When RAJAR drops into my inbox, the first thing I check is the audience data for Fun Kids. By the time I’ve had a good look through, Hallett Arendt’s excellent system Octagon will have all of UK radio’s data ready to analyse. It’s then I first search for the figures around digital listening.
The big obsession by many is reaching the 50% point. That’s the point where 50% of all listening (hours) are through digital platforms like DAB, the internet and on the good old digital telly. It’ll mean that analogue radio – AM and FM – will have a smaller share of all listening than digital. Some think that it’ll kick off the digital switchover process. It won’t. It merely means the Government will have to “consider a decision about the timing and approach to a future switchover”.
Personally I’m not arguing for an quick switchover as I don’t think it would be great for listeners or radio listening. What I am very pro is that there should be a date (or selection of dates). I would like listeners (and stations) to know that there is a countdown and that analogue radios (and most analogue radio stations) have an expiry date. Five years, ten years, I don’t mind. We’ll only properly have banished analogue only radios for sale and have a co-ordinated marketing plan (and fill those final few broadcast holes) when everyone understands that the countdown is on.
So, I’m always keen to see how close to the 50% we are! I was somewhat disappointed when this quarter’s figure was 48.8% (up from, er, 48.7% last time round). Sigh. Then I had more of a look at the data for internet, digital TV and DAB. It turns out that DAB was quite a bit up, but internet listening and Digital TV listening saw a bit of a drop. Had internet and DTV stayed the same as the last quarter then the digital number would have reached 49.9%!
Switchover or not, FM stations without cross-platform, multi-station strategies will find their available audience is dropping – as less and less people will be on the FM band to find you. That’ll also have a significant effect on the value of that FM licence.
Take Radio X, it’s had a good book. UK-wide it’s generated its highest ever reach – 1.523m listeners – and highest ever hours 10.524m. Which are some great numbers. But if we look at the hours of listening on 104.9FM in London its 1.503m (about 14% of their total). If Radio X came off FM in London I’m sure some people would switch, worse case they might lose 10% of their hours. Now, for Global whilst they’d be in no hurry to take it off FM in London (why should someone else have it?) the value of that FM licence has surely dropped significantly. What would someone pay for it now? Capital paid £16m for it in 1998 – would it be worth that now? For £16m you could buy national digital carriage and spend a lot of money on content and marketing. You would certainly make more from the latter than the former.
In fact Global have been doing just that, with the launch earlier this year of Heart 80s. It had another strong book with 1.086m listeners and nearly 5m hours. Sitting on national DAB through Digital One, Heart 80s has a bigger reach than Celador Radio, UKRD, Lincs FM, KMFM, Nation Broadcasting, Q Radio, Oxis or Quidem.
London though remains the big battleground for Global and Bauer. Looking at commercial share, the chart toppers are:
- LBC 97.3: 5.8%
- Kiss: 5.5%
- Capital London: 5.2%
- Classic FM 4.1%
- Magic: 3.6%
- Heart 3.5%
- Absolute: 3%
- talkSPORT: 2.3%
- Capital Xtra: 1.8%
- Smooth Radio: 1.8%
- LBC London News: 1.7%
- Radio X: 1.2%
- Gold: 1.1%
An hours drop from an unusually high book last quarter, still leaves LBC in pole position and Kiss continuing to fight with Capital, ascending back to the top spot. In reach though, Capital continues to edge it though – 2.1m vs 1.8.
Heart London has taken a bit of a hit over the past few quarters, perhaps seeing 106.2 be cannibalised a little by Heart Extra and Heart 80s. It also fights with the other local Hearts that spill into the Capital. If we look at the Heart Network in London (that’s 106.2 and the locals) it generates a 6.2% share – putting it a the top of the chart! If we add in the Extra/80s spin off then it would climb to a 6.8% share.
Over at Bauer, Magic faces a similar issue. Concentrating on just 105.4 tells you just one part of the story, roll in the spin-offs and the Magic Network share in London goes from 3.6% to 4.9%. However, I still imagine Tony and the team at Golden Square are hoping that Ronan and Harriet sprinkle some er, magic, on the station as year on year their reach is down from 1.8m to 1.5m and hours have dropped from 8.5m to 7.5m
Absolute in London continues to ping pong around, this books’s a good one with strong reach at 874k but even stronger hours with a very high 6.3m (that’s why its share is up to 3% from 1.9% last quarter). Its success has been replicated across the country with the main Absolute Radio hitting a brand high. Reach at 2.4m isn’t too shabby whilst Christian’s breakfast show on Absolute (and all the spinoffs) collectively gives him the 2nd highest rated commercial breakfast show.
The biggest commercial breakfast show stays with Rickie, Melvin and Charlie at Kiss.
Over at the Big British Castle, Radio 1 with 9.6m reach is up slightly on the quarter and down slightly on the year. It’s not brilliant news for Grimmy as he drops under 5m listeners for the lowest ever breakfast rating. Elsewhere quarter on quarter growth for Clara, Scott, Greg and Annie Mac.
Radio 2 is back over 15m. 15m! …with 15.3m listeners. Evans has bounced back to 9.3m listeners. 9.3m! Which is up quarter on quarter and year on year.
Hot on the heels of six ARIA awards, Five Live hasn’t fared so well in RAJAR with the top line figure dropping to just over 5m reach. It’s lowest figure since at least 2004.
It’s the highest ever reach for 6Music at 2.4m, 1Xtra stays above a million and 4 Extra up q on q and y on y at 2.1m.
BBC London’s last book now looks a bit of an outlier at 621k, dropping back to 454k reach / 2.6m hours, which puts it behind, as usual, LBC News (Global’s AM rolling news channel).
In other news, Jazz FM has had a good book, up year on year and quarter on quarter, to 570k reach and 2.2m hours. National station Union Jack is over 100k listeners for the first time, Kisstory is the commercial leader for digital with 1.8m listeners and Virgin Radio has seen a very solid increase to a reach of over 500k for the first time (556k). It was also Edith Bowman’s best result on breakfast!
Our station, Fun Kids, has had a solid book. It’s audience remains something of an iceberg with only a chunk of our listeners publicly visible. This is because RAJAR only measures 10+ which means it doesn’t include our main audience, the swines! We choose therefore to just get London numbers rather than the national ones. This gives us 92k listeners a week in the capital which is still bigger than talkRADIO, Magic Chilled, The Hits and The Arrow. Hurrah for us.