RAJAR Q1/2019 – Evans, Consolidation and Digital Growth

In the radio industry at the moment there are two over riding themes:

  1. The BBC’s relationship with talent and the effect on the whole industry of those presenters swapping stations.
  2. The consolidation of commercial radio into, effectively, two radio groups – and their brand strategies to take on each other and the BBC.

Now, the results of this quarter can’t answer all those questions, but it can start to tell us a little about the future.

Chris Evans

This is the first book for Chris back at his “spiritual home” Virgin Radio. It’s not a full quarter as he started a couple of weeks into the survey, but it covered most of his opening tenure.

Whilst the re-booted Virgin Radio’s been around for three years, the arrival of Evans is close to a re-launch for the station. The station’s weekly reach has popped from 447k to 1,301k. A good number and way above the 850k most radio folk were predicting.

On Breakfast, Evans himself has done well – 993k listeners on the main station, and up to 1,048k when the spin-off’s Anthems and Chilled are added, where his show also broadcasts. This lets him hit the magic million!

What’s happened to Zoe on Radio 2? Well, er, not that much! She’s pretty much where Chris left – 9,047k (vs 9,065 q on q and 9,120k y on y). This is a great result for Radio 2. It’s also helped the network recover from last quarter’s 14.8m reach and now up to 15.3m. Year on year it’s stable too, with their reach figure 15.4m this time last year.

The last bit of premium talent to make the jump from the BBC to Commercial Radio was Chris Moyles. He joined Radio X from Radio 1 after a three year break at the end of 2015. Since taking on the slot he’s seen slow, but steady growth. Overall though, he’s doubled the figures and now he’s pretty close to Evans with a reach of 928k.

Next quarter we’ll find out how Simon Mayo’s fared with his move to Scala.

Chris Evans has clearly super-charged Virgin Radio, giving them a load more listeners to sell to advertisers. They do have a small issue with their ad-free breakfast show. Chris is clearly the main draw, but his show has an exclusive partner – Sky. If you’re an advertiser who wants to get onto the Breakfast show, that’s not something you can currently do. A tough sell for the sales team.

Pre-Evans, Virgin was delivering around 1.6m hours a week, they’re now generating a whopping 7.7m. BUT, only 3.4m are monetisable, as the rest sit in Evans’ Breakfast show.

1m listeners for Chris is a good figure, and one that will probably climb if they keep promoting it and if they can translate the content it produces into social media that really travels. Promoting Evans being there is one thing, but they still have their work cut out to communicate what the show’s doing on-air, to the non-listening public.

But one thing the show has done, is drastically change the profile of the station.

Previously it was 63% 15 to 44, now it’s 40%. The average age is up from 40 to 47.

Looking at the other breakfast shows, Kiss has a new line-up since the departure of Rickie, Melvin and Charlie with new duo Tom and Daisy. They took a not unexpected hit, across the UK reaching 1,787k (down q on q from 1,846k and y on y from 2,092k) but in London dropping faster to 671k (from 805k q on q and 968k y o y).

Over the road in Leicester Square, Capital London breakfast grew to 971k (up from 914k q on q) but down slightly (from 1,023k year on year). Roman and co now consolidate 3.7m listeners as their show goes national (the network up from 3.6m q on q, but down from a high of 3.9m y on y).

With many of the Capitals on a half-yearly measurement, it’ll take a little while to see the impact of the new national strategy.

This is Greg James’ 2nd book at Radio 1. It’s similar to last quarter – 5,044k (vs 5,110k q on q and up from 4,776k y on y). Delving slightly into the data, his share is up from 6.4% to 6.5%, whilst the station share sticks at 5.7%. If the breakfast show is leading the station, that’s good news for Greg, and a sign that daytime should probably pushing harder.

The way that Radio 1 splits the week, probably also doesn’t help. Greg runs Mon to Thurs, whilst Matt & Molly do Fri-Sun. Friday’s RAJAR have the lowest reach and share of the week (4.4% reach/5.8% share) when compared to Mon-Thurs. My worry would be that on Fridays people sample other stations’ breakfast shows, potentially giving them a reason not to tune back to Radio 1 on Monday.

Eddie Mair’s continued to grow audience for LBC, up to 756k for his drive show (up from 715k q on q and 663k y on y). Eddie displaced Iain Dale, who took the evening shift of 7pm to 10pm – somewhere he seems to be thriving too – with reach up again to 603k.

6Music’s got a new breakfast show in Lauren Laverne with the, er, slightly weird time of 7.30am to 10.30am. It works for 6, whose audience are probably slightly less commuter-y and it has the benefit of picking up a chunk of her old mid-morning audience too. Looking at the timeslot over time, she’s pretty stable, down marginally to 1,358k from 1,375k q on q and up from 1,326k year on year.

Consolidation

Since last we met, Bauer have been busy buying up radio groups, adding Celador, UKRD, Lincs FM and Wireless’ local station to their operation. Though at the moment they’re in regulatory limbo whilst the CMA decide if there are any issues.

Bauer’s rationale is all about building market share. Last quarter the group had a 15.4% share of the total market. If we add the audience of their acquisitions, last quarter they’d have been up to 17.9%. However a decline of half a percentage point at their own stations and drops at their new acquisitions take their total share this quarter down to 16.3%.

Global’s share meanwhile seems pretty static at 23.2%, the BBC is up half a point to 51.4% and Wireless, because of the Virgin radio, success is up nearly a point – 3.1% (from 2.3%).

It definitely highlights the need for Bauer to grapple with its stations, both new and old, to make the most of the opportunity.

It’ll be the next few quarters before we start to see how Global’s consolidated networks are performing, and it’ll probably take a similar amount of time to have an idea what Bauer are doing too.

Digital

Digital growth, partly driven by the Virgin Radio changes, has been very strong this quarter. Digital listening (that’s DAB, DTV and the Internet) now accounts for 56.4% of listening (with AM/FM at 43.6%).

Indeed, with AM/FM on 43.6%, DAB is now on 40.4% – so we’re approaching a point where DAB is the majority way of listening to the radio in the UK.