RAJAR Q2/2016

A plethora of DAB related news in this quarter’s RAJAR. This is the first survey that’s included stations from ‘D2’ the Sound Digital national multiplex that launched at the end of February.

This saw the addition of new stations including talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and Magic Chilled as well as “upgrades” of stations like Jazz FM and Heat going from a smaller number of areas to nationwide coverage. It also saw some “downgrades” too, with Absolute 80s and Planet Rock moving from D1 which covers over 90% of the UK population, to D2 which covers around 75%.

Plus some of these stations – Magic Chilled and Jazz FM – are broadcast in DAB+, so it’s the first time we’re seeing DAB+ listening behaviour.

The topline digital news, is that 65% of the UK listen to some form of digital radio (DAB, DTV or Online) each week. This digital consumption now accounts for 45.3% of all radio listening (up from 44.1% last quarter).

Half of the UK’s radio listeners (49.7%) now listen to radio on DAB each week.

As I mentioned on the Radio Today podcast, I really think we’re in a golden age of radio right now. The scale of the broadcast platforms means that these news stations can get decent-sized audiences and justify investment in a range of content with significant presentation and production.

Areas that had around 10 radio stations on analogue 10 years ago are now likely to have easy access to 50. Whether it’s new national stations like 6Music or Virgin Radio, upgrades of stations like Kiss and LBC to be nationwide or new local stations like Radio Yorkshire and Great Yorkshire Radio, listeners have never had it so good.

The idea of having to put up with a “least worst option” is long gone and listeners now get to self-schedule by picking and mixing a variety of stations to match their mood or need.

Wireless Group and Bauer

The second national multiplex was a big investment for the Wireless Group with the launch of talkRADIO, Virgin Radio and talkSPORT2.

Virgin Radio’s kicked off with 409k reach and 1.4m hours. talkSPORT2’s tempted 285k to tune in and added nearly a million hours for the sales team to sell and talkRADIO’s debuted with 224k and 840k hours.

Over at Bauer, the reduction in coverage for Planet Rock and Absolute 80s seems to have had an effect on the audience figures.

Planet Rock has declined from 1.2m to 986k and Absolute 80s has fallen back 1.720m to 1.581m. Kisstory, on the hand, which has seen its digital coverage grow, adds 100k reach going from 1.440m to 1.540m, putting it in spitting distance to capture AR80s ‘biggest commercial digital station’ crown.

Heat has seen no appreciable gains in their coverage upgrade with their figures dropping back from 878k to 872k, though seeing a small increase in hours. Heat hasn’t really seen any growth for a little while, so I’d assume it’s more likely to be a programme-related rather than platform-related issue.

Two of Bauer’s new stations are interesting to compare – Mellow Magic (think Ace, Percy Sledge and Sutherland Brothers) and Magic Chilled (Adele, TLC, Rhianna). Both are on D2, but Chilled is broadcast using the newer flavour of DAB, DAB+, whilst Mellow is in the regular version of DAB.

Mellow’s done 380k, whilst Chilled’s reached 233k. For both around 80% of their audience is through DAB. I think this bodes very well for DAB+ as a digital radio format. Obviously a like for like comparison is impossible – as they’re two differently formatted radio stations – but Chilled really is a great sounding station and it’s had an impressive debut.

For new stations, the first quarter isn’t always brilliantly indicative, and as the stations grow and develop their trajectory may change significantly. What is interesting though is how similar the Magic Chilled and talkRADIO audience figures are. 233k vs 224k. I imagine the cost base of the two are quite different even if the reach is very similar.

I think Chilled’s success is partly down to cross-promotion and the power of the umbrella brand. No above the line marketing, but it’s clearly a very understandable format. Two songs in, and you know what it’s there to do.

For talkRADIO, as an occasional listener, it clearly varies significantly across the day – it’s challenge is to communicate this breadth, or what the specific shows do. In a competitive media environment this is even harder, but the opinionated/funny nature would surely benefit from well and speedily executed social media – particularly more video – combined with some aggressive PR pushes of content.

I don’t think this is something particularly limited to talkRADIO – cutting through is very hard without big advertising budgets, I know it’s something that we often worry about with Fun Kids. But with the changing nature of listening and the breadth of stations available, marketing is something that all new stations are going to have to more heavily invest in to stand out and grow.

The acquisition by NewsCorp may be the saviour of these new Wireless Group stations, as access to both money and NewsCorp talent and titles will surely benefit the growth of their new stations.

Back to the DAB+, the other DAB+ addition is Jazz FM – who seemed to have added around 100k listeners outside of London (where they broadcast in regular DAB).

The worry for DAB+ use in the UK is that it would deliver Sunday League style audiences. But it looks like it’s making a solid Division 1 performance compared to the Premier League of DAB’s distribution, these all seem very respectable numbers to build on.

Global

More oddities from Radio X. After a poor London performance and strong national data last time round, this quarter London’s had a bit of a resurgence but national (and Manchester) have taken a hit. Another aberration? Or has Virgin Radio’s appearance stolen some of its thunder?

A stellar performance though from LBC – jumping to the number 1 spot in the capital’s share chart – surely driven by three months of pre-Brexit vote discussion? I know it’s a station that generated cume from me from the first time.

Radio 1

Radio 1 continues to face significant pressure. Lowest reach since 2003 at 9.4m and second lowest hours. The station, of course, is up against changing listener behaviour from younger audiences, but I don’t think it can hide entirely behind it.

Radio 1 remains, I imagine, the world’s best funded CHR radio station. £40m on content, significant cross-media marketing support and a digital team any other radio station for kill for. It’s “psychological” 10m reach point is now surely permanently broken and beyond defending. Arresting the decline of 15-24s and 15-34s – where this quarter they’re delivering lowest ever reach and hours for both, is surely what it should now be concentrating on.

Capital Xtra

Global’s Capital Xtra smashed to pieces Choice FM and started afresh, something that destroyed audiences in those early months, but is now paying dividends looking far more prosperous, up from 950k to 1.3m reach year on year.

Jack

Digital opportunities are not limited to the big boys. The guys behind Oxford’s Jack FM launched a digital only version in Surrey and South London, delivering nearly 60k reach, pretty close to the figures their Oxford analogue station gives them. Another demonstration that consistency,  branding and distribution can help build success for any new service.

More to read:
Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough