RAJAR Q4/2018 – The Trend’s Your Friend

Looking through the final book of 2017 there’s few big changes, but perhaps more evidence of noticeable trends for radio as a medium and for some stations in particular.

BBC

At the BBC, Radio 1 has grown reach every quarter this year. A good sign for the team there, who have had a tough few years. Whilst not a trend, Breakfast had its best book in quite a while, with reach up to 5.7m (up from 4.9m quarter on quarter and up from 5.3m year on year). Live Lounge month and the 50th birthday being good tent pole moments for the station. 1Xtra’s following a similar pattern with growth over the year and a 25% increase in hours year on year.

BBC Radio 2 has generally been going in the right direction all through 2017, finishing on 15.4m – a year on year and quarter on quarter increase. Its hours have also grown year on year, now to a stonking (best ever!) 190m. Nearly one in five of every hour listened to on the radio, is to Radio 2.

When people talk about radio’s apparent decline, point to Radio 1 and Radio 2. They’re growing reach and hours, not shrinking.

6Music has pretty much plateaued with a reach of around the 2.3m mark all year. Is there more growth left in it? Does the very stable schedule need a little re-invention to take it higher?

Global

The main Capital, Heart and Smooth networks have not been so rosy. They peaked in Q2 where they were looking very strong, but they’ve fallen back over the past few quarters. On a brand level (taking into account spin offs like Heart 80s, Smooth Extra, Capital Xtra etc) the decline’s been blunted, but have these networks reached peak audience?

Definitely in growth has been Radio X which has had five straight books of reach and hours increases. Weekly reach of 1.58m and now 11m hours is good news for Global. Moyles too has done well. 7 straight quarters of growth, taking his national audience to 909k reach. Moyles’ breakfast reach is now bigger than the XFM network’s reach total in their final all-XFM book before the re-brand.

Bauer

Kiss has been going in the right direction for a little while, now with its best book in 18 months with 4.6m reach. Its sister brands Kiss Fresh (578k reach) and Kisstory (1.7m) have remained at similar levels for the past few books.

It’s the same story for the Magics (the main one, Soul, Chilled, Mellow) who have all been pretty stable. It’s early days for Ronan and Harriet on Breakfast, but they’re now at the slot’s 2nd highest ever figures at 1.4m, it’ll be interesting to see if their evolution and growth has a positive impact on Magic in 2018.

Absolute Radio had a good book, with 2.6m reach – the best in over a year. The spin-offs are all pretty stable with 80s at 1.4m, 90s at 744k. With 90s move to national last week (well cross-promoted by the main brand) I think it’s got a good chance to grow. Also with Absolute 80s now in a bit of a bun fight with Heart 80s and the arrival of the Wireless Group’s 80s stations, will 90s be the new 80s?

The Hits (562k), Kerrang! (607k) and Heat (598k) seem to have run out of steam a little, down almost a third from their heyday and pretty flat all through 2017. All three are good, well programmed stations, but now face much more radio competition, whilst TV listening, which drove a lot of their audience, has also fallen significantly.

All three lack any marketing spend or significant programming investment. Though I bet their cost per listener is still significantly less than a Key 103 or Metro, though the locals – right now – I’m sure do well from the local advertising. It would be interesting to see if these digital stations had the same investment in marketing and talent that some of the Bauer locals get, whether their audience acceleration would be significantly greater, and even with lower national yields, generated faster profit growth.

One Bauer local that has had a great few years is Gem 106. Now at its highest ever audience for the 106 licence – a reach of 561k. The next quarter will be their first without breakfast hosts Sam and Amy who’ve disappeared off to Virgin Radio.

Wireless Group

Speaking of which, Virgin Radio, though having a great book in Q3 – 555k reach – it did look a bit of an outlier. They’ve eased back this quarter to 483k, but that’s still their 2nd highest reach. They’ve got a long journey ahead of them, but at least it’s going in the right direction.

Stablemate at Wireless is talkRADIO. Its figures have been flat since launch and the latest quarter has its second lowest ever reach at 242k. The new talent they’ve brought in and the right sort of new afternoon show will give them a new platform on which to promote. It’ll be interesting to see where they are this time next year.

Platforms

As the blog post shows, the UK radio industry is now a real mix of analogue and digital radio stations. Indeed, the latest breakdown tells us that a record 49.9% of all radio listening is digital. This means the Government will soon be starting a review of plans for digital radio switchover. I wouldn’t expect FM to be going anywhere anytime soon, but I think it will bring to the horizon the dates when stations will start to leave the FM band.

The hours split today are: AM/FM (50.1%), DAB (36.3%), Internet (8.5%) and DTV (5.1%). Looking at reach, AM/FM now reaches just 79.1% of listeners, DAB reaches 54.9% of listeners, Internet reaches 21.1% of listeners and DTV’s reach is 15.7%.

Over at Fun Kids (where we just measure London and RAJAR just measures our non-core age group of 10 plusses), we went down a little from 92k to 84.5k. This quarter had 6 weeks of us being DAB+ only in London, so it’ll be interesting to see if that affects our numbers next quarter. Sadly my go to comparison to talkRADIO and Magic Chilled in London looks less good, as they’re both a little ahead on 87.6k and 86.7k respectively. We’ll have to just take being better than The Arrow (73.3k) and The Hits (83.6k). But who’s really counting!

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

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