RAJAR has always been about trends. Snapshots of quarters don’t really tell much of a story, it’s the direction of travel that’s really interesting. This happens at both a macro and micro level – of course what’s happening to Station FM is interesting, but we’re also blessed in the UK that because we measure where people listen and how they listen, we’ve able to understand much more about the changing behaviour of the listener.
If you’re just concentrating on the reach and share of a single station, then you’re missing out on the true shifts in the market.
For me ‘digital’ is more than just a particular platform. To me it means people choosing stations based on strength of the brand and the content rather than just what they happen to be able to pick up on their analogue radio.
6Music now has more listeners (just) than BBC Radio 3. It does not need an analogue outlet to be successful. Absolute 80s has 70% of the reach of the main Absolute Radio. Heat Radio, a well-targeted magazine spin off is on the way to a million listeners. Kisstory, on-air for around a year, is bigger than Planet Rock (age: 15). Eagle Radio’s been on DAB for a couple of quarters and its already generating 15% of its hours from that platform.
As a radio industry we should celebrate, we’re being freed from our FM shackles. How much better to compete on content rather than rely on happening to have 2million watts of music power.
I think Bauer gets more of my attention now than it (or EMAP before it) ever has. It does however seem to be a fundamentally boring company that happens to have some interesting assets.
Over the past 18 months there’s no arguing though that they seem to have got their shit together. Grabbing Planet Rock and Absolute has given them hours – to fight Global Radio – and has also given them some interesting people. You only have to look at the rise of the Absolute team in the Bauer structure to show they were lacking in quite a few areas.
In the UK, Bauer is smaller than Global Radio. Global have more licences, more audience and more hours. There’s also limited growth for Bauer – there are less and less prime assets around. The last big one is probably talkSPORT. With its radio/mag/digital output it would be a sensible fit for Bauer.
The one thing Bauer does have over Global, is digital radio clout. Their press release tells me that 50.8% of their business is now made up of digital hours. The acquisition of Absolute has helped this no end – as an amazing 82% of Absolute’s hours come from digital listening. With those kind of numbers you’d definitely be looking at the AM and FM costs…
Looking at all listening, Global’s sales division has 209m hours, Bauer’s 144m. But just concentrating on the digital hours for the groups, Global is on 65m but Bauer’s on 70m. Bauer will be trying to keep that lead over Global as the UK gradually transitions to a predominantly digital country. It’ll mean that they don’t have to worry about complex warehousing arrangements or OFT negotiations – they’ll be growing their business through attracting listeners to their brands.
The two things that will get in the way of this dream are Global, of course, but also themselves.
Even with this digital drive, I worry that it fails to pay much attention to its digital siblings. If you treat Heat, Absolute 80s, Absolute Radio 90s, Kisstory, Kiss Fresh and Planet Rock as a network – it’d be one that delivers 5m listeners and 27m hours. This compares to Kiss UK (26m hours), Bauer Scotland (16m hours) and Magic UK (19m hours). Bauer’s English Place network’s reach is only a little higher than the new station combo at 5.4m.
For me, something like The Hits shows the dichotomy. I think The Hits is a great little station. It sounds good, it’s got a good on-air team who come over as being young and in touch. It should be seeing great growth – but this quarter its reach and hours have dropped nearly 20%. It was a station regularly around a million but now is at 774k. I think it’s almost criminal to have a station punching those sort of numbers with, what looks like, pretty much no marketing, its online activity built on good will and, I believe, not even paying all of their presenters.
I know other stations are looking at The Hits – and plucking talent from it – it’s a shame it’s not as well supported by the Bauer guys.
Someone I’m sure that’s over the moon that The Hits is sidelined is Radio 1, who continue their task to keep the station young and to try and take it younger. Radio 1’s average age (looking 15+) is 34. It’s been 34 (with rounding to the nearest whole number) since Q1/2010. If you look at 10+ it’s 32 (again with rounding). Which it’s been since Q2/2010. Contrary to the visible evidence though, I still believe making Radio 1 younger is an achievable aim.
On the face of it Nicks’ had a good book, up quarter on quarter and year on year to 5.9m listeners (up from 5.8m for both). However, his 15 to 24s have dropped 190k, whilst he’s added 338k 25 to 64s. The share of 15 to 24s who are tuning in has dropped to 22.5%, not his lowest ever, but still a disappointing number for the team. And also probably not helping those average age numbers either.
In other news – Global’s execution of Smooth is really paying off. It’s doing well pretty much everywhere, but especially in London where it’s reaching 781k and has a market share of 2.6%. It’s the biggest audience it’s had since at least Q3/05. The rest of the Smooth regionals have also seen increases plus it also seems to be doing better on many of the old Gold’s it replaced on AM.
The new Hearts have done pretty well too with NE, NW, Yorks and S. Wales seeing growth, whilst Scotland, which will always probably be a difficult nut to crack, having dropped back.
I think it’s still early days for LBC and Capital Xtra. LBC’s racking up about 150k outside of London which is solid, if unremarkable. Capital Xtra’s really taken a hit in London post-Choice at 358k reach (when it was previously doing 470, 550), however, outside of London it’s seeing more growth – no doubt aided by being in Digital One. Overall compared to the old Choice UK figures – it’s about the same.
Thank the Lord that Radio 2 didn’t add any more listeners, even if their drop was so marginal it’s recorded as a 0% change.
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