening has become more normal. However, in Q1 2015, we have seen quite a jump, with 39.6% of all listening – or two fifths – being digital.
While I don’t think anyone could honestly say for certain when a digital switchover might take place, the 50% listening mark has always been a key marker, and we’re now at 40%.
That increase is coming across all platforms, but proportionately it’s being driven by internet listening, which has now reached an all time high of 6.8% of radio listening. That might seem pretty small, but three years ago it was at 3.9%.
What’s more, as the chart above shows, it’s being driven by younger audiences. Getting your internet/app offering right for this audience is critical. 28.3% of 15-34 radio listeners are using the internet every week.
BBC v Commercial
While overall radio listening is broadly flat, the commercial radio has given over share to the BBC this quarter. 54.4% of listening is to BBC radio, while 42.8% is to commercial radio. That’ll disappoint the commercial groups as they’d been gaining share for the last year or so.
Not great figures for Radio 1 this quarter, as it falls below 10m reach for the first time since 2006. It’s 7% down on the quarter and 8% down on the year in reach. Listening hours aren’t quite as bad, but this’ll obviously be disappointing for them. It has dropped its average age a year (although as I’ve argued in the past, big shifts here are pretty impossible).
On the other hand, Radio 2 is pretty flat, losing 1% in reach but gaining it in hours. It remains with more than 15m listeners a week, each spending 12.2 hours with the station.
Radio 3 gains 2.7% in reach and a more significant 15.7% in hours (although it’s down on this time last year). Overall, pretty solid.
Radio 4 has also had a decent quarter gaining a few reach, but up again in hours by 8%.
It looks like the schedule changes that 5 Live put in place last year are now beginning to bed in, as its reach and hours have both seen solid increases (3% and 6% respectively). It’s still down on this time last year, but when you change your whole daytime schedule in a single swoop, that’s probably to be expected.
Classic FM has had a solid quarter, losing a handful of listeners on the quarter, but putting on listening hours.
And Talksport will be delighted to see 8% increases in reach and hours on the last quarter (and increases in the last year), as the station bounces back to over 3.2m listeners. The station will now be working out what it’s going to do with its planned series of sister stations, including a Talksport 2, launching next year.
National Digital Stations
1Xtra has had a bit of a drop this quarter falling 24% in reach and 42% in hours of last quarter. Even allowing for some variances in its figures, this is a big fall, and I couldn’t easily explain it away.
Radio 4 Extra has delivered some new record figures, gaining 26% reach in a single quarter and 15% in hours. It now has more than 2m listeners each week for the first time (2.2m in fact).
It has been an excellent quarter for 5 Live Sports Extra which has seen a record reach – more than doubling after last quarter’s drop. 1.3m people listened during the first quarter of this year. Obviously this is busy part of the sporting calendar for football, but perhaps the most important part of the schedule was the cricket world cup that took place during this quarter. It’ll be interesting to see what the BBC Trust says about the station’s recent request to put more original programming on the station.
6 Music has a small dip this quarter down 1% in reach, but with listening increasing. It’s up on the previous year too.
Absolute 80s is the biggest commercial digital radio station and has posted some all time record figures, a smidgen under 1.5m in reach with 9.3m hours.
The Absolute Radio Network is flat at 3.9m reach (I mean it’s completely flat at 3.893m this quarter and last quarter!). Hours are up to over 30m for the first time since Chris Evans was at the station – so the first time in a long time!
The overall Magic network (including London) has seen a big jump in the last quarter with 3.6m listening for 18m hours.
Planet Rock has had a very good set of figures, putting on 12% in reach and 13% in hours adding to an overall strong digital portfolio for Bauer. (The exception being the unloved The Hits, which has had its worst reach figure ever.)
The Capital Network (including Capital Xtra) has fallen back a little this quarter, while the Heart Network is basically flat overall.
Jazz FM will be disappointed to see its reach drop by 11% in the quarter, and experience a smaller fall in hours.
There’s a view that I share, that London can often foretell trends in radio, perhaps by about a year. If that’s the case, then there is serious concern in this RAJAR, because the proportion of Londoners who ever listen to the radio has fallen to 86% for the first time (remember it’s at 89%) nationally. Now 3% mightn’t seem that much, but only five years ago it was at 93%.
What’s more, the cumulative number of listening hours has fallen below 200m for the first time since the methodology changed in 1999. Again, it’s just a number, and it’s perfectly possible that it’ll come back next quarter, but these are not good omens.
What that means is that overall radio listening is down in London this quarter, meaning that many stations have experienced losses without other stations necessarily picking up listeners.
Magic isn’t one of those stations however. It’s number one in London in reach (1.9m up 8.4%) and hours (9.8m up 8.5%).
However Global will not be pleased with the results from its key brands in London. Capital has seen a 4% fall in reach and 12% fall in hours on the previous quarter (and the numbers are worse on the year). But for Heart, the numbers are even worse, with a 14% fall in reach and colossal 28% fall in hours. Even the usually solid LBC has had a very poor quarter with a 19% fall in reach and a 17% fall in hours. Factor in falls in Capital Xtra (down 51% in hours), Xfm (down 57% in hours) and Gold (a less bad fall of 34% on a small base), and it’s not great news for Global’s offering in London.
Kiss also had a fall, down 1.5% in reach and 8.2% in hours. On the other hand Absolute Radio jumped back massively after a couple of disappointing results with a 33% increase in reach and an 82% increase in hours.
I’ll repeat what I always say in these situations, and that’s that you need to keep an eye on trends, and that you should always question any station experiencing double digit changes in figures in any given quarter.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Radio 1’s overall picture, Nick Grimshaw has seen his numbers fall with his reach down 7% on the previous quarter at about 5.5m
Chris Evans has last a few listeners on Radio 2, but nothing he can’t afford to lose. He’s now down to “just” 9.5m.
On Absolute Radio’s network of stations, Christian O’Connell remains flat on a still decent 1.6m listeners.
In London it’s fun and games as ever. Rickie, Melvin and Charlie and the number one commercial breakfast show up about 1% with 879,000 listeners. It’s just 7,000 ahead of Dave and Lisa at Capital who have fallen 7% to 872,000. Next up is Magic with 747,000 (although it too has fallen). Heart is down too with 627,000 (down 8% on the qtr). Christian on Absolute Radio’s network has increased his reach by 8% on the quarter to 585,000. And spare a thought for Jon Holmes on Xfm – down 52% to 118,000 (although Russell Brand podcasts or not, the brand does feel unloved by Global).
Finally the bubbles…
(Note that Google has updated the way these charts work again, and while it seems to be much faster to use now, I haven’t been able to make the chart any larger. So clicking here, will give you more details on how the chart works, but it won’t currently make it bigger. I’m working on it. Sadly, I’ve not been able to update the London chart just yet.)
For more RAJAR analysis, I’d recommend the following sites:
The official RAJAR site and their infographic
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Go to Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
Paul Easton for analysis
Matt Deegan usually has some analysis
Media Guardian for more news and analysis
One Golden Square for more Absolute Radio and Bauer details
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 5 April 2015, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.