RAJAR Q1 2023

RAJAR Q1 2023

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Overall Trends

88% of the population listen to the radio each week, which is fractionally down on last quarter (and last year) when it was 89%. That represents 49.4m adults listening to the radio.

Hours have held up better, remaining above the 1 billion mark, with 1,008,288,000 a week. That represents a 0.1% fall on last quarter (and last year), which isn’t statistically significant.

If you dig into some of the demographics, there are some unusual findings. I was expecting to see 15-24s perhaps show the biggest fall in overall listening, but in reach terms it wasn’t far off the overall picture. In hours, 15-24s are down 1.5% on the year, but a whopping 7.6% on the quarter.

This feels a bit too big for a single quarter decline for me.

Anyway, I think the reduction in 15-24 listening hours will impact some stations that target those groups.

I had thought that 15-24s would represent the biggest fall overall, but the 65+ demo hasn’t done that well this quarter, with reach declining 1.1% on the quarter and down 1.9% on the year. Hours have fallen 3.3% on the quarter and are down 5.7% on the year. Considering the number of hours this demographic listens to the radio – in the region of 300m a week compared with around 65m a week for 15-24s, this will have quite an impact on the overall figures.

Again, I don’t really have an answer as to why that has happened, but it will again impact many stations targeting older listeners.

Commercial Radio has had a good quarter this time out. Reach is up 1.6% on the quarter and a chunky 4.1% on the year, while hours are up 2.3% on the quarter and up 5.9% on the year. (Again, these year on year changes feel a little “big” to me. But the sample size is large, so I’m not sure what to make of it.)

This means overall commercial radio is comfortably ahead of BBC Radio in both reach and hours. There are 38.7m listening to commercial radio each week, compared with 32.2m listening to the BBC. (For those keeping count, 22.0m people listen to both BBC and commercial radio.)

Commercial Radio now has a share of 51.4% on time spent listening compared to the BBC’s 46.3%.

That 2.2% of “Other” listening represents listening to radio that is not on RAJAR, including small local and community stations that are not on RAJAR, but might also represent listening to internet stations that may not even be based in the UK (e.g. Someone’s probably listening to Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 after all).

67.6% of listening is now on digital platforms with 83.8% of radio listeners spending at least some of their time listening on digital platforms.

National Stations

Those overall BBC numbers mean that many of the big BBC brands haven’t had their best figures.

Radio 1 was down 2.8% on the quarter and down 1.3% on the year to 7.58m people a week. On the other hand, their listening increased fairly markedly, up 4.1% on the quarter and up 4.3% on the year to 49.6m.

Those figures mean that average time spent listening increased from 6.1 hours a week last quarter to 6.6 hours a week this quarter. That tends to mean that those who listen really do like listening.

Q1 2023 was of course the quarter that Radio 2 said goodbye to Ken Bruce. His last show came about two thirds of the way through this quarter. Recall that his show was the biggest on the station. Overall Radio was up 1.2% on the quarter and down 0.8% on the year. In the scheme of things, that’s not statistically significant. Hours, on the other hand, were down 2.2% on the quarter and down 5.0% on the year. I suspect that these were affected by the overall decline in measured listening hours of older listeners. While Radio 2’s average audience age is 54 (So the incoming Vernon Kay, aged 49, is not far off his average listener), that is only an average. There are a lot of older listeners, and also a lot of younger listeners to get an average like that.

Anyway, since Kay has only stated his show this week his first numbers won’t begin to start until the Q2 RAJAR release, and even then, they’ll only be partial. For a fair comparison, we’ll have to wait until Q3 2023 numbers at the back end of this year.

I did have a quick look at the final set of figures for that 0930-1200 slot vacated by Bruce, and the show reached 8.3m a week, up 0.8% on the quarter but down 1.9% on the year.

As I wrote previously, I don’t think Bruce being replaced will have a significant impact on Radio 2.

Radio 3 saw its reach climb 3.4% on the quarter, but it was down 5.9% on the year. With 1.93m listeners, this is back around its usual mark, and it only takes small changes in listening numbers to bounce around a bit.

Hours were up 0.5% on the quarter, but down 12.4% on the year. I would note that last year’s hours were notably high, so this might be a “normalisation.”

Radio 4 has not had a good quarter, with its reach down 6.8% on the quarter and down 11.4% on the year to 9.4m. Coming from just over 10m last quarter, this is notably. But hours are down just 1.5% on the quarter and 6.6% on the year.

The curious outcome of this is that average hours spent listening to Radio 4 actually grew from 11.3 to 12.0 this quarter.

There’s probably a certain amount of post-rationalising I could attempt for these figures, but I’d want to check another quarter of results before I made those points. I did try to see if it was a consequence of the smaller listening figures for overall older listeners in this quarter, but that argument didn’t really stack up. But there is a pattern here as we shall see.

BBC Radio 5 Live had similarly disappointing numbers, with reach down 8.3% on the quarter and down 8.2% on the year, to 5.1m. Hours fell 7.7% on the quarter and 7.6% on the year. With a full winter of sport on offer, I can’t really offer an explanation.

The relaunch of the BBC News Channel on TV has seen the start of Nicky Campbell being simulcast on the television. But any RAJAR impact of that won’t be seen for another quarter.

And look too at the BBC World Service which saw some even bigger falls – down 17.0% on the quarter and down 28.5% on the year to 1.1m. Hours also fell, down 8.5% on the quarter and 18.1% on the year. Closer inspection of those numbers does show a notable decline in listening figures in the 65+ demo suggesting that it has suffered more than most stations from that loss.

It feels like this RAJAR “book” really didn’t do many favours for those who like listening to the BBC’s speech radio.

If I continue to examine stations that target an older listener, it’s worth segueing to Classic FM which also has an older listenership. Its reach was down 8.6% on the quarter and down 11.9% on the year to 4.5m.

Hours fell 8.8% on the quarter and were down 17.6% on the year to 36.6m. Again, digging into the listening figures by demographic groups shows a significant decline in the 65+ demo.

I would expect these positions to “right themselves” somewhat next quarter. But that’s not a great deal of help if you have to live with them for a quarter.

On the flipside, lets look at a radio station that makes a virtue of targeting older listeners – Boom Radio. It’s had another stunning quarter, with reach up 19.6% on the quarter and an incredible 119% on the year to 635,000.

Hours are up 5.9% on the quarter and, er, 128% on the year to 6.2m! These are obviously new records for the station.

I would note that the average age of a Boom Radio listener is actually just 60. While 65% of their listening hours come from the 65+ demo, they have a decent 23% of their hours coming from 55-64s. And even 2% of their hours are 15-24s!

Back at the BBC, 6 Music saw its reach grow 8.3% on the quarter, although down 4.7% on the year to 2.7m. Hours were up 4.5% on the quarter and down 4.9% on the year to 26.8m.

And because it has been in the news a lot lately, with industrial action pending I would note that BBC Local Radio is down 5.1% on the quarter and down 14.6% on the year to 7.4m. Hours are up 0.9% on the quarter but down 10.7% on the year to 55.2m. (Again, this means that the average hours per listener has actually increased from 7.0 last quarter to 7.5 this quarter).

LBC did pretty well, with reach up 6.8% on the quarter, and down 0.8% on the year to 2.7m. Hours were up 5.3% on the quarter and up 2.0% on the year. Adding in their rolling news service to measure the entire LBC Brand (UK), reach was up 10.4% on the quarter and down 0.7% on the year to 3.5m. Hours were up 6.7% on the quarter and up 2.9% on the year to 32.4m.

A mixed bag for Times Radio which saw it’s reach fall 1.6% on the quarter and drop 8.7% on the year to 554,000. Hours grew 2.5% on the quarter but fell 3.2% on the year to 3.5m.

talkSPORT had a really decent quarter, with reach up 11.9% on the quarter and up 11.7% on the year to 3.3m. Hours were also nicely up, growing 5.5% on the quarter and increasing 11.7% on the year to 19.2m. talkSPORT2 also had mostly good figures with its reach up 37.2% on the quarter but down 6.3% on the year to 472,000. Hours were up 40.8% on the quarter and up 11.5% on the year to 1.2m suggesting some good live sport in the quarter.

Virgin Radio saw its reach climb 9.9% on the quarter, but fall 5.6% on the year, while hours grew 5.1% on the quarter and dropped 5.5% on the year to 9.3m. (FYI, the “OG” Virgin Radio launched just outside this RAJAR period on 30 April 1993 – 30 years ago. Due to complicated branding issues, I don’t believe it was celebrated on-air, but rest assured, many of those who were there back in those heady pre-Brit Pop days, did raise a glass or two at a couple of different celebrations).

TalkRadio did some decent numbers, with reach up 38% on the quarter and up 29% on the year to 840,000. Hours were up 20.9% on the quarter but down 1.0% on the year to 5.7m.

Elsewhere is speech radio land (or really, simulcast TV-land), GB News has had some good numbers, with reach up 4.2% on the quarter and up 33.5% on the year to 319,000. Hours are up 22.8% on the quarter and up 73.4% on the year to 2.6m.

I would always note that percentages can be deceptive when you’re working from a small base. To prove that point, there is a radio station on RAJAR that I suspect few readers here have heard of. Tomorrowland One World launched on RAJAR a few quarters ago. The EDM brand that is a spin-off of a successful festival brand saw it’s reach grow 84.2% on the quarter to 35,000. Hours grew a staggering 568% to 207,000. To be clear, these are small numbers. I’m not sure what national RAJAR measurement costs right now, and maybe this can be written off as a marketing expense to promote the festival. But I’m not sure that broadcasting this station makes sense. Streaming-only might be the smarter play. (But they are growing, so what do I know?) [Update: Amended, since the station doesn’t have national DAB coverage, but uses a string of mostly small-scale DAB multiplexes to broadcast. I’m still not sure that the business model works with a station this small however]

National Brands

Let’s start with the brand of the moment – Greatest Hits Radio – which, don’t forget, has yet to feel the impact of Ken Bruce starting.

Its reach was up a massive 28.6% on the quarter and up 32.6% on the year to 5.1m. Hours were likewise up 28.5% on the quarter and up 36.6% on the year to 36.4m.

But we do need to be careful. Bauer is playing a “canny” game here, since all its Scottish heritage AM stations (Clyde 2, Forth 2, Northsound 2, Tay 2, West Sound, Radio Borders) have been rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio. So there’s a significant boost just in those stations alone being added into the overall offering.

Nevertheless, it delivers a very attractive overall audience of more than 5 million listeners to the advertising industry that should make for a profitable offering. And Bauer has certainly invested in a sizeable marketing campaign to promote the station as Ken Bruce joined it.

We will have to await the full impact of him joining, although I would also note that the station has a 6 month weighting which means that the data is average over two RAJAR periods. That means the full impact of Ken Bruce joining won’t become clear until we get the Q3 2023 figures towards the end of this year.

That all said, it’s notable that the Heart Network (UK) is bigger than Greatest Hits Radio, with a reach of 8.9m. It’s up 2.8% on the quarter and up 4.7% on the year. Hours fell 2.3% on the quarter but were up 4.4% on the year to 56.6m. So comfortably bigger with all those FM frequencies across the country.

If you consider the entire Heart Brand including all its digital siblings, its reach grows to 11.3m, up 3.6% on the quarter and up 10.0% on the year. Hours were flat on the quarter (0.0%!), and up 12.2% on the year to 73.3m. This is a really powerful offering that stands alone commercially.

Capital Network (UK) did decently with reach up 4.0% on the quarter and up 1.4% on the year to 6.2m. Hours were down 3.3% on the quarter but up 6.2% on the year to 29.2m.

I suspect that at Leicester Square they’re wondering if they can catch Radio 1. Their reach is about 1.4m behind, and hours are substantially lower (4.7 average hours per listener on Capital compared with 6.6 on Radio 1). I think overtaking Radio 1 is their goal. Is this achievable? Time will tell.

The entire Capital Brand was up 2.2% on the quarter and up 4.0% on the year to 7.8m. Hours were down 4.3% on the quarter and up 10.9% on the year to 39.3m.

Absolute Radio had a good quarter. Reach was up 14.4% on the quarter and up 11.3% on the year to 2.4m. Hours were up 4.4% on the quarter and up 6.9% on the year to 15.3m. Overall, the Absolute Radio Network was up 2.4% on the up 2.7% on the year with a reach of 5.3m. Hours were down 3.4% on the quarter but up 1.7% on the year to 35.1m.

It wasn’t such a great quarter for Magic with reach down 1.6% on the quarter and down 4.3% on the year to 2.9m. Hours were down 1.5% on the quarter and down 7.5% on the year to 15.1m. The picture improves if you look at the entire Magic Network with reach up 6.6% on the quarter and down 1.3% on the year to 4.0m. Hours were up 2.4% on the quarter and down 3.7% on the year.

Kiss had a good set of numbers, with reach up 2.6% on the quarter and up 8.5% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were down 8.5% on the quarter but up 15.3% on the year to 10.0m. But across the Kiss Network figures weren’t quite so good, with reach down 1.8% on the quarter and down 2.1% on the year to 4.2m. Hours were down 4.3% on the quarter, but up 7.8% on the year to 21.1m. Looking specifically at KISSTORY, reach was down 4.4% on the quarter and down 1.9% on the year to 2.2m, but hours grew 5.5% on the quarter and were up 6.6% on the year to 9.8m.

A couple more brands: Radio X Network (UK) saw its reach increase 1.4% on the quarter and rise 4.0% on the year to 2.0m. Hours fell 2.4% on the quarter and were down 7.5% on the year to 16.5m. Smooth Brand (UK) saw reach grow 0.9% on the quarter and rise 2.1% on the year to 5.9m. Hours were down 6.8% on the quarter but rose 6.6% on the year to 39.4m.

MIDAS and Podcasts

Last week RAJAR released their latest MIDAS survey. This is a deeper dive into wider forms of audio listening and it has plenty to get stuck into.

Perhaps most interesting is this chart, replotted from the MIDAS data.

The first thing to note is that there were no Spring 2021 and Spring 2022 waves, so be careful how you read it as there’s a jump to 2023.

But I think it shows a couple of really interesting stories – the rise of on demand music streaming (i.e. Spotify/Apple Music etc) and the rise of podcasts. RAJAR says that 22.8% of the population listen to podcasts each week. That’s within a couple of percentage points of Ofcom’s recent study.

More relevant are the trends for both which are upwards. The question for on demand streaming must be how many more subscribers are there willing to pay £10 a month for music. (I’ve noted before that £120 a year on music is a lot for those not as into music as some – especially when the radio, and YouTube, is free.)

A couple of other interesting stats on podcasts from the MIDAS survey. 93% of respondents listen to podcasts alone, whereas on demand music listening is more social with 34% saying they listen with others.

And this entire slide is interesting, with the podcast device types showing that not all podcast listening is done on phones.

Note that I recently wrote separately about Ofcom’s 2023 Podcast Study, which you should read if you haven’t already seen it.

Further Reading and Listening

I will be speaking with Matt Deegan about all the RAJAR numbers on this week’s episode of The Media Podcast, which should be out on Friday. Listen wherever you get your podcasts!

And I’ll be around at The Podcast Show in London next week. Feel free to hi if you’re there!

The official RAJAR site has all the topline figures
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Matt Deegan always has great analysis, and you should probably sign up for his Substack email
Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
The Media Leader will have analysis
BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site
Radiocentre’s website

All my previous RAJAR analyses are here.

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 2 April 2023, 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.






2 responses to “RAJAR Q1 2023”

  1. Andy Stilp avatar
    Andy Stilp

    Adam, great analysis as usual. One question I have: it looks like Scala Radio’s semiannual number bumped up around 10-12% to 266,000 – but this still puts it on par with regional and local stations, not nationals. In your opinion, is there a point where Bauer draws a line under it and drops Scala, or is it such a (relatively) low-scale operation that it can survive on such low numbers?

  2. […] RAJAR – who primarily measure radio, but also measure podcast listening and release regular MIDAS survey updates (there are some topline podcast findings from the latest MIDAS research here) […]