RAJAR Q1 2019

RAJAR Q1 2019


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It’s Radio Audio Week in the UK, which means there have been, and continue to be a series of events that started with the Radio Festival on Monday, Radiocentre’s Tuning In event on Tuesday, and things continue through until Saturday with the third British Podcasts Awards ceremony. But today is all about the latest RAJAR release!

Chris Evans and National Breakfast

The big question with this release is how well is Chris Evans doing on Virgin Radio?

Just short of 1m listeners a week is the answer. To be precise – 994,000. It squeaks over a million by adding in the Virgin Radio digital sibblings – to 1.048m.

For those keeping score, that works out as a 576% increase on the previous quarter. (Sadly I didn’t spot Matt’s Twitter sweepstake in time to take part!)

Is that a good figure?

It’s probably OK. Owners News UK will want that number to grow over time, but Evans will never get close to where he was on Radio 2.

Recall that when he left Radio 2 at the end of last year, he had 9m listeners, being the biggest show on the biggest station in the country. By going to Virgin, he was essentially starting again from scratch. Even with the might of one of the country’s biggest newspaper groups behind him, that was always going to be a tall order.

Leaving aside the question of how much Sky is paying to sponsor the show – recall that it has no ads – we’re left with the question of what size audience does Evans need to make the station profitable? And at what point will Virgin start to sell ads in the show?

My guess would be another quarter ad-free at least. Try to grow the show some more. I would anticipate another burst of marketing at some point.

The other thing to  note is that having signed Evans, Virgin didn’t really chase any other superstar names. That’s not to belittle any of the talent they have on air right now – there are some good presenters there. But they surely want to build on Evans? Most of the other daytime shows have at least doubled in size – tripled in Eddy Temple-Morris’ case for mid-morning following directly on from Evans. But that growth was mostly from a small base. And if Virgin is only going to sell advertising outside of Evans, they really need more people to stick around for more of the rest of the day.

Overall, the station has trebled in size from 447,000 last quarter to 1.3m this quarter. So Evans has brought around 850,000 unique listeners with him.

But these are effectively the low hanging fruit – these are the loyalists who followed Evans straight across. These are his biggest fans.

That leaves a lot of existing Radio 2 listeners in place – or perhaps having discovered a different breakfast show somewhere else. And they’ve now been listening to their new show(s) for three months. Do they miss Evans? How do you get big numbers to continue switching?

While I don’t doubt Evans will continue to grow his show, the speed of that growth is likely to slow down. And that means that getting to, say, 2 million, might take some time.

And the competition is getting tougher. Global is in the process of networking all its breakfast shows. And they’re investing heavily in those networked shows. Bauer could at some point do the same. And those rival shows are on FM and digital. Evans is only available on digital platforms, which especially hinders listening in the car.

Certainly new cars tend to have DAB, but most people don’t drive new cars. And yes, you can hook a phone up to your car and stream, but is it just easier to hit the “Radio” button and listen to Zoe Ball, Jamie Theakston or whoever?

Digital listening is still growing (see below), but analogue isn’t dying anytime soon.

What about Radio 2? Who has stayed around for Zoe Ball?

She too benefited from an in-house marketing campaign of the kind only the BBC can give you (although by far the bigger campaign has been for BBC Sounds).

Well, her new audience is 9.047m – that’s just 18,000 fewer than Chris Evans bowed out with. In percentage terms the difference is negligible.

Now, we need to be a little careful here. RAJAR measures different people each quarter, so we can’t with any certainty say that Ball has held on to all Evans’ listeners. But she’s almost certainly held a lot of them. Some previous Evans listeners followed him over to Virgin. Some came to Evans from other places. Ball has probably gained some new listeners from other places as well.

But it’s safe to say that Radio 2 will be very happy with this result. They’ve ridden out the departure of some major talent, and completely reshaped their two key shows, with no audience loss whatsoever.

Listening hours on the breakfast show are down around 10% however, suggesting that perhaps there’s still some trial going on. It’s not hard to think of scenarios like those with a DAB radio at home shifting to Evans, but then coming back to Ball on FM when they get into their car for the commute or school run.

Lest we forget, there have been other shakeups around in breakfast radio. Over on Radio 1 it has been helmed by Greg James for about 9 months now. He’s holding firm with around 5.3m listeners, down 2% on the quarter and up 4% on the year. And the fact the amount of listening hours to his show is fractionally up suggests that he’s delivering well to his audience.

6 Music has had something of a presenter merry-go-round, with Shaun Keaveny passing on the baton to Lauren Laverne. The schedule changes saw some show times change as well, with Laverne’s “breakfast” show running from 0730 right through until 1030 (some students are still getting up then I guess). But comparing like for like time periods (as I nearly always do), shows an 18% increase for Laverne. She has just short of 1.3m listeners at breakfast, with overall time spent listening up as well.

Considering that 6 Music is also 100% digital only, that means Lauren Lavergne is getting 300,000 more listeners than Chris Evans.

The other really big news in breakfast radio was the start of Roman Kemp’s national breakfast show across the entire Capital network from 8 April. As such, we won’t get figures for his show until next time.

But Global has given Kemp strong marketing support – a TV ad featuring a wide array of pop talent, built around a breakfast cereal creative campaign. And of course, Global is now also the #2 outdoor company in the UK. So there have been lots of “house” ads utilising that space around the country. Look out for his first figures next time around.

At Radiocentre’s ‘Tuning In’ event on Tuesday, Kemp was very aware that he was filling the shoes of a lot of previously popular local breakfast shows – but Global is here to take the fight to Radio 1.

The next major breakfast change comes next month when Heart’s breakfast show gets networked, with Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden getting national coverage. No doubt there’ll be another big marketing campaign to support them, but we won’t get the first results until later in the autumn.

The Upcoming Classical Fight

I’m being a little mischievous here. First of all, Scala Radio launched too late for this quarter’s RAJAR. So there are no figures to compare, and we can’t yet see how many listeners Simon Mayo is attracting on his new mid-morning show, compared to what he and Jo Whiley were getting on Radio 2 drivetime (Spoiler: It’ll be a lot of less).

And as I’ll continue to point out, Radio 3 and Classic FM target different audiences. Scala might be closer to Classic FM, although in another session at Tuning In, Bauer’s Steve Parkinson explained that they were looking to gain new audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily think of themselves as classical music listeners.

Radio 3 has had a really good quarter, up 12% on the quarter and 6% on the year – to 2.04m. That’s a big jump for an historically very steady station. There haven’t been any substantial programming changes this quarter either. Hours are also up, growing 3% on the quarter, and 4% on the year to 12.4m.

The bigger Classic FM has had a mixed quarter. Reach is flat on the previous quarter, but down 5% on the year, to 5.3m listeners. Hours, however, have grown to 38.7m – up 6% on the quarter and up 1% on the year.

We live in interesting times when both Classic FM and Scala have video game music programmes.

As well as Scala, Bauer’s other newbie, Country Hits Radio, will also get a first set of figures next quarter as well.

Overall Radio Listening

Regular readers will know that I’m always keen to keep tabs on the overall perspective on radio. Audio is a “hot” medium at the moment, but sometimes radio misses out on that. Instead, the coverage is all about Spotify or podcasts.

The All Radio 1 billion weekly listening hours figure is something else that I’m looking at closely, and I had wondered if that number would be breached soon. Last quarter, it just stayed the right side of 1 billion with 1.002 billion hours. This quarter, it has actually jumped 2% to 1.022 billion hours. That’s flat year on year, but it’s still a positive sign.

Overall reach is also up very slightly to 38.945m. That means that 89% of the adult population are still listening to the radio at least once a week.

Commercial Radio still has more listeners than the BBC, with 36.1m versus 34.4m. Reach has grown 2% this quarter – although is flat on the year. Overall hours are flat on the quarter, but up slightly on the year to 468m hours.

BBC Radio has also seen some growth on the quarter, up 1% to 34.436m. But it’s down 2% on the year. However hours are strong, up 3% on the quarter to nearly 526m, although down 1% on the year. As such, while commercial radio has more listeners, the BBC has more time spent listening.

National Radio

Let’s start with Radio 2 since we’ve already talked about its breakfast show. Despite a number of schedule changes, it’s reach is up a very solid 3%, once again going above 15m to 15.356m. That’s flat on the previous quarter.

Listening hours are down 2% on the quarter and the same on the year to 177m. In other words – 17% of all radio listening. Some of that small loss could easily be attributable to trying other shows on other stations – not least Chris Evans.

Radio 1 is down 1% on the quarter and down 2% on the year to 9.303m. But listening is up 3% on the quarter and 3% on the year to 58.8m hours. The average age of a Radio 1 listener remains 35.

Radio 4 had a good set of numbers – up 5% on last quarter and up 1% on last year. Hours were up 8% on last quarter, although down 2% on last year.

Is this Brexit related? In the past, I’ve hypothesised that speech radio declines were due to boredom with Brexit, but in this quarter the news never really stopped and the country found itself repeatedly at the edge of Brexit-related precipices or watching momentous votes in the Commons.

All the key Monday to Friday news shows were up. Today was up 5% (1% on the year) to 7.2m.  The World at One was up 8% (5% on the year) to 3.6m. PM was up 3% to 3.9m (flat on the year). And The World Tonight was also up 3% (but down 12% on the year) to 1.5m. All those shows also saw quarter on quarter gains in listening hours.

[The wonderful Mum has just returned to BBC2. In the first episode Derek has hired a grand house for his birthday. He’s trying to adapt to life in the country with log fires and a copy of the Telegraph. He describes Radio 4 to Michael: “It’s a radio station. But they don’t play music and you can’t phone in.”]

BBC Radio 5 Live had its best reach since Q4 2017, with 5.4m listeners, up 9% on the quarter and 5% on the year. Meanwhile hours were up 7% on the quarter and 10% on the year.

That’ll be partly Brexit as well I suspect, but there has been a strong and competitive Premier League competition this season, and English clubs have done well in Europe as we know. Add those things together, and you get a net positive for a station that is now going to have to cope without Danny Baker.

Last quarter’s 6 Music dip seemed a little odd. Well it’s back to where it probably should be, with reach up 10% (down 1% on the year) and hours up 21% (up 3% on the year). This ‘correction’ sees the station with its highest ever listening hours. That reshuffle seems to have worked well for them.

LBC has seen more growth. Reach is up 2% on the quarter (up 4% on the year) to 2.25m. Hours were fractionally down on the quarter falling 1% (but up 6% on the year) to 21.6m.

I’m actually a little surprised about this. As mentioned above, it has been a turbulent time in politics, and I wonder if there could have been even more growth – in hours at least.

Although, a 2.25m reach is an all time record!

LBC is a little unusual in that although there are breakfast and evening drive ‘peaks’ as with all stations, they’re not as pronounced as with many other stations.

Running through the Monday to Friday daytime schedule, Nick Ferrari (7:00-10:00) is on breakfast, and this quarter his reach was flat on the quarter at 1.26m (up 4% on the year).

He’s followed by James O’Brien (10:00-1:00) who’s only just behind Ferrari with a reach of 984,000 – down 3% on the quarter and down 3% on the year.

Shelagh Fogarty (1:00-4:00) is on in the afternoon with 745,000 listeners – up 1% on the quarter and up 6% on the year.

And of course, Eddie Mair (4:00-6:00) is still settling in on drive, but growing his reach 6% on the quarter (and 11% on the year) to 757,000.

That’s a very solid daytime line-up even before you get to the various politicians’ phone-ins – the morning ones usually being included in the final hour Ferrari’s show. And note too that although Mair is currently on air until 7pm, that final hour is usually Nigel Farage.

Talksport had some decent figures, supporting the idea that a decent Premier League campaign has helped both them and 5 Live. Reach is up 3% on the quarter (and up 3% on the year), to 3.1m. Meanwhile hours were up 4% on the quarter and a strong 10% on the year to just over 20m hours again.

The latest Premier League radio rights round was recently concluded, and while 5 Live won’t need to update their “more Premier League games than anyone else” trail, Talksport has taken the Saturday 12:30pm game from 5 Live, while 5 Live has the 2pm Sunday game instead. This enables Talksport to proclaim three games back to back (with their second-pick 3pm game likely to be on Talksport 2) from 12:30pm to around 7:30pm. 5 Live is getting Friday, Saturday and Monday night fixtures. Other packages remain the same. Note that as always with football – there’ll be odd instances where games show up when you don’t expect them.

Talksport 2 did some decent numbers this quarter, growing 30% on the previous quarter (up 33% on the year) to 424,000. Hours were also up, growing 14% on the quarter (and 54% on the year!) to 1.5m. More fans finding, in particular, more Football League coverage on the sister station? But it’ll be that in addition to the station’s exclusive radio coverage of England’s cricket tour of the West Indies. Cricket has always given 5 Live Sports Extra a boost in the past, and this time around Talksport 2 is getting the benefit.

Talkradio has also grown, but I suspect not as much as News UK might hope. Reach is up 12% to 339,000 (up 23% on the year) – while hours are up 6% (down 3% on the year) to 1.4m. If News UK sticks with it, the station is growing solidly if not spectacularly. The problem is that the format is expensive. I’ve no doubt they’ll be jealous of LBC’s figures.

Moving on to the national commercial music channels, and the picture is mixed.

Absolute Radio has done decently, its reach up 2% on the quarter (flat on the year) to 2.4m, while hours are up 19% on the quarter (up 9% on the year) to 20.2m.

Notably, digital sister station Absolute 80s has done very well this quarter with a record 1.7m reach, up 17% on the quarter (up 11% on the year). Hours are also up to 8.6m growing 14% on the quarter (up 19% on the year). Both of these are record highs!

The Absolute Radio Network is down slightly on the quarter, falling 1% in reach to 4.7m (up 4% on the year), while hours are up 5% on the quarter (up 9% on the year) to a record 35.6m for the brand. Dave Berry can still claim to be the biggest commercial breakfast show with 2.2m listeners, up 6.2% on the year. Roman Kemp may have something to say about that next quarter – breakfast across the Capital Network currently would come to 3.8m listeners.

Magic is down 3% on the quarter (but up 12% on the year) to 3.3m reach. Hours are down 5% on the quarter (but up 17% on the year) to 17.6m. Some of its digital siblings do well though – with some decent results for Mellow Magic and Magic Chilled.

Kiss had a poor quarter, with reach falling 5% on the quarter (down 13% on the year) to 3.9m. Hours fell harder, down 17% on the quarter (down 26% on the year) to 15.2m nationally. Kiss lost Rickie, Melvin and Charlie from breakfast, to Radio 1 towards the end of last year. Tom Green and Daisy Maskall took over in this quarter, and they’re still finding their feet. Their show was down 3% on the quarter (down 15% on the year) to 1.79m. Rickie, Melvin and Charlie had been managing around 2m previously, so that’s certainly within reach for the new pair.

Bauer did launch one new national service that gets some results this quarter – Greatest Hits Radio. This replaces most of its local AM services, and it’s also getting carriage on a number of local digital multiplexes. Its first results saw it achieve 556,000 reach and 4.1m hours.

The Capital Network was down slightly in reach and hours this quarter. Reach fell 1% on the quarter (down 3% on the year) to 7.2m, while hours also fell 1% on the quarter (down 5% on the year). Obviously this was all ahead of the marketing for Roman Kemp, but it’ll be interesting to see the impact of a lot of changed local breakfast shows next quarter.

Capital Xtra fell 2% on the quarter (up 7% on the year) with hours down 14% on the quarter (up 7% on the year). All together, this resulted in the overall Capital Brand being down 1% on the quarter (down 1% on the year) in reach to 8.2m. Hours are down 3% on the quarter (and down 3% on the year) to 42.1m.

Over at the Heart Network things are very stable. Reach was flat on the quarter (up 1% on the year) to 8.5m. Hours were up 3% on the quarter (flat on the year) to 59.1m

The battle of the 80s stations continues with Heart’s digital sister station Heart 80s growing 8% on the quarter (up 2% on the year) to 1.4m. Hours are up 14% on the quarter (up 8% on the year) to 6.2m. Like Absolute 80s, Heart 80s figures are also both record highs.

Absolute 80s is still ahead, but Heart 80s is on the DAB multiplex with the most coverage.

Across the complete Heart Brand the reach was down 1% on the quarter (up 2% on the year) to 9.7m. Hours were up 2% on the quarter (flat on the year) to 66.8m.

Smooth will be the last of Global’s big brands to get a networked breakfast show, later in the year. In the meantime, the station was down 1% on the quarter (up 3% on the year) with a reach of 5.1m. Hours were flat on the quarter (but up 14% on the year) to 37.8m.

Finally from Global, the Radio X Network was down 7% in reach on the quarter (down 3% on the year) to 1.5m. Hours were down 14% on the quarter (but up 3% on the year) to 12.5m. That also means that Chris Moyles has fallen 3% on the quarter (up 7% on the year) to 928,000 reach. So Chris Evans has already overhauled Chris Moyles. Fun fact: Live with Chris Moyles which ran on Channel 5 weekday early evenings from September 2002, was produced by Chris Evans’ Ginger TV. Moyles was fired from the show in early 2003. Fellow DJ, Christian O’Connell took over from Moyles, but then the show was subsequently cancelled altogether that summer.


It’s the post Christmas period, and that usually means a lot of DAB radios – and smart speakers – were probably sold.

Digital listening is now at 56.4% of all radio – a new record, and well up from 52.6% last quarter.

Listening via DAB is now at 40.4% of listening on its own – a new high, up from 38.3% last quarter (the previous high).

But even more interestingly 11.0% of all listening is now done via the internet. That’s up from 9.4% last quarter (Q3 2018’s 9.6% was the previous high). That’s a big jump in one quarter, and this is in part be attributable to the growth in smart speakers.

RAJAR last week released its latest MIDAS survey which showed that 4% of live radio listening is now via a smart speaker – with the share being higher amongst some younger demographics.

If you consider 15-34s – an age group that radio finds somewhat challenging – growth is even more significant. This quarter 16.3% of all listening in this age group is done via the internet. Another all time high.

Further Reading

For those who only visit during RAJAR, a quick plug for a recent piece about video cameras in radio studios.

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
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
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site

All my previous RAJAR analyses are here.

Updated to reflect that Talksport 2 had exclusive cricket coverage which almost certainly helped drive listening. Also updated to correct a typo in Greg James’ figures.

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 31 March 2019, Adults 15+. Also of note is that I treat all weekday shows as Mon-Fri. Some presenters have Friday off, but to compare like with like, I’ve stuck with a five day week.

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.