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The final quarter of 2022 was an interesting one in terms of news and sport, with Liz Truss just having been appointed Prime Minister at the start of the reporting period, but Rishi Sunak being PM by the end of the period. We also had our first winter World Cup. So a lively time. It’s also worth remembering that a year ago there was a surge in the Omicron variant of Covid and that while the general lockdown constraints had been loosened, many were still working from home. So listening behaviours were a bit different, and that might be reflected in some of the year-on-year performances.
This quarter, All Radio listening remains at around 1 billion hours, although down 1.2% on the previous quarter, but up 0.5% on the same period last year. 49.7m people – 89% of the population – listen every week. That’s flat on the quarter and fractionally up, 0.4%, on the year.
The average time spent listening to the radio by those 49.7m people is 20.3 hours a week. Think of that as just under three hours a day (Note that radio listening does differ between weekdays and weekends).
BBC Radio overall saw a small gain in reach on the quarter, up 0.6%, but was down on the year, down 3.7%. 59% of the population listen to at least some BBC Radio each week.
Hours were down 0.2% on the quarter, and were down 5.0% on the year. 47% of all time spent listening to the radio is to BBC Radio.
Commercial Radio on the other hand saw, a small decline in reach on the quarter, down 0.3%, but grew 3.6% on the year. 68% of the population listens to at least some Commercial Radio every week.
Hours were down 2.5% on the quarter, but up an impressive 5.3% on the year to 507m. 50.2% of all radio listening was to Commercial Radio.
(A reminder to those keeping count, that the 2.6% of unaccounted radio listening that’s seemingly to neither BBC nor Commercial Radio is to services that aren’t measured by RAJAR – anything from small community stations to streaming radio stations from other countries).
66.6% of all radio listening is via digital platforms – not quite a record, but pretty close.
And 13.6% of radio listening is via a smart speaker, which is up a fraction from 13.4% last quarter. I can’t help noticing in my own radio listening that stations are spending a lot more time explaining to listeners how to get the stations they want via their smart speakers.
National Stations and Brands
Radio 1 had a disappointing quarter, with reach down 4.3% on the quarter and down 4.6% on the year to 7.8m. Hours were down 2.3% on the quarter and down 11.5% on the year. Regular readers will recall that last quarter saw Radio 1’s numbers bounce back from a poor Q2 2022. This latest set of numbers does suggest that the station’s audience is still bouncing around.
It’s been an interesting time in recent weeks for Radio 2 with Ken Bruce announcing that he’s leaving the station next month. For those interested in more about that, I wrote about it separately. But what I noted in that piece was that despite an almost complete change of line-up in recent years, Radio 2 has remained very resilient, with no substantial audience changes.
This quarter was not the best one for the station, down 1.2% in reach and down 3.9% in hours to 14.3m – the lowest it has been since 2019. That said, I would note that if you go back to the beginning of the millennium, Radio 2 was floating around the 10/11m listener mark, and by most accounts it remains Europe’s biggest radio station.
Hours also fell, down 4.7% on the quarter and down 4.7% on the year to 157m.
For what it’s worth, I had a quick look at the biggest shows on Radio 2 to see how they were doing. Zoe Ball saw her show fall 3.1% on the quarter and 4.8% on the year to 7.1m. Meanwhile, Ken Bruce saw his show fall 4.1% on the quarter and decline 5.2% on the year to 8.2m. To put these into context, Jeremy Vine’s two hour show has 6.8m listeners, and Scott Mills has 6.2m for his two-hour afternoon show (although note that Mills only started his Radio 2 show halfway through this quarter, so that’s not all him), about the same as the 6.2m that Sara Cox has for her two and a half hour drivetime show.
Radio 3 has recently announced Sam Jackson as its new controller, taking over from Alan Davey next month. Jackson has had a range of roles across the music industry, notably including running Classic FM. Again, it will be quite a while before any changes are felt in the station’s listening figures. But this time around the station saw its reach grow 9.3% on the quarter, although down 6.3% on the year to 1.9m. Hours were up 3.3% on the quarter and down 4.2% on the year to 13.9m.
As noted above, this was a politically “lively” period, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Radio 4 saw reach grow 2.8% on the quarter, although it still fell 3.8% on the year to 10.1m. Hours were up 2.3% on the quarter but down 1.8% on the year to 114m.
Sister station Radio 4 Extra saw reach rise 3.4% on the quarter, but fall 5.2% on the year. Hours fell 5.9% on the quarter and they were down 2.0% on the year.
The World Cup and the wider return of football seem to have really given Radio 5 Live a boost. Reach was up a very healthy 14.2% on the quarter, although down 5.5% on the year to 5.6m. Hours were up 20.3% on the quarter, but down 3.5% on the year to 33.0m. Looking back, Q2 2022 certainly feels like an outlier for the station.
5 Live Sports Extra is always very dependent on whether there’s cricket or not, and this was more of a “football” quarter than a cricket one (although these days, there’s always cricket somewhere). Reach was down 5.8% on the quarter but up 35% on the year to 1.6m. Hours were down 22.5% on the quarter and up 51% on the year.
6 Music had a mostly good quarter too, up 1.6% in reach on the quarter, to 2.5m, but down 3.8% on the year. Hours were both up 6.0% on the quarter and up 0.2% on the year to 25.7m.
BBC World Service English, listening recovered from last quarter’s figures, with reach up 8.7% on the quarter and up 5.5% on the year to 1.3m. Hours were up 14.3% on the quarter and 3.6% on the year to 6.4m.
BBC Local Radio (including the Nations services) saw reach fall 0.6% on the quarter and fall 14.0% on the year to 7.8m. Hours were down 0.9% on the quarter and were down 14.2% on the year to 54.7m. BBC Local Radio in England has been a major focus recently with the BBC announcing some significant forthcoming changes, recently revised. Those English services were down 2.0% on the quarter and down 15.3% on the year to 5.7m. Hours fell 2.2% on the quarter and were down 11.9% on the year to 38.6m.
Over in the commercial sector, let’s start with Bauer’s Greatest Hits Radio, soon to be the new home of Ken Bruce, and a station that has been on something of an upward swing in recent quarters. Reach was up 6.9% on the quarter, and 31.4% on the year to 3.98m (we can call that 4.0m), while hours were up 0.6% on the quarter and 20.1% on the year to 28.3m.
Just a small note of caution to recall that Bauer has been going through its services and rebranding some “heritage” brands in its portfolio as Greatest Hits Radio. Nothing has changed in this reporting quarter, but starting in April, a whole group of Scottish station are going to live under the GHR branding, with Radio Borders very recently added to the list.
One way or another, this will all get normalised out over time, but the station does have a six month reporting period, so with the most recent changes, we won’t see the full results of Bruce joining and the rebranding of the Scottish stations until Q3 2023 results come out much later in the year. It does all mean that audience is likely to continue ramping over time regardless of any other external factors.
The alpha to GHR’s omega is the Hits Radio Network, which has most of the remainder Bauer’s regional heritage FM stations. Hits Radio Network saw its reach up 1.0% on the quarter and up 17.3% on the year to 6.6m. Hours were down 1.2% on the quarter but up 11.6% on the year.
Overall, the Hits Radio Brand, which combines both the Hits Radio Network and Greatest Hits Radio Network, was up 2.9% on the quarter and up 20.2% on the year, while hours were down 0.3% on the quarter but up 16.4% on the year.
Absolute Radio announced last month that they were closing their AM transmitters. I wrote about it here, and Absolute Radio’s Production Director, Dan Wright produced a phenomenally good 10 minute piece celebrating the 1215 khz wavelength which you should definitely listen to if you haven’t already. What impact that will have on listening figures is unclear at the moment, but since Absolute reports on a three-month basis, we should get an idea next quarter.
In the meantime, this wasn’t the station’s best quarter with reach down 14.6% on the quarter and down 4.7% on the year to 2.1m. Hours fell 19.0% on the quarter but were up 0.3% on the year to 14.7m.
Absolute 80s saw reach fall 1.4% on the quarter and it was down 5.0% on the year to 1.5m. Hours were down 2.8% on the quarter and down 1.6% on the year to 7.0m. Elsewhere within the Absolute Radio portfolio, Absolute Radio 90s grew on the quarter but fell on the year, with 991,000 reach and 4.1m hours. There were falls for Absolute Radio 60s and 70s, but Absolute Radio 10s saw its reach rise while Absolute Radio 00s is one to watch with reach up 25.0% on the quarter and 88% on the year to 305,000 while hours were up 29.5% on the quarter and up 87% on the year to 892,000.
Is 00s the new 80s which itself was the new 60s? (I’m being slight facetious.)
Across the entire Absolute Radio Network, reach was down 0.7% on the quarter and down 2.2% on the year to 5.2m. Hours were down 1.2% on the quarter and up 0.5% on the year to 36.3m.
By way of comparison, the Magic Network was up 2.3% on the quarter, but down 7.3% on the year to 3.8m. Hours were up 4.9% on the quarter and down 6.0% on the year to 22.1m.
On the main Magic service, reach was up 1.7% on the quarter, but it fell 11.0% on the year to 2.9m. Hours were down 10.4% on the quarter and down 15.8% on the year to 15.3m.
It wasn’t the best quarter for Kiss in terms of reach, down 9.8% on the quarter and down 12.0% on the year to 2.4m. Hours were better, up 10.0% on the quarter and up 3.8% on the year to 10.9m. The station is in a tight race with its sibling Kisstory, whose reach was down 1.5% on the quarter and down 1.6% on the year to 2.3m. Hours were down 13.4% on the quarter and down 5.2% on the year to 9.3m. Kiss maintains a small lead over Kisstory, but for how long?
It really wasn’t a great quarter for Scala who returned some of their lowest figures since launch. Reach was down 12.1% on the quarter and down 42% on the year to 233,000. Hours fell 10.7% on the quarter and were down 21.1% on the year to 2.1m.
Bauer, who only today announced that Dee Ford is leaving the company after an astonishing 35 years, had a decent quarter in the round. They breached the 20m reach mark for the first time, up 1.3% on the quarter and up 3.1% on the year to 20.03m.
Hours were also strong, up 0.2% on the quarter and up 6.4% on the year to 184m. Good numbers to step out from.
It’s been a while since I checked in on Boom Radio, which has quietly been signing up talent for regular or short run shows on high cadence. For example, they signed up Paul O’Grady to present a Christmas show.
There is no doubt that this is all working really well for them, with some new record figures this quarter, coming after a series of record breaking sets of numbers.
Reach was up 19.9% on the quarter and a massive 119% on the year to 531,000. Hours grew 47.2% on the quarter and 137% on the year to 5.8m.
This is an unqualified success for the station which is still less than two years old, and is independently owned (They do contract Bauer to handle their broadcast radio sales, and Global’s Dax for their digital audio sales).
To understand how well Boom has done, consider the very different Times Radio, currently to be seen on digital outdoor poster sites all over London and possibly further afield. It had some good numbers this quarter, with reach up 3.9% on the quarter and up 1.4% on the year to 563,000. That’s only 32,000 ahead of Boom. Hours were up 6.9% on the quarter and up 3.3% on the year to 3.4m. That’s 2.4m fewer than Boom, and a reminder that commercial radio’s revenues are usually determined much more by their hours rather than their reach. (To be fair to Times Radio, they would argue that they have a slightly different business model for that station, compared to other commercial stations. I just think they’re two relatively new stations to contrast with one another).
Elsewhere across the Wireless group of stations, talkSPORT was also able to ride the World Cup bandwagon, the station having commentary rights alongside Five Live, and they saw their reach rise a healthy 8.9% on the quarter and grow 3.5% on the year to 2.9m. Hours were also up, gaining 2.6% on the quarter and 7.9% on the year to 18.2m.
Sister service, talkSPORT2 saw reach increase 16.2% on the quarter but fall 11.6% on the year to 344,000. Hours climbed 14.0% on the quarter, and were up 2.7% on the year to 839,000.
Virgin Radio saw its reach up 3.8% on the quarter, but down 14.0% on the year to 1.4m. Hours were up 6.2% on the quarter, but down 11.4% on the year. The station recently announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with cinch stepping in for Sky on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show. Three years in one go is an admirably long deal!
The overall Virgin Radio Network saw reach up 1.3% on the quarter but down 9.6% on the year to 1.9m. Hours were up 5.2% on the quarter but down 8.1% on the year to 11.0m.
TalkRadio, which is now essentially a radio/TV combination service (with Talk TV), saw reach fall 4.6% on the quarter, but rise 12.2% on the year to 608,000. Hours were up 7.3% on the quarter and rose 1.0% on the year to 4.7m.
Since I mentioned TalkRadio, I should probably also have a look at how rival GB News Radio is doing. It too is essentially a TV/radio combination station. They’ve not been on RAJAR long enough for a full year’s worth of data, but their reach fell 26.3% on the quarter to 306,000. Hours fell 5.4% on the quarter to 2.1m. So roughly half as big as its rival.
But let’s look at the grand-daddy in this space LBC – the country’s first [legal] commercial radio station. As with Radio 4, a politics-heavy quarter helped the station, with reach up 3.7% on the quarter, but down 2.6% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were up 2.4% on the quarter and up 4.0% on the year to 27.9m.
In radio terms – LBC is streets ahead of both TalkRadio and GB News. And it doesn’t carry all those costs of broadcasting a TV service, with owner Global preferring to offer its video as a live stream which can be suitably clipped up for social networks as needed.
In the past I’d wondered if Global wasn’t missing a trick by not placing the video output of LBC on TV. I’m not so sure now – there are significant costs involved in getting onto Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media. And the station is doing just fine being mostly exclusive to radio.
By the way, for those interested, James O’Brien’s mid-morning show on LBC remains just a hair ahead of Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show. O’Brien’s reach is 1,372,000 compared to Ferrari’s 1,353,000.
Overall Global, like Bauer, had a good quarter – better even than their commercial rival. Reach was up 3.6% on the quarter and up 2.0% on the year to 24.8m. Hours rose 4.7% on the quarter and were up 7.1% on the year to 235m.
Between them, Global and Bauer continue to squeeze many of the other smaller commercial radio groups.
Heart has had a very good RAJAR. The Heart Brand that includes all the local Hearts plus their digital sister channels was up 7.4% on the quarter and up 5.7% on the year to 10.9m. Hours were up 9.3% on the quarter and up 13.9% on the year to 73.3m.
Just looking at the Heart Network reach is up 9.0% on the quarter and up 1.3% on the year to 8.7m. Hours were up 8.8% on the quarter and up 8.6% on the year to 57.9m.
The Capital Brand is also doing very well, also contributing to Global’s excellent quarter. Its reach is up 4.3% on the quarter and up 1.0% on the year to 7.7m, while hours are up 7.9% on the quarter and up 12.2% on the year to 41.1m.
The Capital Network which includes all their main-brand stations was up 3.4% on the quarter but down 6.9% on the year for a total reach of 5.9m. Hours were up 5.2% on the quarter and up 3.2% on the year to 30.2m.
Classic FM had mixed results seeing its reach rise 7.0% on the quarter but fall 1.8% on the year to 5.0m. Hours rose 5.0% on the quarter but fell 6.6% on the year to 40.2m.
Smooth Radio is shortly getting some subtly new branding, and had a reasonable quarter. The Smooth Radio Network rose 6.4% on the quarter but fell 5.2% on the year to a reach of 5.1m. Hours grew 8.9% on the quarter and were up 1.4% on the year to 37.3m.
The overall Smooth Radio Brand which includes their Chill and Country sub-brands, saw its reach rise 4.6% on the quarter but fall 2.6% on the year to 5.8m. Hours rose 7.6% on the quarter and were up 5.3% on the year to 42.3m.
The Radio X Network was without Chris Moyles for a little of this quarter while he was off doing I’m A Celebrity. Overall the station was up 0.8% on the quarter but down 5.7% on the year with a reach of 2.0m. Hours were down 6.2% on the quarter and were down 7.1% on the year to 16.9m.
Things have obviously not returned to a post-pandemic normal yet when you examine listening location data. Since many of us work in a hybrid model now, that has significantly changed the way we listen to the radio – quite possibly permanently.
The chart below compares listening location this quarter, with the same quarter just prior to the pandemic.
The differences are clear.
There is more At Home listening, and less In Car listening (Because we’re commuting less?) and At Work listening (Because we’re in our workplaces for less time?) .
This will be worth re-examining in another year or so’s time.
There hasn’t been a separate MIDAS release this quarter, but RAJAR does capture some podcast listening figures, and it’s worth mentioning here.
25.9% of the adult 15+ population listen to podcasts at least once a month, which is up from 24.9% last quarter – the previous biggest value.
If you just consider 15-44s, 32.3% of that population listen to podcasts at least monthly (up from 27.5% a year ago).
The Big Three and Everyone Else
Finally, I thought it was worth illustrating how much the BBC, Global and Bauer dominate UK radio. This chart shows their shares of all listening. Note that all the data is 6 month data to ensure the comparisons are fair. Also note that these numbers represent the stations owned by the two commercial groups. The two also sell for other stations not owned by them.
It shows the scale of the big three groups in the UK, and how close Bauer is to Global – although in fairness, with Global’s strong figures this quarter, they extended their lead a little.
Further Reading and Listening
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 – welcome back Matt!
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 December 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.