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It’s RAJAR time again, when the UK radio industry releases a new set of listening figures. And this is the first release of 2017, featuring a smattering of new stations.
In overall terms, there are a few declines this time around. Overall radio is down 2.4% in terms of listening compared with the previous quarter, although it is up 1.7% on the same time last year. Reach too is down slightly on the quarter but up on the year.
In particular, BBC radio seems to have taken a bit of a hit this quarter, being down 2.9% in reach and 3.6% in hours; whereas commercial radio is only down 1.2% in reach and down 0.8% in hours.
In reach terms, the BBC and commercial radio remain very evenly with matched with commercial radio just edging the BBC with 64% reach compared to the BBC’s 63%. While in share terms, the BBC has 53% of radio listening compared with commercial radio’s 45% (the other two percent or so is non-RAJAR measured radio services).
Overall 89% of the population continue to listen to the radio at least once a week – a figure that has remained constant for many years now.
Digital share is something everyone in the industry pays attention to, and it’s now up to 47.2% of all listening being digital – that’s a big jump in the post Christmas RAJAR period. And it’s really closing in the symbolic 50% digital level.
National and Digital Services
It hasn’t been the best quarter for Radio 1, with reach down 4.8% on last quarter and down 8.1% on last year. It now reaches 9.1m people a week. Five years ago it was reaching 11.1m a week. Obviously its target audience is the most challenging of the BBC’s radio services to target, as I’ve said on many occassions before. While listening was again down on the quarter, it was actually up fractionally on the year. Again, Radio 1 will look to its iPlayer and YouTube footprint.
Radio 2 is also down a little both on the previous quarter and the previous year in terms of reach. But it’s nothing to write home about, and the station remains vastly larger than any other in the country (and many other stations in the world – although I would point to the BBC World Service English service reaching 66m a year…). Hours are very strong though, and although it they’re down slightly on this time last year, those were record numbers then. Radio 2 is still a beast of a station.
Radio 3 had what can only be described as a disappointing quarter, down 11% in reach on both last quarter and last year. Hours were particularly poor, down nearly 20% on last quarter and 15% down on the year. It’s not clear to me what’s happened, but the current listening levels are within the bounds of what it has done previously over the last few years.
While Radio 4 has fallen away from it’s Brexit high a couple of quarters ago, it’s still 5% up on the year in reach and nearly 6% up on the year in hours. This is a good set of numbers, and the station has had a reach of over 11m for four quarters in a row now, when historically 10m was more its norm. Sister station Radio 4 Extra has also had decent numbers.
Five Live has had a disappointing set of numbers too – perhaps not able to capitalise on such a fairy tale Premier League season. It’s down 6.5% in reach on last quarter and down 7.5% on the year. While hours aren’t as bad, it’s interesting that in these highly politicised times, Radio 4 continues to do well, but 5 Live doesn’t.
6 Music, needless to say, confounds all of this. It’s up in everything meaning that it has also once again set record reach and hours figures. It has 2.351m listeners spending 23.4m hours a week with it.
As with Five Live, Talksport hasn’t done so well this quarter, being down 9% on the quarter and 12% on the year in terms of reach. Hours are much better with even a slight uptick on the quarter. Although with less than 3m reach and 20m hours, they will want to do better. Sister station Talksport 2 showed a slight dip on this quarter still hovering around the 250,000-300,000 range for its reach. Hours are a bit more concerning being 10% down on the quarter.
Talkradio got a bump in hours, but is down a little in reach to 238,000. While I’m convinced that there’s room for more speech radio, perhaps it needs further tweaking. Meanwhile Virgin Radio was up in reach and up in hours. While it has yet to return to the levels of the first set of numbers it posted, this at least is encouraging.
Classic FM ticks on by, flat in reach on the quarter, but up nearly 5% on the year. Hours are down slightly on the quarter but up nearly 7% on the year. It comfortably stays north of 5m listeners and has around 35m listening hours putting it in a good place.
Absolute Radio is up slightly on the quarter, and essentially flat on the year in terms of reach. Hours is much better story, with something of a bounce back from last quarter, being up 12%. Across the entire Absolute Radio Network, reach is down a little, but hours are up, and the brand has 4.2m reach and 33m hours (similar to the size of Classic, but with a much more valuable target audience for advertisers).
Radio X is making solid progress nationally up 5% on the quarter in reach and up 6% on the year. Hours are also up, and with a fair wind, it should break 10m listening hours within the next quarter or two. It certainly seems to have some traction.
LBC nationally is performing outstandingly well. it has just short of 1.8m listeners (up 6% on the quarter and up 16% on the year), while hours are closing in to 20m. Listening is up a whopping 27% on the year! This is one station aside from Radio 4 that really is prospering right now.
Capital is doing decently across its whole brand. While reach and hours are down a little on the quarter, they’re up on the year, and the brand still has 8.3m listeners spending 47m hours across the various Capital stations.
The Heart Network and Brand’s listeners (the latter includes Heart Extra) have drifted away a little in recent quarters and this is no exception. Nothing stunning, but still downwards. It’ll be interesting to see if a recent new TV ad does much to turn its fortunes around.
The Magic Network got bolstered this month (see below), but it was still down a little in reach. Hours are better, with now more than 20m Magic hours across the network. Magic too has recently invested in a TV ad, the results of which won’t hit until next quarter.
The Kiss Network has fallen back a little for the second quarter in a row, with a reach still just ahead of 5m, while hours have fallen back below 30m. The brand has done really well to maintain its audience when you compare it with the difficulties Radio 1 has had.
The Smooth Brand is not one I think about a lot, but it’s a real performer for Global with 5.4m reach and nearly 40m hours. It dipped a little this quarter but is a very solid performer if it can hang on to that listening.
Finally a couple of new stations. Union Jack, which has been on the air for several months now, has posted a reach of 71,000 with 265,000 hours. It’s a low cost station (broadcasting at easily the lowest bitrate of any DAB music services), but it probably needs a larger audience in due course.
Meanwhile Magic Soul, which began as a summer pop-up, has a reach of 242,000 and hours of not inconsequential 1.3m. A decent enough start for the service from Bauer.
Finally there’s Share Radio. It has just announced that will be coming off DAB soon, continuing as an online-only service. It posted its first set of numbers, with 17,000 reach and 40,000 hours. The difficulty the station has is that it’s demographic target market is far too specialist for RAJAR to accurately capture. It’s analogous to Bloomberg TV which previously came off BARB in the UK because although the service is definitely on in the right offices and on the right trading floors, it’s not something that the BARB panel can easily pick up.
I’ll leave others to spend more time on breakfast, but Nick Grimshaw saw his show fall as the overall station did. He’s down 4.2% in reach on the quarter and 5.4% down on the year. Unfortunately for him, that’s the lowest Radio 1 breakfast show figure since the current RAJAR methodology started back in 1999.
Over on Radio 2, Chris Evans put on nearly 2% to his audience this quarter – that’s nearly 9.4m listeners. Down a little on this time last year, but still a very successful show.
In commercial terms, Bauer has the top two shows in the Kiss breakfast show with Rickie, Melvin and Charlie with 2.1m listeners, while Christian O’Connell across the Absolute Radio Network is just behind with 1.9m listeners.
Who’s number one in London? Well of course it’s actually Radio 4. But you probably want to know how the commercial rivals stack up.
Capital can still shout loudly about that position. With 2.2m listeners, it’s jumped a frankly unlikely 30% on the quarter bouncing back from last quarter’s low. Looking back, that really does look like a freak quarter. Kiss is the next closest in reach with 1.8m listeners.
However in hours terms, LBC gets the crown with 11.5m hours (up 28% on the year!). This compares with 10.8m for Capital and 9.2m for Heart.
(Sorry, I’ve just realised I managed this report without a single chart. I promise to do better in future!)
For more RAJAR analysis, I’d recommend the following sites:
The official RAJAR site and their infographic is here
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Go to Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
Mediatel’s Newsline will have lots of figures and analysis
Paul Easton for more lots analysis including London charts
Matt Deegan will have some great analysis
Media Guardian for more news and coverage
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 2 April 2017, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else, including my employer. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Drop me a note if you want clarifications on anything. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.