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After a brief gap when I missed Quarter 2, and then failed to catch up on the data, regular readers will be pleased to see that the RAJAR summaries are back!
This is the fifth set of RAJAR since data collection resumed, and as such, both quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year comparisons can now be made. That all said, the methodology has evolved slightly over time, so there are probably a few issues that might be caused by those.
Quarter 3 ran from 27th June until the 18th September, meaning that it incorporated some major news events like former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation on 7th July and the subsequent leadership battle (somewhat longer than the subsequent leadership battle), and the death of the Queen on 8th September, and the period of mourning through until the day before her funeral on 19th September.
Quarter 3 obviously also includes school summer holidays – with perhaps more people wanting to get away this year following the pandemic period (not necessarily made easy by a shortage of staff at airports and the knock-on effects of flight cancellations). There would normally have been a World Cup, but that doesn’t start until next month.
Set against all of this, radio listening actually grew over the period, with listening hours up 2.5% on the quarter, coming back over 1 billion hours a week, and being up 1.0% on the previous year. 89% of the population listen to the radio every week, up by 1.4% on last quarter and 0.4% on last year.
The average radio listener in the UK listens for 20.6 hours a week.
But there’s no doubt that commercial radio did much better than the BBC this quarter. While total BBC Radio listening increased by 0.2% on the quarter to 33.0m, it fell 4.6% on the year. And listening hours fell 0.6% on the quarter and fell 7.3% on the year to 477m hours.
In the meantime Commercial Radio grew 5.3% on the quarter and by 3.8% on the year to a total of 38.2m. Hours grew 6.5% on the quarter and 9.1% on the year reaching 520m.
That means that commercial radio leads in reach and hours, and has more than 50% of radio listening for the first time with 50.9% of listening.
The only thing I would note is that the leap in commercial radio listening was significantly bigger than any overall growth they’ve seen before. The chart below shows historic commercial radio listening, and you can see that there is a significant uptick towards the end.
The growth might be due to a freak quarter, but it could be down to what audiences want during a difficult period for a variety of reasons. My usual warning would be to wait until we see what happens next quarter before rushing to judgment.
National Stations and Brands
Radio 1 had a decent quarter, coming back from a record low last quarter. It’s back to over 8m listeners, up 9.0% on the quarter, although still down 1.3% on the year with 8.1m reach. Hours similarly improved 4.9% on the quarter although were down 8.7% on the year, with a total of 48.8m.
Over on Radio 2 reach drifted slightly, down 0.5% on the quarter and down 0.9% on the year to 14.7m. On the other hand, hours were up 6.1% on the quarter and up 0.2% on the year to 164m.
It wasn’t a good quarter for Radio 3 with reach down 15.5% on the quarter and down 21.1% on the year to 1.7m. Hours fell 8.8% on the quarter and were down 18.5% on the year to 13.4m. Ordinarily a Proms quarter would do better for the station. In other news, the BBC announced that Alan Davey, Controller of Radio 3 will be departing in March next year.
Given the volume of news happening over the summer (and indeed over the last couple of years), you might have expected that Radio 4 would have done better than they did. But its reach fell 4.8% on the quarter and was down 8.9% on the year to 9.8m. That’s the lowest since 2008. But as we will see, Radio 4 was not alone amongst speech radio stations in seeing a fall this quarter, which is interesting set against a slight increase in radio listening across the board.
Radio 4 Extra saw reach fall 8.3% on the quarter and fall 15.0% on the year to 1.7m, while hours grew 5.7% on the quarter but were down 3.4% on the year with 14.7m. A reminder that earlier in the year, the BBC announced that the station will become online only at some point.
Radio 5 Live also saw falls this quarter with reach down 4.9% on the quarter and down 17.5% on the year to 4.9m. Hours were down 12.3% on the quarter and down 21.9% on the year to 27.4m. While there was no Premier League football for about half the quarter, and there wasn’t a World Cup this summer, there was the Women’s Euros with the triumphant Lionesses over the period.
On sister station 5 Live Sports Extra, cricket helped out with reach up 22.4% on the quarter and 2.4% on the year, with 1.7m listeners. Hours were down 8.3% on the quarter and up 3.5% on the year to 6.0m.
It’s a rare quarter that 6 Music doesn’t do well, but reach was down 13.5% on the quarter and down 8.3% on the year to 2.5m, while hours fell 13.9% on the quarter and were down 10.3% on the year to 24.2m.
And continuing the speech radio drops, the World Service English service was down 14.6% on the quarter and down 13.7% on the year to 1.2m. Hours likewise dropped 24.3% on the quarter and were down 22.8% on the year to 5.6m. (I would expect hours to return a bit since that fall feels too big).
Continuing the falls in speech radio, LBC saw its reach fall 6.0% on the quarter and fall 4.5% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were down 3.0% on the quarter and down 0.1% on the year to 27.3m. Including LBC News, their sister rolling news channel, LBC Brand was down 8.6% on the quarter and down 1.3% on the year to 3.0m. Hours fell 4.1% on the quarter, but grew 0.5% on the year to 30.0m.
talkRADIO saw some falls too, down 7.1% on the quarter, but significantly up on the year 41.6% to 637,000. Hours followed suit down 14.2% on the quarter but up 25.7% on the year to 4.4m. A reminder that the station is now essentially a simulcast of Talk TV.
Times Radio didn’t do as badly as most, with reach down 4.9% on the quarter, but up 65.7% on the year to 542,000. Hours were up 1.2% on the quarter and up 77.6% on the year to 3.2m. Again, it’s worth remembering that the station only reported for the first time this time last year – hence some of those big growth figures. The station seems to have levelled off since then at around 550-600,000 reach and 3.1m-3.6m hours.
With less news and more sport, talkSPORT bucked the speech trend with reach up 0.6% on the quarter, although down 1.3% on the year to 2.7m. Hours were up 12.5% on the quarter and down just 0.6% on the year to 17.7m. Again, they would ordinarily have benefited from a World Cup this summer.
Sister station talkSPORT2 is very reliant on sports including Championship football, so saw numbers drop significantly. Reach was down 35.8% on the quarter and down 40.7% on the year to 296,000. Hours were down 28.2% on the quarter and down 49.9% on the year to 736,000.
Hits Radio Brand from Bauer is made up of the Hits Radio Network and the Greatest Hits Radio Network, and overall has done very well over the last year. Reach was up 3.6% on the quarter but a decent 12.4% on the year to 9.8m. Hours were up 4.3% on the quarter and up 16.6% on the year to 85.4m.
Digging into the data a bit more, it looks like it’s the Greatest Hits Radio Network and Greatest Hits Radio itself that have driven things. The Network is up 2.6% on the quarter and up 28.3% on the year to 4.1m, while hours are up 5.4% on the quarter and up 29.8% on the year to 32.2m. The station itself, was up 2.2% on the quarter and up 28.6% on the year to 3.7m. Hours were up 4.7% on the quarter and 30.5% on the year to 28.2m.
The Absolute Radio Network had some good numbers, up 4.0% on the quarter and up 1.3% on the year to 5.3m, with hours up 6.0% on the quarter and up 3.4% on the year to 36.7m. Absolute Radio itself was generally good, with reach up 12.0% on the quarter, but down 3.7% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were better up 13.1% on the quarter and up 14.2% on the year to 18.1m. Mixed results for Absolute 80s with reach up 5.8% on the quarter and down 8.6% on the year to 1.5m. Hours were up 8.0% on the quarter and down 7.2% on the year to 7.2m.
The Kiss Network saw reach grow 3.7% on the quarter but fall 10.1% on the year to 4.3m. Hours were up 11.3% on the quarter but down 1.8% on the year to 22.2m. Kiss itself recovered a little from last quarter up 7.2% on the quarter although still down 2.5% on the year to 2.7m. Hours were down 2.2% on the quarter and down 4.3% on the year to 9.9m. Kisstory is as ever at the heels of its older sibling, with reach up 8.5% on the quarter and up 2.0% on the year to 2.3m. Reach was up 5.4% on the quarter and up 10.5% on the year to 10.8m.
Incidentally, Bauer has done well riding the Strictly Come Dancing bandwagon this year, with Fleur East who does breakfast on Hits Radio, and Tyler West doing Drive on Kiss. I can only think it’ll help their respective ratings! And yes, Radio 2 had Richie Anderson as well.
The Magic Network didn’t do so well, down 4.2% on the quarter and down 10.5% on the year to 3.7m, while hours fell 3.3% on the quarter and were down 16.8% on the year to 21.1m. The main Magic station did better, up 5.2% on the quarter but down 17.5% on the year to 2.8m. Hours were up 11.0% on the quarter but down 10.3% on the year to 17.1m.
Finally, checking in on Scala Radio which saw reach and hours fall. Reach was down 9.6% on the quarter and down 33.6% on the year to 265,000. Hours were down 11.9% on the quarter and down 4.9% on the year to 2.3m.
Notably, Bauer recently announced some changes in senior personnel at both Magic and Scala.
Across the way at Global, it feels that they’ve spent the last quarter really pushing their podcasts and in particular The News Agents with Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall launching recently. But we don’t have numbers for those, so let’s stick to the radio.
Classic FM didn’t do too well this quarter. Reach was down 6.5% on the quarter and down 8.5% on the year to 4.6m. Hours fell 8.1% on the quarter and were down 12.8% on the year to 38.3m.
That’s all three classical music stations seeing falls this quarter, which is odd. It would be easy – and wrong – to write some kind of headline about audiences falling out of love with the music. This feels like a cumulative blip.
The overall Capital Brand incorporating some of their digital sub-brands did decently for Global with reach up 1.0% on the quarter although down 3.5% on the year to 7.4m. However, hours were up 2.5% on the quarter and up 6.4% on the year to 38.1m. On the main Capital Network, reach was up 0.9% on the quarter, but down 12.4% on the year to 5.7m. Hours were up 3.0% on the quarter but down 2.8% on the year to 28.7m.
The Heart Brand, which now includes a lot of sub-brands, saw reach up 3.9% on the quarter and 0.8% on the year to 10.1m. Hours were up 6.5% on the quarter and up 7.3% on the year to 67.0m. On the main Heart Network reach was up 2.3% on the quarter but down 6.5% on the year to 7.9m. Hours were up 4.1% on the quarter and up 1.1% on the year to 53.2m. Heart 80s is just behind Absolute 80s, with reach up 6.2% on the quarter but down 5.8% on the year to 1.4m. Hours were up 13.9% on the quarter, but down 9.9% on the year to 5.6m. Finally a note to say that Heart 00s had its first numbers this quarter – reach was 212,000 and hours were 1.0m. I’m sure Global will be pleased with those.
The Smooth Radio Brand saw reach increase by 2.3% on the quarter, but fall 5.9% on the year to 5.6m. Hours were up 5.6% on the quarter and up 0.8% on the year to 39.3m. Radio X Network saw reach increase 3.8% on the quarter and jump 1.5% on the year to 2.0m. Hours fell 4.0% on the quarter but rose 12.1% on the year to 18.0m.
Finally, there is another new radio station this quarter reporting nationally. Tomorrowland One World Radio is a radio spin-off of the Belgian dance festival. Available on DAB across a range of cities in the UK, it also broadcasts on DAB in the Netherlands, Belgium and on FM in Spain. Reach was 28,000 with 107,000 hours – so fairly modest.
It’s been a long time since I wrote about London’s radio much. So just a brief note to say that Radio 4 remains the biggest station in London with 2.4m listeners, just ahead of Radio 2 with 2.3m. Heart London has 1.8m reach, and Capital London has 1.5m. LBC has 1.4m, Radio 1 has 1.3m, Magic London has 1.3m, Classic FM has 1.2m, 5 Live has 1.1m and Kiss has 1.0m. Others are less than one million in reach.
Digital and Other Trends
Digital listening remains very strong with the majority of listening done via some kind of digital mechanism – 66.0% of all radio listening.
But interestingly, in the last 12 months RAJAR has specifically broken out listening via Smart Speakers – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and others.
This quarter, 24.4% of respondents claimed to have listened to at least some of their radio via a Smart Speaker, massively up from 17.5% last quarter. And furthermore, 13.4% of listening hours are now via a Smart Speaker (up from 10.8% last quarter). This percentage increases to 15.7% amongst 15-24s. This is now a key way to reach younger listeners.
It’s clear that stations are doing the right thing to remind listeners how listen to their station via a Smart Speaker.
I should also note that last week RAJAR released their most recent Summer 2022 MIDAS survey. There’s loads of interest in there including the details on the growth of podcasts and, especially, on demand music services (i.e. Spotify and its competitors). It’s worthy of a separate piece in the coming days.
One More Thing
A new series of From the Oasthouse: The Alan Partridge Podcast arrived on Audible recently, and in the first episode Alan tells us about the visionary branding expert who oversaw North Norfolk Digital’s branding over the last decade. I think we can all learn something from this.
The official RAJAR site
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
Mediatel’s Newsline will have analysis
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 18 September 2022, 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.