The news, this week, that Bauer has acquired Celador and the Lincs FM Group is another reminder that we’re on the verge of an entirely consolidated sector. I’d also expect another few sales to go through in the coming weeks, leaving just a few stand-alone stations left. The unconsolidated groups – Communicorp and Nation Broadcasting – will likely be closely aligned with one of the main commercial groups.
The radio sector will pretty much become the BBC, Global (with Communicorp), Bauer (with Nation) and Wireless. Take a look at the chart below showing group, hours and share. There isn’t a whole lot of scale left to buy up. If you take away the big four, UKRD and ‘other’ (that’s the listening of stations that aren’t in RAJAR) you’re just left with 2.4% of the radio market.
I’ll just say that again. Only 2.4% of the radio market isn’t owned/sold by the biggest five radio groups.
|Global (and friends)||235,043||
|Bauer (and friends)||164,649||
Bauer’s grouping even had a relatively bad book this time too, if we looked at last quarter they’d be 1 percentage point higher.
The nature of this consolidation means UK radio will be an almost entirely national branded affair.
Global started this over 10 years ago and now has its operations grouped into Capital, Heart, Smooth etc. Bauer’s always had strong London/national branded networks in Kiss, Magic and Absolute and now the local teams are gearing up behind Hits Radio and Greatest Hits Radio. Celador’s stations will probably slip into these brands pretty easily and I’m sure we’ll see the rest of Bauer’s local stations will now move across too.
Now, this won’t be without its problems. And the results at Hits Radio Manchester, the former Key 103, won’t encourage them to deploy the folder marked “Hits Radio roll-out plan”.
Hits Manchester hit an all time low with a reach of 270k – it was doing over 500k reach as recently as 2014. It’s also got its lowest ever hours (1.6m) though it’s had a similar number since the middle of 2016.
And this is where I pause to say perhaps the nature of audience figures has hurt it.
Key 103 had a huge amount of heritage. It had been around a long time and was generally looked on favourably by the city. That doesn’t mean they listened, of course, but I’d guess there wasn’t a lot of negativity around it. Back in my time at Leicester Square we often saw in the research that people were very positive towards heritage ILRs, but their listening had drifted off elsewhere. It’s something that’s incredibly annoying to face as you have to get people to re-evaluate a thing they like, but has for the station negative perceptions. Things like “it’s what my Mum listened to” or “it’s old fashioned”.
As often the heritage stations remain front of mind, when RAJAR pop round with a diary (filled in on paper, web or and app) and ask which of these stations you listen to, it’ll often be selected. This makes it easier to later give some listening time to (perhaps when you weren’t entirely sure which station you were hearing) and thus keep reach looking buoyant.
So Key probably got some ticks – some reach – that it probably didn’t deserve. A re-brand later and those bonus ticks disappear. Hence, a precipitous reach drop but hours being broadly the same. A similar thing afflicted Virgin Radio when it changed to Absolute – a hero brand generating some ghost reach until a rebrand.
However, will this Hits Manchester business still stop them doing something similar to their other big city stations?
On these FM’s, year on year there’s been some big reach drops. Hallam: 347 to 284; Viking: 203 to 136; CFM: 110 to 84; Forth 1: 351 to 315; Gem 561 to 469. At the same time there’s been some more positive stories too: TFM: 96 to 134; Clyde 1: 514 to 534; Free Cov: 122 to 141 with the rest stable. This constant split result always means a re-brand leap will be a gamble. How long before Bauer bite the bullet and get on with it?
Kiss in London took quite a hit with reach dropping to 1.6m (vs around 2m year on year and quarter on quarter). Capital London didn’t benefit much either seeing a year on year drop from 2.1m to 1.8m.
This resulted in the following commercial share scores in London:
|Smooth Radio London||3|
|Absolute Radio (London)||2.4|
|Radio X London||1.7|
|Capital XTRA (London)||1.6|
|LBC London News||1.4|
|Sunrise Radio London||0.4|
Over at Radio 1, the main station seems to have a bit of a downward trajectory. However, there is good news from Breakfast as its bucking the trend beating the station share, and growing reach.
Q4 was Greg James’ first full quarter, with a reach figure towards the top end of what the timeslot has done over the last three years.
Creatively I think the show sounds great, and is different to much of the market – it’ll be interesting to track over the coming quarters.
||Q4 2017||Q1 2018||Q2 2018||Q3 2018||Q4 2018|
|Radio 1 – All||Reach (000’s)||9,839||9,467||9,236||9,600||9,375|
|Radio 1 – B’fast||Reach (000’s)||5,722||5,096||5,291||5,333||5,422|
At Radio 2, Q4 was Chris Evans’ last quarter. He finishes up 200k on Q3, with just over 9m weekly reach. Over at Virgin, Sam & Amy went out with their best figures for a year at 166k reach. I imagine, next quarter, Evans on Virgin will come in somewhere between the two!
Eddie Mair moved from Radio 4 to LBC and this is his first book. He’s added 50k to Iain Dale’s reach, taking the show total to 715k across the UK. Iain, moved to early evenings has also done well, taking the slot from 540k to 599k.
Going back to consolidation – the removal of many of the smaller operators leaves more of a pro-digital stance in the sector and groupings that will make it much easier to switch off FM at some point.
The RAJAR figures for digital are again the strongest number so far with 52.6% of all listening now ‘digital’ and the remainder – 47.4% AM/FM.
DAB is listened to by 57.2% of listeners, which represents 38.3% of all listening. DTV contributed 5% of hours and the internet 9.4%.
And finally, when stations are axed, they generate great figures, so well done to Heat, it goes out at 652k and 2.6m hours. It’s best figures for two years.