RAJAR Q3/2011

Another RAJAR and more numbers to analyse.

It’s been quite a good quarter for digital, with listening on digital platforms now accounting for 300m hours a week (that’s more than Radio 1 and Radio 2′s total hours combined). There’s also some quite good news for the digital stations too – Planet Rock has its highest total hours ever – making it bigger than (all of) XFM. Two new digital stations also reach the 1m listeners club – Absolute 80s and Five Live Sports Extra – joining Smash Hits, The Hits, 6Music, 4Extra and Kerrang with Planet Rock and 1Xtra not far behind.

Also, just under 300,000 listeners stopped listening to any form of analogue radio wiping 2.2m hours off analogue’s totaliser.

But really, I’m less concerned about who’s slightly up and down and instead keen to see whether there’s any new trends popping up.

I’ve spent most of this quarter speaking at conferences and leading in-station seminars outside of the UK. The key thing they’re all interested in is trying to track how diverse platforms are going to affect their core analogue businesses. Many are in markets that don’t have any traction with broadcast digital radio, but they still see the internet, mobile and de-regulation as threats to their business.

When I present, I often talk about how amazing analogue radio is. It’s a platform where all consumers have multiple radios that pick it up, receivers are super-cheap, they are available in-home, on the move and at work. Plus limited spectrum means there are few competitors. Woo! I then talk about other industries who felt their barriers to entry were great too, until someone lobbed a hand grenade and blew them apart.

The story I often talk about is Craigslist. In America Craigslist has pretty much destroyed classified advertising for newspapers (and with it much of their business model). Now, it wasn’t Craig’s intention to destroy newspapers, he was trying to solve a different problem. Namely to provide a cheap/free way to get rid of your old stuff. It worked and the knock on was massive to a different industry.

I don’t know what the problem will be that someone will solve that harpoon’s our business, but I do know that if we stick to our one boat – analogue radio – then when it starts sinking it’ll be too late to do anything about it.

I thought it might be interesting to use RAJAR to look at how radio businesses are changing.

The data in the two charts below are the same, but are ordered differently. The data shows hours listened for the larger radio groups, broken down by All hours, Analogue hours, Digital hours (that’s DAB, DTV, Online and Unknown digital combined) as well as DAB, DTV and Net separately. At the end there’s two columns that show the ranking of the groups based on two things – All hours and Digital hours.

This chart below is ranked on All hours – in effect the top, er 14, radio groups as we measure them today.

[includeme src=”http://www.mattdeegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/form1.html” frameborder=”0″ width=”550″ height=”370″]

The second chart shows it sorted on digital hours. If the industry was roughly doing the same thing, you’d expect the charts to be roughly similar. There are some strong similarities but there are some differences too. The groups that stand out are Absolute, Town and Country and Lincs. Absolute moves from being the 6th biggest group to the 4th biggest and Town and Country moves from 13th to 9th. Lincs FM group drop from 8th to 12th.

[includeme src=”http://www.mattdeegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/form2.html” frameborder=”0″ width=”550″ height=”370″]

What does this show? I think for Absolute and T&C it shows they’re building new digital businesses. Both have launched new digital radio stations and extended coverage of analogue ones – Absolute upgrading AM to digital and T&C growing the coverage of some of its analogue stations.

I’m not surprised that some stations moan about digital. They look at it as a large cost to simulcast their service to their analogue audience. Well – it is! Clever groups are using digital to expand their existing stations or they’re creating new ones. For them it’s not about maintaining market share by being on a different platform to the same audience – it’s taking the fight elsewhere and battling for new hours.

And it’s hours that turn into cash – and digital, especially DAB, is a brilliant way to do just that. Global generate nearly 10million additional hours to listeners tuning into their brands on digital, outside of the analogue areas. Absolute now, in total, generate 6m hours more than they did in 2007 when Virgin Radio.

If you hear a radio group moaning that they want to protect analogue (at the same time as doing nothing digitally) surely there’s only one direction for their audience and their business?

One thought on “RAJAR Q3/2011”

  1. The point you raise about some groups not thinking digitally is perfectly valid. The problem for some groups, apart from those who mouth-off all the time with anti-digital rhetoric, is that in some parts of the UK the local DAB coverage is patchy or there are as yet no local DAB multiplexes on air e.g. Lincolnshire.

    On long car journeys that I have made the DAB reception of national stations such as 6Music, Amazing Radio, BBC Radio 4, Jazz FM National, Premier and UCB UK has been as good, if not better, than those from the five national FM stations. These drives have included ones from Dorset to Hertfordshire and from the Staffordshire to Yorkshire. The reception, however, from some local and regional DAB transmitters has been more inconsistent and therefore the need for robust transmissions across appropriate local and regional DAB multiplex transmission areas is vital. It should be noted that for some existing local commercial analogue services, especially in parts of East Anglia, Shropshire, Wales and northern Scotland, that the editorial areas of the local DAB transmissions is or will be too large. I therefore welcomed the pledge given by all political parties during the debate on the Bishop of Manchester’s amendment to Clause 30 of the Digital Economy Act 2010, and since endorsed by the previous and present Governments, that FM is to be kept for these local stations and community radio operators.

    The benefit of DAB, and other platforms of digital transmission, is the greater choice of stations for the listener. Currently DAB has 29 national and quasi-national services (30 if you include Absolute Extra) whereas there are only 8 national stations on analogue.

    Therefore ‘free-to-air radio’ has thus to be a multi-platform ecology with national and large regional stations on DAB and local radio staying on FM.

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