Written by Audio, Radio

RAJAR Q3 2019

RAJAR

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Below A Billion

This “book” (Note: RAJAR once came in printed books, hence the terminology) was from the summer months, and that can have an impact on listening with some seasonal changes – listening often waning a little with people away on holiday.

Overall radio listening dipped 0.5% on the previous quarter, and was down 0.2% on the year, with 48.5m listening to the radio every week.

But the big news is in listening hours. It has been threatening this for a while, but UK radio listening has fallen below a billion hours for the first time since Q4 1999, not long after the current methodology had been adopted. That’s a 2.5% decrease on the quarter and a 3.6% decrease on the year to 989.221m.

The billion hour mark is just that – a mark. But it’s long been seen as a noteable one, because UK radio has always stayed above that number. Back in Q4 1999, RAJAR estimated the adult (15+) population to be 47.9m, and today it estimates it as 55.0m. That’s a 15% increase over a 20 year period, yet over that same period, hours haven’t truly grown.

None of this should be a surprise to anyone. I’ve been predicting it for a while. The reason are obvious, and they’re broadly age-related. This chart shows the issue as well as anything.

Between Q3 2003 and today, 15-24 listening hours have nearly halved, from 154m to below 80m.

Listening amongst 25-34s isn’t much better, falling 35% from its peak.

Indeed, in Q2 1999, when the current RAJAR methodology begins, 15-44 year olds accounted for nearly half of all radio listening (49.3%). Today, they account for just over a third of listening (34.6%).

But the downward trajectory is amongst pretty much all age groups with exception of 65+.

Overall, BBC Radio fell 1.8% this quarter and was down 2.5% on the year to 33.451m listeners. Hours fell 2.4% on the quarter and were down 7.9% on the year to 488.274m.

Commercial Radio fell 0.6% on the quarter and rose 0.3% on the year to 35.930m listeners. Meanwhile, hours fell 2.4% on the quarter but rose 1.4% on the year to 475.371m.

Commercial Radio has been ahead of the BBC in terms of reach since 2017, but the BBC has led Commercial Radio in hours (or share) for nearly twenty years. The difference is now around 13m hours. Could Commercial Radio consistently overtake the BBC in both reach and hours in the future?

National Is The New Local

If there’s a radio-specific theme this year, it’s that while local radio has sounded more homogeneous, with many stations nearly being completely networked, at the same time there has been an explosion in national radio services.

Global in particular, having recently adopted DAB+ as a viable broadcasting format, has launched spin-offs of some of their major brands in the manner that Absolute Radio pioneered previously and that Bauer has continued. In the last week Global has announced that its London AM rolling news service, LBC News, is going national from next week.

[Nerdy Sidenote: From a RAJAR perspective, distinguishing between “regular” LBC and LBC News in RAJAR diaries is likely to prove complex. LBC News in London, the AM rolling news version, has long delivered solid listening figures. But I question how much RAJAR diarists are really determing the difference between the two. Note that in a previous role I faced this issue when trying to get diarists to differentiate between Virgin Radio AM in London and the more valuable Virgin Radio FM.]

Now whether the trade-off between losing localness, but gaining more music formats is a fair one, I’ll leave you to decide.

I should, however, point out that basically none of these new services has yet been measured by RAJAR. So you’ll have to wait a bit longer to see what the impact of these stations is on the wider radio world.

National Stations

Getting into some of the station by station performances. This week we learnt that Radio 1 and 1Xtra Controller Ben Cooper would be leaving the BBC in the New Year. This might not quite be his final RAJAR, but in the meantime reach is down 2.2% on the quarter and down 2.6% on the year to 9.352m. Hours were down 5.3% on the quarter and down 6.8% on the year to 57.052m.

At breakfast Greg James saw his reach fall 2.9% on the quarter, but it rose 1.1% on the year to 5.389m.

1Xtra was down 3.3% on the quarter, but up 2.9% on the year to 1.06m reach. Hours aren’t so great, down 3.4% on the quarter and down 7.3% on the year.

As the trends above show, catering to the youngest audiences isn’t the easiest job in radio.

Radio 2 looks like it’s still working through the changes that were made across its major shows at breakfast and drive. Reach is down 2.8% on the quarter and down 3.1% on the year to 14.181m. Hours fell 5.6% on the quarter and are down 10.5% on the year to 157m. That’s a significant fall – losing 9m hours in a single quarter. If they’d all gone to one station, it’d be fantastic news for that station. (Spoiler: They haven’t)

Zoe Ball saw her breakfast show fall 4.4% on the quarter, and it was down 10.4% on the year to 7.902m. As I say, there’s clearly still some settling in for that show.

Radio 3 often sees an uptick in Q3 due to the Proms. But it didn’t this time, falling 4.7% in reach on the quarter, and just 0.1% down on the year. Reach remains firmly in the 2m area with 1.932m listeners. Hours were down 2.5% on the quarter, but were up 1.5% on the year to 12.813m. It might be interesting to have a look at the impact of their late evening changes next time around, following the cutting back of Late Junction to a single episode a week. One to watch.

Radio 4 was down 2.2% on the quarter and down 2.8% on the year to 10.342m. Hours were down 3.4% on the quarter and down 7.8% on the year.

I’m not even going to attempt to guess whether continuing Brexit coverage, perhaps sometimes seeming to drown out everything else, is having an impact here.

I do know that Brexit shouldn’t really impact Radio 4 Extra (unless people are heading to mothership for more news!), but the digital station didn’t have a great set of numbers, down 10.6% on the quarter and down 1.1% on the year to 1.987m. Hours were more significant, falling 13.3% on the quarter and down 17.2% on the year.

Radio 5 Live didn’t have a big sports tournament to prop it up this summer – with cricket primarily on its sister station, and the rugby union World Cup not really beginning until Q4. Reach was down 4.9% on the quarter, and down 1.0% on the year to 4.983m. Hours were down 5.0% on the quarter and down 10.7% on the year. Brexit coverage related?

Radio 5 Live Sports Extra lives and dies by its sports carriage, and this summer it had the Cricket World Cup and The Ashes. Reach therefore jumped a massive 47.9% on the quarter and 33.1% on the year to 2.195m. That’s a station record – by quite a long way.

And hours were up 96.9% on the quarter and 73.9% on the year to 13.104m. You might not be surprised to learn that this too is a station record – by quite some distance.

6 Music had a little dip last quarter, and lost its digital crown to Kisstory. It bounces back this quarter, up 5.6% on the quarter but down 4.1% on the year to 2.414m. But that’s not enough to usurp Kisstory (see below). Hours fell 1.5% on the quarter, and were down 4.1% on the year to 21.155m.

BBC World Service had a disappointing quarter down 17.0% on the quarter and down 18.4% on the year to 1.205m. Hours similarly fell 8.4% on the quarter and were down 19.4% on the year to 6.041. Given that the station’s UK listening is surprisingly stable, it’s not clear to me what happened this time around.

Classic FM saw its audience fall 8.7% on the quarter and it was down 0.9% on the year to 5.137m. However, hours rose 4.9% on the quarter, and were up 11.2% on the year.

Talksport saw its reach fall 5.3% on the quarter but was down just 0.4% on the year to 2.948m. Hours fell 6.0% on the quarter, and were down 6.2% on the year to 18.145m. The decreases probably impacted by being outside the Premier League season and having no major summer football tournament to fill its place.

Talksport 2 is, like 5 Live Sports Extra, sport dependent. Talksport 2’s strengths are in the football season and particularly the overseas England tours to which they have won rights. Consequently, reach fell 25.7% on the quarter, but was up 16.8% on the year to 326,000. Hours fell 41.0% on the quarter and fell 25.1% on the year to 793,000.

Talkradio continues to see steady audience climbs gaining 1.4% reach on the quarter and was up 56.7% on the year to 409,000. Hours were up 19.0% on the quarter and up 115.3% on the year to 2.237m. Both of these are record highs for the station.

Virgin Radio saw its reach fall 8.3% on the quarter, but grow a substantial 242.3% on the year, to 1.417m. Hours fell by 19.9% on the quarter, but rose 499.6% on the year to 8.958m.

At breakfast, Chris Evans grew 0.3% on the quarter across the entire Virgin Network to 1.114m – that’s up 3,000 people since last quarter.

This is obviously the third quarter of Chris Evans at the station – indeed a new set of TV ads have recently begun airing. Evans undoubtedly gave the station a step change, but the concern must be that the growth has levelled off to a large extent. As I said when he started, you would expect much of the growth to come at the start, or then hope for consistent quarter on quarter growth. That’s not yet happened.

Across the Virgin Network (including Virgin Anthems and Virgin Chilled) reach fell 1.8% on the quarter to 1.641m. Hours fell 16.1% to 9.239m on the quarter. (The group is too new to have a year on year comparison). It’s fair to say that neither of the two digital siblings has really found its feet yet.

Talking of stations that haven’t found their feet, Scala Radio probably needs adding to that list. In their second set of results, they saw reach fall by 10.5% to 231,000. Hours also fell, down 19.5% to 1.224m.

Magic had a good quarter, with reach up 4.5% on the quarter and up 8.3% on the year to 3.482m. Hours were up 6.8% on the quarter and up 3.7% on the year to 18.805m.

Magic Network (which incorporates Magic Chilled, Magic Soul, and Mellow Magic) was up 2.0% on the quarter and up 3.6% on the year to 4.203m reach. Hours fell 3.3% on the quarter and were down 0.3% on the year.

Bauer took over Jazz FM this year, and I believe that they in part cross-sell it with the Magic Network. It’s reach was flat on the quarter, but down 16.6% on the year to 548,000. Hours were up 3.2% on the quarter and down 19.6% on the year to 2.190m.

It wasn’t the greatest quarter for Kiss which saw its reach fall 10.2% on the quarter and drop 15.2% on the year to 3.762m. That’s the lowest it has been since Kiss changed the way it was measured nationally back in 2015. Hours fell 7.2% on the quarter and 25.0% on the year to 15.285m. That’s not quite the lowest they’ve been, but it’s close.

As with Radio 1, there’s no turning back the tide with those younger audiences it would seem.

Kisstory is a different story however. It’s reach grew a very healthy 9.9% on the quarter and it was up 18.4% on the year to 2.554m. That’s a reasonable lead over 6 Music to keep it as the biggest digital-only radio station.

Hours were also up, growing 8.9% on the quarter and up 27.7% on the year to 12.503m. If this kind of growth continues, it could actually overall its parent brand in hours terms.

Does Kisstory appeal to a different audience to Kiss? Here’s an interesting thing: The average age of a Kiss listener is 33. But the average age of a Kisstory listener is also 33!

Overall the Kiss Network (including both the above and Kiss Fresh) was up 3.3% on the quarter and down 3.5% on the year to 5.558m listeners. Hours were up 9.6% on the quarter and down 6.1% on the year to 28.311m.

The Absolute Radio Network (which saw Absolute Radio 60s and Absolute Radio 00s return to being RAJAR measured for the first time since Q4 2014) had its biggest ever quarter with reach up 3.8% on the quarter and up 1.4% on the year to 4.921m. Hours grew 0.1% on the quarter and 2.8% on the year to 35.522m.

Absolute Radio itself grew 13.8% on the quarter and 0.9% on the year to 2.447m reach, while hours were up 7.5% on the quarter but down 7.6% on the year to 17.626m.

Absolute 80s grew 2.5% on the quarter and 3.5% on the year to 1.824m reach, while hours were up 1.5% on the quarter and up 21.4% on the year to 9.435. That’s a record audience for Absolute 80s in reach terms.

Across the LBC Network reach grew 9.4% on the quarter and was up 23.2% on the year to 2.574m. Hours grew 10.7% on the quarter and 21.5% on the year to 24.955m.

Does LBC’s results disprove any theories about Brexit on other stations? They got their biggest ever reach.

The Capital Network had some small declines this quarter down 1.8% on the quarter and down 4.9% on the year in reach terms to 7.071m. Hours fell 1.6% on the quarter and fell 0.8% on the year to 36.328m. I suspect that Global will be happy with that given that networking of many key breakfast shows has seen major upheavals in the last year.

If we include Capital Xtra, then the Capital Brand is at 8.103m, down 1.6% on the quarter and down 3.7% on the year. Hours are flat on the quarter and up 1.6% on the year.

The Heart Network saw modest reach growth, up 0.3% on the quarter and up 1.0% on the year to 8.564m. Hours fell 3.5% on the quarter and fell 2.9% on the year to 55.208m.

Adding in Heart 80s and Heart Extra, the Heart Brand was up 1.0% on the quarter and up 1.5% on the year with a reach of 9.810m. Hours fell 2.9% on the quarter and fell 1.7% on the year to 63.891m. Assuming that Global puts them in RAJAR, we are looking a lot more digital Heart variants next time around.

The Smooth Network increased 1.3% on the quarter and 2.6% on the year to 5.133m, an all-time record high, while hours fell 4.3% on the quarter but rose 3.7% on the year to 37.009. For the whole Smooth Brand, reach rose 0.1% on the quarter, falling 1.0% on the year to 5.753m, with hours falling 4.4% on the quarter and down 0.7% on the year to 41.788m.

Finally, the Radio X Network saw its reach grow 7.2% on the quarter and 1.2% on the year to 1.737m, a new record, while hours grew 5.5% on the quarter but fell 3.2% on the year to 13.915m.

Groups

Global Radio Sales (which incorporates everything Global sells including some stations that aren’t owned by them such those owned by Communicorp) is down 0.8% on the quarter but up 0.6% on the year to a total reach of 25.390m. Hours are down 0.8% on the quarter, but up 2.0% on the year to 236.676m. That represents a 49.8% share of all commercial radio.

Total Bauer Radio (incorporating all their brands, but not including some of their recent acquisitions while various competition issues are concluded) is up 1.6% on the quarter and up 1.1% on the year with a total of 18.371m reach. Hours are up 1.8% on the quarter and up 0.2% on the year to 158.995m hours. That represents a 33.4% share of commercial radio.

Wireless Group (incorporating all the Talk stations, the Virgin stations, U105 in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Sun radio brands) is down 4.9% on the quarter and up 4.7% on the year to 4.860m people. Hours are down 4.4% on the quarter and up 0.8% on the year to 32.219m hours. That represents a 6.8% share of all Commercial Radio.

Further Reading

The official RAJAR site and their infographic
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Matt Deegan will have some great analysis
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
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site
Radiocentre’s take is here

All my previous RAJAR analyses are here.

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 15 September 2019, Adults 15+. Also of note is that I treat all weekday shows as Mon-Fri except where specified. 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.