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The end of October brings Halloween, and also the latest set of RAJAR numbers. Insert your own joke about the two of them here.
Let’s have a canter through the numbers and see how stations have done.
At a time of intense scrutiny over Charter Renewal, BBC radio has had a really good RAJAR with increases nearly across the board.
Radio 1 has seen its second increase in reach in a row, heading over 10.5m listeners again, and even seeing a fractional year on year increase. Hours are very marginally down, and I fear that it will be this measure that people should really be looking at, or average hours per listener (currently 6.3) rather than reach itself.
Radio 2 has also recorded a second consecutive rise, and is heading back towards the dizzying heights of 15.5m listeners. Listening hours have fallen a little this quarter, but are still up on the previous year. The average Radio 2 listener listens for 11.8 hours a week.
Radio 3 experienced its traditional Proms uplift, and is once again just north of 2m listeners. While Radio 4 has also had a a decent result with 10.8m listeners, although like Radio 3, saw some listening dropoff over the summer.
Radio 5 Live is also looking to finally recover a bit from its big schedule changes, now a year ago. It’s back to 5.5m reach, although it’s still down on last year.
But it’s the BBC’s digital channels that really bear some examination, as they continue to grow massively. Radio 4 Extra has just broken its own record reach of a couple of months ago, with 2.2m people listening a week. Over on 5 Live Sports Extra, Ashes cricket would seem to have been the catalyst for yet another record reach for that station, with 1.7m listeners and nearly 7m hours (also a record). And 6 Music has also had record reach and hours with just fewer than 2.2m listeners a week, and it has passed 20m hours for the first time.
All of that means that BBC Radio accounts for 53.3% of all radio listening in the UK (with Radio 2 accounting for 17.5% on its own).
Does that mean commercial operators have had a dreadful quarter? Well not exactly.
Classic FM has had a very decent quarter, up 4.0% in reach to very close to 5.5m, as well as a similar increase in hours.
Talksport has also had an excellent quarter with a 3.9% increase in reach, taking it very close to 3.2m listeners. Indeed, both Classic and Talksport are very consistent players.
Absolute Radio has had an excellent quarter. It’s reach is up to over 2m for the first time since 2008 – in other words, for the first time since it rebranded from Virgin Radio. Hours are down a fraction, but that needs to be put into perspective with the network performance (see below).
Absolute 80s had a slight fall from last quarter’s record reach. On the other hand, Absolute 70s saw its reach climb to a new all time high.
Kiss had a good quarter, up 5.2% in reach, although listening hours fell. Like Radio 1, I fear that these need to be monitored very carefully.
Kiss Fresh did well getting over 500,000 again in reach, while Kisstory was flat at 1.3m.
Capital Xtra saw a big jump this quarter, up nearly 25% in reach, and nearly 20% in hours. I can’t really explain that change – although in the London market we’re used to that sort of thing.
LBC was flat in reach with just shy of 1.5m listeners – still equalling its record reach since turning truly national. Hours did dip a little however.
Xfm became Radio X on 21 September, the day after the end of this RAJAR quarter. As such, although Radio X appears in the survey for sales purposes, in actuality, it was recorded by listeners as Xfm at the time. But the impending closure of Xfm perhaps piqued listeners’ interest because reach across the network surged up to over 1m – a 14% increase on the previous quarter. Otherwise there’s simply no information in this survey as to how Radio X is performing.
As alluded to above, the Absolute Radio Network achieved a new all-time high of nearly 4.2m listeners. Hours dropped off a little, but the strength of digital performance has been key to Absolute Radio’s success.
The Capital Network has performed well this quarter up 4.9% in reach, and also seeing an increase in hours. In this period, Capital’s owners, Global Radio, bought Juice FM in Liverpool from UTV. The rebranding is apparently due for early next year, so look for the Capital Network to continue to grow.
The Heart Network also had a good quarter with its reach up 3% to just over 9.1m for the first time. It’s a new record for them.
Overall Global Radio now reaches 22m people a week listening for 194m hours.
Bauer Radio reachs 16.7m people listening for 146m hours. Both major groups are up. It’s a competitive landscape out there.
It’s worth noting that both Global and Bauer actually sell even larger audiences since they operate as sales houses for some other groups.
UTV is the third biggest group, and following the sale of the television assets to ITV, and that of Juice FM to Global, I would expect a corporate rebrand will be forthcoming, particularly with their D2 services due to launch next year. They did suffer a little unlike their big competitors, down 2.5% in reach, although broadly flat in hours. They reach 4.4m people a week delivering 32m hours.
Overall Radio Listening
Overall, radio listening is down a fraction on last quarter, but flat on the year. 89% of the population listen to the radio at least once a week, spending 21.6 hours doing so.
It’s breakfast that gets a lot of people excited, so here are a few highlights from this quarter.
Nick Grimshaw has seen his audience fall a small amount, with a 1.0% drop from last quarter, set against an overall increase for the station.
Chris Evans has also seen a a drop, losing about 275,000 listeners on the previous quarter.
The Today Programme on Radio 4 is of course the second biggest “breakfast show” in the country, and it has increased a little to nearly 6.8m listeners this quarter (up 1.2%).
In the commercial world Christian O’Connell saw a big jump, up 6.2% to 1.8m listeners across the entire Absolute Radio Network of services.
Aled Jones on Classic FM has nearly 1.7m listeners, up 1.8% on the last quarter. But Alan Brazil has seen his reach drop to just below 1.4m listeners on Talksport (again, against an overall station rise).
The Kiss breakfast nationally has fallen nearly 10% this quarter, and LBC will be disappointed with Nick Ferrari falling 12% this quarter to just over 900,000.
London listening is always interesting, with a competitive marketplace and a surprising degree of change from RAJAR period to RAJAR period (disturbingly).
The chart above shows the reach of the main commercial stations in London, as well as BBC London (or BBC Radio London as it is now known).
What this chart shows in particular is that Capital and Kiss are neck and neck in reach terms. In fact, Kiss shades Capital by 3,000 people this quarter. But Capital will also be able to say it’s the biggest [commercial] station in London with more listening hours than Kiss.
This chart also illustrates to what extent Heart’s reach has bounced around over the last few quarters. From a record low in Q3 2014, they bounced up in Q4, bak down in Q1 2015, then surged in Q2, before falling down again this quarter. You could make a decent rollercoaster out of Heart’s performance chart.
Otherwise LBC and Magic have had disappointing reach perforances this time out, with Absolute flat, and both Smooth and Xfm seeing increases – the latter again perhaps because of its imminent demise towards the end of this period.
Finally BBC London got its best result in a couple of years just ahead of its rebrand. There’s a new schedule coming there soon too, so it’ll be one to watch.
Finally, because people tend to forget it, it’s worth reminding ourselves that Radio 4 is actually the biggest station in London with 2.7m listeners and 31m listening hours (i.e. 3 times what the largest commercial station gets!). Radio 2 is actually number 2, while Radio 1 slots in behind Kiss, Capital and Magic.
The big news here is that 41.9% of listening to radio is now via a digital platform. This figure had been threatening to creep over 40% for a while, and it’s now onward to 50% which is what gets people talking about digital switchover in radio.
At the same time, those who say they listen via AM/FM has fallen to below 50% for the first time (The difference is made up of people who don’t state their platform).
Both DAB and internet listening are up to record levels with 27.7% of listening being via DAB, and 6.9% of listening via the internet, including mobile apps.
The chart above really makes clear the growth in internet listening, although broadcast DAB is still much more important.
The chart below shows listening through the day (Mon-Fri average) by the different platforms. AM/FM listening is the most normalised, while the morning and evening drivetime peaks for DAB aren’t as clearly defined because we’re less likely to have DAB in our cars.
Internet listening tends to be a post-lunchtime thing, with a peak at around 5pm. One could surmise that a lot of that is at work, but the listening on that platform continues into early evening.
On the other hand, digital TV has a clearly defined daytime trend.
It’s a while since I last looked at this, and although it rarely changes much, I thought it was useful to put some updated information out there on where people listen to the radio.
It doesn’t move around massively, with listening at home making up the vast majority of listening.
But with the growth of digital in-car offerings, as more and more people connect their smartphones to their car’s entertainment system (Or “infotainment” system as the manufacturers would have it), I thought it was worth seeing the extent to which internet listening in-car is growing.
We know that services like Apple Carplay and Android Auto are coming soon, and already in select models, so this will be something to keep an eye, particularly given the range of audio options the connected car will offer the driver.
The numbers are a little “fuzzy” since some of the sample sizes, particularly for 15-24s, are low. But this shows that digital is beginning to make an impact in-car, with nearly 20% of in-car listening being via a digital platform. That drops to just 1.0% for internet radio, although it’s 3.0% for the younger 15-24 demographic. Something to keep an eye perhaps, as people get better data plans, and they find it easier to hook-up their phones to their cars.
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
Paul Easton for analysis including London
Matt Deegan has some great analysis
Media Guardian for more news and coverage
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s site.
Global Radio’s site.
[Updated to correct a 1Xtra/6 Music figure]
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 20 September 2015, 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.