Stitcher has evolved quite a lot since it started in 2008 as a sort of internet radio service/app that collated together podcasts into a radio-esque feed. It was acquired by Deezer to be their speech play in October 2014
This RAJAR period covers the first three months of the year, so as people started to change their routines for the last two weeks of March, it will include a little of this change – but with a RAJAR week averaged across 13 weeks of data, it’s unlikely to have much of an impact.
A common theme on these blog posts over the past few years has been about change. The radio, and broader media sector, have changed as consumer behaviours have altered. For me, radio’s luck was to develop a digital broadcast platform, doing the heavy lifting of launching a sector-specific device – a DAB radio! – and new stations before broad digital choice became an essential part of consumers’ media lives.
The result of this early work, was that in the digital future we all live in now, the sector has a broad range of channels from new and existing brands, that it can deliver on the modernised version of it’s heritage platform – a radio box – but also now has the material to distribute on any device that has an internet connection and speaker.
Indeed, radio (a curated linear feed with plenty of human involvement) has ended up dominating new devices like smart speakers – even if it shares them with new shouty upstarts like music streaming services. Oh, and asking what the temperature is, before your government mandated exercise.
Looking at the splits – are ‘owned’ platforms of AM/FM and DAB now account for 41% and 40% respectively of total radio listening. Our piggy-backed platforms of DTV and Internet account for 4% and 14% of radio listening.
Collectively the digital listening of DAB, DTV and Online now represent 58.6% of radio listening, up from 56.4% a year ago – with DAB providing the lion’s share – accounting for nearly 70% of the digital listening total.
A lot of this digital growth has come from the commercial radio sector’s aggressive expansion of stations. It’s working audience-wise, the sector’s average listening is up year-on-year, to 13 hours per week, and its share of listening is up too, from 45.7% in Q1 2019 to 47.8%. It’s also got its highest ever total reach – 36.3m (vs the BBC’s 33.5m).
Perhaps someone can tell the Radio Times of this commercial radio strength. In a feature this week they got ten celebs to pick their lockdown listening. They only managed to pick Radio 3, 4, 4 Extra and the World Service (plus an embarrassed mention of Classic FM). Looking at the contributors, perhaps a more representative bunch of people may have given them a more representative range of stations.
The battle for the London airwaves has always driven a lot of discussion, much to the chagrin of the successful local stations in the rest of the country. It’s also a good way to describe what changes and what stays the same in consumer behaviour.
If we look at the market share of the top 25 stations in the capital, it looks like the left column today, and the right column 10 years ago.
|BBC Radio 4||14.6||BBC Radio 2||13.7|
|BBC Radio 2||10.6||BBC Radio 4||13.7|
|Magic (London)||4.5||Magic (London)||5.9|
|Classic FM||4.4||LBC London||5.1|
|Heart London||4.4||BBC Radio 1||5|
|BBC Radio 5 live||3.6||BBC Radio 5 live||4.8|
|Capital London||3.5||Classic FM||4.7|
|BBC Radio 1||3.3||Heart London||4.7|
|Absolute Radio||2.8||Kiss (London)||4.1|
|BBC 6 Music||2.7||Absolute Radio||2.6|
|BBC Radio 3||2.6||BBC Radio 3||1.9|
|Smooth Radio London||2.4||BBC Radio London||1.5|
|talkSPORT||2.3||Radio X London||1.3|
|BBC Radio 4 Extra||1.5||Smooth Radio London||1.3|
|Radio X London||1.5||BBC 6 Music||1.1|
|Capital XTRA (London)||1.4||Capital XTRA (London)||1.1|
|LBC News (London)||1.2||Gold London||1|
|Kisstory||1.2||LBC News (London)||0.7|
|BBC Radio London||1.1||Planet Rock||0.7|
|Gold London||1||Premier Christian Radio||0.7|
|Virgin Radio||0.8||BBC Radio 4 Extra||0.5|
|Absolute 80s||0.7||Jazz FM||0.5|
|Magic Soul||0.7||1Xtra from the BBC||0.3|
On the right, the digital stations were just starting to appear – Planet Rock (already on air for 11 years by this point) hits a 0.7 share, and today has, checks notes, a 0.7% share. Jazz FM, a couple of years into a digital rebirth gets a 0.5% share, compared to a 0.4% share now. Easy to sniff at, of course, but these stations have kept steady whilst competition has tripled.
Other stations though have flourished. 6Music now number 11 in London, just above Kiss and their FM licence. Kisstory, Virgin Radio, Absolute 80s and Magic Soul now make their mark too.
As the number of stations has exploded, its music that’s been the differentiator. There haven’t been many new speech stations on the block, and for the one that has appeared, Talk Radio, it’s been a bumpy ride. R4 has managed to grow, whilst LBC has moved up the chart, steadily growing and maintaining its share. 5Live occupies the same chart position, but not the same market share.
Magic, Heart and Capital are still top 10 but are finding their audiences salami sliced, not just by competition, but by their own spin-offs too.
Year on Year Reach Changes
Looking nationally, stations that have done well over the last year, reach-wise, including Virgin Anthems (more than doubling) and talkRADIO up 25%. Virgin Radio’s seen a 15% increase year on year (to a smidge under 1.5m) – good, but I’m sure they’d hoped for something a little larger.
Free Radio in the Black Country has doubled and its sister station in Coventry is up over 40%, the Birmingham branch – down 30%. That’s RAJAR for you! Radio Essex, having pocketed the old Heart Essex breakfast team have been growing, up 50% year on year.
What was Touch and is now Capital is up 76%, albeit from a low base. Digital station Dragon Radio in Wales has seen steady growth now with 60k listeners and nearly doubling over the past year, whilst our own Fun Kids has seen a 50% reach bump.
XS Manchester which was going to be closed due to poor audience figures has seen its year on year figures now increase 40% to 131k. Now saved (by the regulator), lets see if they keep it! In fact it’s good rock news in Manchester generally, with Radio X Manchester up to 191k – a 20% year on year increase.
At the other end of the spectrum, Capital Brighton hasn’t really chimed with its audience, seeing a 70% drop from 52k to 15.7k. Town 102’s regulatory-imposed analogue switch-off has seen it now just at 10k reach. It’s replacement Ipswich 102 has had its worst book of its first three – at 30k – but doing better than Town had done for the past few years.
Not a great result for Hits Radio Manchester down 23.4% year on year from 301k to 230k.
I’ve touched on the problems of heritage ILRs many times over the years. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the programming on Hits Manchester – I think the new Breakfast show has been good, the music is fine and the line-up are solid. It’s problem, like many new launches in super-competitive markets, is market fit. Can a station find a gap in the market, can it push that gap and make it bigger?
When listeners are spoilt for choice, a traditional mainstream offer has a lot of work to do to establish itself. It’s hard to drive passion when you’re playing pop songs and you don’t have heritage on your side. The challenge is to build talkability – with talent, stunts and marketing – on top of solid, well-tuned and researched programming.
Hits Manchester currently has a 3% market share. As the Hits TSA market share table below shows, older stations dominate, whilst many local stations are in a knife-fight around the 3% share mark. It’s easy to give Hits a kick-in but look at BBC Radio Manchester, it’s doing all the things people say Hits should do – play the local card – but it doesn’t seem to be doing it much good.
Fundamentally Hits faces too much competition in its format from R1, R2, Capital and Heart with specialist sport, dance and indie stations also getting in the way of any other hours growth. To break out it’s going to need to do something special.
|BBC Radio 2||15.1|
|Smooth Radio North West||9.4|
|BBC Radio 4||9|
|BBC Radio 1||5.3|
|Heart North West||3.5|
|BBC Radio 5 live||3.5|
|Hits Radio (Manchester)||3.1|
|BBC Radio Manchester||2.9|
|Radio X Manchester||2.9|
|BBC 6 Music||1.9|
|Greatest Hits Radio (Manchester)||0.6|
A slightly different table below, this is 10+ Reach in London. Usually 15+ is what’s generally published, but it’s actually people over 10 that are measured by busy RAJAR diarists. It’s always the one that I look at, as it makes comparing my station, Fun Kids, with our peers easier to do. Of course our core audience is under 10, which RAJAR doesn’t measure, so just think where we’d be on the list if they were measured too!
Still though, it’s good to be above all the Virgin and Smooth spin-offs, Hits, Greatest Hits and Country Hits, Heart Dance and Heart 90s, Scala, talkRADIO, some of the Absolute stations and many more too. However, just like all the data up to here, nothing stays the same – new competition in your format, your demographic or a talent change can make all the difference – good and bad. So enjoy it whilst you’ve got it, whatever it is!
|BBC Radio 4||2921.1|
|BBC Radio 2||2278.6|
|Heart Network (UK)||2077.6|
|Capital Network (UK)||2051.9|
|BBC Radio 1||1483.6|
|BBC Radio 5 live||1186.8|
|Smooth Radio Network (UK)||886.6|
|BBC 6 Music||859.6|
|Capital XTRA (UK)||808.3|
|BBC Radio 3||649|
|LBC News (UK)||505.6|
|BBC Radio 4 Extra||487.2|
|Radio X Network (UK)||419.9|
|BBC World Service||398.2|
|Gold Network (UK)||306.5|
|1Xtra from the BBC||258.9|
|Sunrise Radio National||194.9|
|Absolute Radio 90s||160.3|
|Absolute Classic Rock||150.9|
|Premier Christian Radio||122.8|
|BBC Radio 5 live sports extra||113.4|
|Fun Kids (London)||108.3|
|Smooth Radio Chill||106.7|
|BBC Asian Network UK||97.4|
|1458 Lyca Radio||93.4|
|Greatest Hits Radio||79.5|
|Capital XTRA Reloaded||77.2|
|Absolute Radio 70s||68.8|
|Absolute Radio 00s||42.2|
|1035 Dilse Radio||42.1|
|Smooth Radio Country||39.2|
|Chris Country Radio||38.7|
|Country Hits Radio||23.4|
|Absolute Radio 60s||21.8|
|Virgin Radio Groove||7.3|
|Nation Radio London||3.4|
Me and my RAJAR blogging colleague, Adam Bowie, are going to do a live stream later today, Thursday 14th March at 1pm. Keep an eye on Twitter for the link. If you have any questions, send them over and we’ll have a go at answering them!
edit: here it is
Want more? Radio Today generally has pretty comprehensive RAJAR coverage.
There’s lots of talk about whether Times Radio will be a success, or a draining money pit.
Most of the analysis is about whether it will get ratings and how it will fare ‘up against’ Radio 4. Even in Matthew Moore’s Times article this morning there was reference to “taking on the BBC” and “seen as a direct rival to BBC Radio 4″.
If its core aim is to ‘take on the BBC’ then it will absolutely be an unqualified failure.
The aims for what I guess we’re still terming ‘commercial radio’ are more varied than they used to be. When the sector first started the planned business model was to get some listeners by doing the things that will get the largest audience and then to sell ads around them and try and make some money. This simple model wasn’t very easy to achieve for many of the first ILR stations for quite a while, additionally the incremental, Sallie, licences rarely achieved that objective in their lifetime. The old adage that to make a small fortune in commercial radio you just needed to start with a large fortune has been a truism.
Digital spectrum, and more space for new stations, has meant that commercial radio’s model, objectives and tactics have changed significantly.
Not every radio station needs to strive to be ‘number 1’ to be successful. Niche operators have created models that serve smaller audiences. Limited costs can reap solid (if not super) profits.
The religious broadcasters’ businesses are often fascinating. Some are really mail order firms using broadcast as a way to help position and sell product. Others use it as a loudspeaker to generate significant direct debit donations. Third party ads may be in there, but it’s not a big part of their business plan.
At Fun Kids we have a suite of products – radio, podcasts, web, email, video, social – that reach parents and children and we monetise, generally with ads, this attention. The broadcast station is important, particularly for marketing the brand, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of what we’re doing.
The Times have talked about the main objective of the radio station being to drive Times subscribers. Times digital subs are £15 to £26/month. If you generated 10,000 new subscribers you’d probably easily cover the costs of running the radio station.
The subscription business is also about reducing churn – the people who stop subscribing. With a content subscription like The Times, I imagine churn is all about perceived value. “Am I reading the written content?” is obviously a key thought, but if you’re consuming, albeit free, Times media like the radio station and podcasts, I’m sure that all goes into improving the perceived value too.
So, if you’re reducing churn and adding subs – that’s a great model to have. And a great reason to launch a radio station.
However, the danger, is mission creep and forgetting your objectives.
I think I must have had discussions with at least 50 people serious about launching radio stations over the past few years and probably another 100 time wasters. In addition I’ve got friends at all the radio groups and have talked briefly, or in detail, about most big group launches. This ranges from production staff on some to the bosses on others.
Thinking about it, it’s amazing how few of these people have had experience launching any product from scratch, and for many, even less experience running a business.
For people new to the industry, it’s the curse that a lifetime of radio listening makes them think they’re experts in producing. Similarly there’s a difference in running an established, formatted station and creating a new one.
Creating a successful radio station, and cutting through in a market where listeners can get over 60 on their digital radio requires art, science, marketing and luck.
Now Wireless, themselves, have probably had the most experience in launching new radio stations – two speech ones with talkRADIO and talkSPORT2, along with a launched and re-launched Virgin Radio, so you’d hope they’ve got the experience to make a decent fist of this or at least learned something about the process along the way.
With any project, but definitely with radio stations, the biggest problem is drifting away from core objectives to do what you want to do, rather than what you need to.
If ‘competing with the BBC’ or ‘taking on Radio 4’ ends up being the core aim. I would say the strategy is officially, batshit mental.
Radio 4 has an annual budget nearing £100m a year, perfect FM and digital distribution, free cross-promotion on some of the nation’s favourite TV stations and over 50 years of heritage. Its listeners are happy to drift through hard news, a soap opera, and a programme about poetry without causing much channel changing. Its scale is such that 200k leaving a show is basically a rounding error.
Radio 4 currently has 10.9m listeners. Other speech stations in the UK have significantly less, with 5 Live on 5.4m, LBC with 2.7m (even with a London FM licence) and talkRADIO on 433k. After four years.
As another example, the relaunched Virgin Radio with the nation’s most popular DJ, Chris Evans, who swapped from Radio 2 to Virgin Radio with, to all intents and purposes, the same show, could probably be held as the high water mark of what can be done quickly on digital radio – in a year he’s added 1million listeners to take that station to 1.5m.
To hit those numbers would be unexpected – and a triumph, but would still have you at 15% of Radio 4.
The biggest issue for the Times Radio team is being distracted from the very sensible endeavour of adding new subscribers to the business.
The problem is that it’s not sexy or fun. It’s, of course, much more interesting going on the attack. But being focused on a competitor, like Radio 4 or the BBC, means you end up playing to them, rather than concentrating on your own objectives.
The amazing opportunity of being all about converting 10,000 new Times fans is that you can embrace this fortunate position you’re in of not worrying about the ratings. How liberating that would be? Indeed, why do you even need to publish your RAJAR figures?
Converting people to subscribers means a two pronged strategy. The first phase is listener acquisition. I imagine there’s probably two groups to appeal to:
- (easier) Attracting listeners that are occasional or semi-regular readers
- (harder) Identifying the types of people who would like The Times brand if they experienced (more of) it, by including programming that appeals to that target’s interests.
The second phase is turning this group of people into proper fans – to make them feel like the Times environment is one that interests them, represents them, entertains them.
Working out subscription conversion is difficult, but 2% of a station with 500,000 listeners would hit that 10k.
For me the interesting thing to learn from NewsCorps’ existing research with Times subscribers is the interplay between news and non-news content. What’s the combination of content that makes people part with their money?
If I was mapping out the radio market, there’s a lot of delivery of news within speech content – big parts of Radio 4, most of 5 Live, LBC and talkRADIO. Of course I’d expect Times Radio to cover news, but it’s a brand with a strong features background, how do you weave that into the schedule? Podcasting has shown there’s a huge appetite for non-news speech, with the latest RAJAR MIDAS survey saying podcasting has now reached 10m people in the UK.
To create a tribe of listeners where you’re trying to build connection, Coronavirus or Brexit all of the time isn’t going to cut it. It also doesn’t differentiate in the market. Why fight for LBC or talkRADIO listeners by doing the same thing?
In a Buzzfeed News article last weekend, the reporting talked about the bringing together of The Times and Sunday Times (they’re currently run separately) and to “transform it into a premium, politically liberal brand like the New York Times”. Radio could definitely help with that.
Maybe it’ll be there when there’s more detail released, but if I was looking to create Times Radio I’d be drawing on far more built content – short and long form. I’d be drawing on the kinds of content in Red Box, Stories of our Times, The Game and The Ruck, Giles Coren and even Postcards from Midlife, Walking the Dog and Tales of Silicon Valley. These well made podcasts would reach newer audiences on a linear radio station and would provide texture that isn’t available on other speech competitors.
Indeed, if you are trying to re-think Radio 4, don’t get obsessed with the Today programme, remember that much of their schedule is actually built, well-thought out shows.
The word that keeps appearing in Times promo is ‘warm’. I think that’s a good word – and something that’s much more connected to the idea of building a group of listeners who you can activate to do something – subscribe.
Update: From the Launch Director, Stig Abell:
Here we go again. Another quarter. More data.
There’s a deluge of information. The number of stations keeps increasing, consumer behaviour is changing and this produces more and more information.
The data used to be easy to analyse, who’s up and who’s down. Now? Not so much. As well as station changes, we’ve got wholesale network alterations and a changing mix of which platforms people listen to.
When I get the data, the first thing I tend to look at is London. It’s the most competitive market. It has the most stations. It’s just a good place to start.
Usually I put up the commercial London market share chart, but this time here’s all the stations audible in London, looking at the share today, last quarter and last year. You can see the immovables in Radio 4 and Radio 2. LBC seems to have graduated to that point too.
Market share comes from total hours consumed. The stations with high average hours do well – and these tend to be the older appealing ones – R4, R2, Classic and LBC. The younger stations with shorter consumption lengths start to drift. You can see Radio 1, Capital, Kiss drifting below Classic FM, Magic and Heart.
As well as the hours pressure, Capital and Kiss have had tough times with breakfast too.
Capital London breakfast has generally hovered around 1m, but has seen a bit of a drop to 700k. Blip or trend? It’s always hard to say with a single wave.
Over at Kiss, Rickie, Melvin and Charlie left at the beginning of the year, so they’re still in build mode. Not unnaturally the figures dropped to around 700k, and now this quarter have fallen to 526k.
So where have all these listeners gone? The obvious place would be Radio 1. Greg James is a year in, with a strong show. But whilst he’s up year on year, he’s slightly down on the quarter.
Can the listeners have just disappeared?
Having a look at London’s demographics, 15 to 24s are the group with most volatility – and are most likely to affect the younger stations.
The chart above shows percentage reach of 15 to 24s in the key day-parts. In Breakfast there’s been a softening from a fairly reliable low-50s to a drop last quarter and this.
The other day-parts have been affected, but not so recently. They had their changes around a year ago. Are we perhaps seeing the end of a re-alignment from youth audiences? Had breakfast merely held up until now?
Meanwhile looking at the 55-64s, if you’re programming for them, you’re luckier as they’re a more, er, resilient part of the radio audience.
At the older end of the breakfast market, nationally Zoe Ball at Radio 2 has seen a fall to 7.9m (from 8.2m q on q and 8.8m y on y). Meanwhile her old chum Chris Evans has held steady up q on q to 1,114m from 1,110m. I imagine Wireless would have liked to seen some further growth, but the status again reaffirms the complexity in the market.
Looking back to the London market share table, the other big shift is the arrival of more digital stations into the mix. 6Music and Kisstory is bigger than FM stations like Capital Xtra and BBC London.
Digital Radio (across DAB, DTV and online) now accounts for 56.8% of listening vs 43.2% for analogue (AM/FM). When you look at platform more specifically, DAB accounts for 39.7% of listening whilst my calculations now show FM accounts for just marginally more at 40.7%. We live in a truly multi-platform radio market.
For me, though, the most important figure is that Fun Kids has hit its highest ever RAJAR reach of 105k (10+) in London.
This is a bigger reach than Scala Radio, Hits Radio, Greatest Hits Radio, Virgin’s spin-offs and a load more services too.
I think the figures are even more impressive because RAJAR only measures over 10s, just think what our numbers would be if they actually measured our core audience!
Our addition in the market is that of a small minnow compared to the investment the radio groups are putting into families of brands.
Where some individual stations seem weaker in the chart at the top of the page, this chart shows the London share when stations are grouped together into their new networks. Heart (which takes into account Heart 80s and Extra) gives a combined share of 6.2% and LBC picking up the main service and the rolling news channel (soon to expand to the whole country) gives it an even more impressive 8% share.
With commercial radio now just three larger radio groups, the idea of a single station being the be all and end all, is long gone.
Adam Bowie has more detail about individual station breakdowns.
In the radio industry at the moment there are two over riding themes:
- The BBC’s relationship with talent and the effect on the whole industry of those presenters swapping stations.
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
News today of another new national radio station launch – Scala Radio. It’ll be a classical music station with, seemingly, a more contemporary vibe. It’s anchor DJ is Simon Mayo, who it turns out doesn’t need to spend too much time on his new books, as he’ll be rocking up every weekday from 10am to 1pm.
The station comes from the UK’s number two commercial radio group – Bauer. They’ve been on a march recently to narrow the hours gap with their big rival Global. As well as launching a raft of new spin off stations for Absolute and Magic, they’ve been trying to sort out their local station networks and have also been getting the cheque book out, acquiring Planet Rock and Jazz FM
Scala will use the space (and I guess the budget) previously used to broadcast Heat Radio, which gets reimagined as an internet-only music service.
Scala’s a much bigger play, however, with a fuller range of talent including the bods below, as well as previous Classic FM stalwarts Jamie Crick and Mark Forrest.
Bauer doesn’t need to ‘take on’ Classic FM to win. Classic’s brand position and distribution will mean it’s unlikely to be wounded too much by the new station. The opportunity for Bauer is to build something with strong hours, a younger demo than Classic and to bolster their ABC1 properties alongside Jazz FM. It’s more immediate task is to generate more hours than Heat delivered (2.2m) on, I imagine, a much higher budget!
Launching new radio stations today is tough. There are now 46 national radio stations on DAB and more than double that in London. Generating cut through and awareness is harder than it’s ever been. The excitement of there being a new radio station has been massively diluted.
We’re also way beyond the idea that “if you build it, they will come”. With apologies to Kevin Costner, but that’s a phrase that no longer rings true. It isn’t good enough to hope people find you, you need to go and drag them in.
Virgin Radio did two years with a solid but unremarkable 400k listeners before they pushed the boat out and snapped up Chris Evans (and probably more than doubling the stations’ operating costs in a moment). The big money move, and significant press coverage, will have finally lodged in people’s minds that Virgin Radio exists!
Interestingly, the rest of the Virgin Radio product hasn’t really changed – a little tweak on the music and line-up but otherwise business as usual. I would guess their research has shown what it’s always shown – what they’ve been doing is pretty right for the target audience – they just needed to discover it.
Scala Radio are trying the same trick with Simon Mayo. He’s not quite an Evans – but then again, who is? There’s the added complication that with a more niche music position, it’ll only ever be able to attract a subset of Mayo fans. But it does give it a head start in establishing itself in a competitive field.
I imagine Global will be disappointed that they let Simon slip through their fingers, and that Radio 2 will breathe a sigh of relief of where he’s ended up. And to continue to find ways to tell people about it.
Obviously the thing that really set up Classic FM’s success was my tech-opping in the early 00s. But outside of that, it’s always been one word that’s helped deliver its success – relax. Classic FM isn’t successful because it plays classical music, it’s successful because it delivers an emotional state through what it does. The market for a true classical music station has always been the same, before Classic’s launch and after – 2 million people. That’s the listening figures that BBC Radio 3 have always have.
The challenge, and I’m sure it’ll be a fun one, is creating a different environment that uses classical music to cater for another audience need.
Ofcom’s announcement of their new localness guidelines is the staging post for the eventual removal of the majority of local programming rules for FM radio stations. It’s a tough subject to talk about as the implications for the jobs of people working in commercial radio are potentially pretty significant.
Of course all industries are affected by market forces and the changing natures of society, just ask the 4,000 people likely to lose their jobs from Debenhams. Mostly though, changes are subtle as companies evolve and change. Local radio, though, has always had government regulation, so any changes see a rush for radio groups to align with how they want to run their businesses.
But why is radio such a regulated business? Mostly history. The first commercial licences were awarded in the early 70s based on a beauty parade rather than a cash bid (something that has continued until today). The thinking was that spectrum was a public good and limited. You would be one of few people able to broadcast to an area, but in exchange you had to promise some public good – news, current affairs, specialist music etc – alongside the bits of programming where it was easier to make money. As an applicant you were happy to do that deal because what you were getting back was a scarce resource and massive barriers to any competition as there were few licences.
Over the years the scarcity of that public spectrum has reduced. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, the regulator advertised more and more licences. Secondly, radio consumption became multi-platform – with people listening on non/less regulated platforms like DAB/DTV and online. Thirdly, the rise of technology and the internet meant that becoming a new entrant into music, audio and any form of entertainment happened without any barriers to entry. The value of this scarce FM spectrum has been dropping and dropping, so the government has taken the view that the operators of this FM spectrum can reduce their local committments.
Indeed, the government has recently gone much further than what Ofcom have just announced. In their response to a radio consultation they stated that pretty much all localness requirements and music format rules would go. But to have that happen will need an Act of Parliament and Brexit has somewhat filled up available parliamentary time. They did say though:
In the meantime, the Government is open to and would support any moves by Ofcom to consider, in the light of the consultation responses received, whether there is scope for changes to its rules and guidance in lieu of longer-term reform.
In other words, the changes announced by Ofcom are them trying to achieve Government policy whilst legally fitting in with the current laws.
So, what have they come up with?
At the moment if you own any radio licences within any of the regions here then you’re allowed to treat them as a single radio station – that is, generally, you have to produce seven hours of local programming (between 6am and 7pm) and that must include the breakfast period. For example what used to be individual radio stations in Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter could now be ‘Heart’ and share a single breakfast show, providing they provided local news reflecting each of the licences each hour in daytime.
The new rules see two changes. Firstly the regions get bigger, and now stations only have to broadcast three hours of local programming within that region. That local three hours can be at any time between 6am and 7pm, and doesn’t have to include Breakfast. So with our Heart example what was Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter as well as Bristol, Gloucester, Bournemouth and Southampton could now share a single regional mid-morning show with the rest of the programming come from outside the region – say from Leicester Square, providing they provided local news reflecting each of the licences each hour in daytime.
The most common question I’ve been asked about this is “what do you think the big groups will do?”. I’m afraid I don’t know. These are big changes and it opens up lots of different scenarios. Firstly though it’s important to think about what prompts a change – and that’s generally money – this is commercial radio after all.
From a business perspective, the value of the local shows are that they can drive local audiences, that the teams can deliver local sponsorship and promotions as well as being a local face for the radio station. Now there’s some costs for delivering that – the local staff – but there’s the revenue you generate from it through things like local S&P and events. If the local revenue outweighs the costs then it makes sense to continue with local shows.
The other assumption is that the group’s always deliver the regulatory minimum – and that’s not always the case either. At the moment if you’re a regional radio station that also broadcasts the brand nationally on Digital One, then you can stop doing any local content on FM. Kiss has taken advantage of this, broadcasting their London programming on London FM as well as their regional FM licences in the East and West of England. Capital on the other hand, which has regional FM licences in the North East and Yorkshire, chooses to keep regional programming on those stations when broadcasting on Digital One means that they don’t need to.
When I look at the new regions, which are huge, I wouldn’t be surprised to see groups create their own combination of stations within the areas that better suit their businesses – I don’t think they’ll instantly create super regions with one daily show.
If they do decide that the local sponsorship and promotions money is not a fair exchange of the costs of delivering local programmes, then the other option is, of course, delivering up to eight local mid-morning programmes and the rest of the programmes coming from London, or the network centre.
These changes are also likely to have an affect on the attractiveness of independent groups and stations for acquisition by the bigger boys. We’ve seen some of it already with Bay and Juice Brighton being bought by Global and added to the Heart and Capital networks. They followed this up with 2BR, which is likely to become a Capital. The rule changes make it easier for them to deploy their brands onto more FM licences with minimal local commitments.
So is this the end of local radio and local breakfast shows? I thought I’d have a look at what the UK listens to at the moment and what is potentially under threat with these changes.
Within my RAJAR tool I’ve created some new combinations of stations – Nationals (Radio 1, Classic, Planet Rock etc), Networks (commercial brands like the Capitals, Hits Radio network etc that are likely to embrace the new opportunities), BBC Local Radio and Locals (stand alone commercial stations plus groups like Nation, UKRD and Lincs who are less likely than others to make significant changes). As people can of course listen to multiple types of stations in a week, I’m using the share of listening that these combinations have.
The thing that surprised me is how dominant national radio is at breakfast time. 68.3% of all breakfast listening is to the national stations. BBC Locals, something that isn’t affected by the changes, delivers an 8.4% share. The Networks account for 17.3% and the Locals accounts for 4.4%. So, collectively the local breakfast shows potentially under threat are consumed by just a fifth of available listeners.
Personally I’m a little torn by the changes. Fundamentally I’m a radio fan and I like that there’s a variety of presenters up and down the country delivering local and branded radio. I also lean to being a free-marketeer. It does seem crazy that in today’s world that when faced with unregulated competition from Facebook, digital television and digital radio, that local FM licences are forced to deliver specific output.
I think localness is an excellent way to win in a market. It’s a great difference that can serve audiences and the bottom line. There’s also a growing number of digital-only radio stations that have chosen to be local stations (without any regulatory encouragement) as they think that’s the way to build a business. But, of course, it’s not the only way to do it (as the success of national radio with listeners shows).
Like all great mediums, one size does not fit all and radio is no different. These new rules, taken on their own, are a big change for many. However, outside of FM, there have never been as many audio opportunities. I imagine there are more radio jobs now than there were in the peak of the local radio in the 90s. From the growth of new national digital radio stations to developments in podcasting, radio production skills have never been in demand by so many people (and listeners).
This is the Summer quarter – July, August, September – which tends to give bumpier results than usual, as listeners disrupt their regular patterns and behaviour. Whilst this can generate hiccups that get corrected later on, it can also be a quarter that accelerates change as the alterations in listeners’ lives (and their favourite presenters going on holls) mean they can tune around and sample new stations.
All of this crashes into the big structural shift in UK radio listening – the increasing number of stations people are listening to, driven by a larger and larger percentage of the population becoming multi-platform radio consumers. 65% of listeners have DAB Radios, the arrival of a new class of radios – the smart speaker – as well as the phone (powered by WiFi and 4G) teaching users through streaming services and podcast apps, that their device makes a pretty good radio too.
In reach terms, 71% of the UK population now listen to some form of digital radio (DAB, DTV and the Internet) each week, analogue isn’t that much higher at 76%. But when you look at the share of listening, digital has seen a bump to 52%.
This shift is starting to have a greater effect on what we think of as the traditional radio battles in different parts of the UK.
The chart below shows the reach of all the stations in London. Stations in blue are the digital stations, the black the analogue originals. The top part of the chart is as you would expect, Radio 4 and 2 sticking it out in front, Capital, Kiss and Radio 1 battling, Magic and Heart and so on. But the digital stations are starting to have more of an affect. Kisstory is bigger than stations with FM licences Absolute Radio and Capital Xtra. Indeed for Capital Xtra who have always been hobbled by a poor FM signal, are starting to reap the benefits of their digital distribution. In London they’re in a better place than 1Xtra with nearly three times the reach and leaving Global stablemate Radio X in its wake. Nationally, the service is up to 1.8m (800k ahead of 1Xtra).
Also, on the right hand side of the chart we’re seeing that the AM coverage of specialist stations is now providing no real benefit now when compared to the digital onlys.
Also if BBC Radio London is trailing Radio 3, 4 Extra and is neck and neck with the World Service isn’t it time for some drastic changes? A station on all the platforms with significant BBC resources should be doing better than 20th.
Looking at commercial market share and the battle for number one in the capital – LBC rides high with 6.6%, Magic then at 4.4%, Kiss at 4.2%, Capital at 3.8% and Heart at 3.7%. So once again Capital can say it’s the number 1 hit music station based on reach and Kiss can say it’s bigger than Capital on market share.
In Manchester the changes aren’t as marked, but they’re coming…
Kiss as a strong digital brand is beating a local FM station XS Manchester with Kisstory, Absolute 80s and 6Music not far behind.
Manchester is an interesting market as a heritage leader in Key 103 has had its first full book as Hits Radio Manchester. This has seen its reach drop from 374k to 325k, its hours have fared worse dropping from 2.2m to 1.6m – its lowest RAJAR figures ever.
I’m not entirely surprised, RAJAR is a recall methodology, so there’s always been a certain bias to memorable stations, to heritage. You’re recalling what you’ve listened to when you fill in that diary on paper, computer or your phone, so old stations are going to be more front of mind. They’re now the challenger brand in the market with Capital and Smooth being the heritage stations. It doesn’t help that these brands are backed by strong marketing and well-programmed output. Finding a niche for Hits Radio will require more marketing and much noisier programming. I’m afraid though it’s only likely to get worse before it gets better, I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom yet.
What is interesting though is that the new format – music, networked shows and production – has been rolled out on many of the BCN/Hits Radio network FM stations. Success has been mixed. Some increases for TFM, Hallam and Radio Aire, Free Coventry, but others have seen strong declines – Viking FM dropping to 129k reach from 169k q on q and from 217 year on year, it’s also about halved its hours. Free Radio in Birmingham’s running at its lowest ever audience 254k (down from 308k q on q, 262 y on y) and losing about a quarter of its hours.
Radio City saw its audience fall back a little to 344k reach/1.9m hours, but what has been growing is its relatively new FM sister – the AC Radio City 2. It’s seen gradual growth over the past year, now with a reach of 218k and hours of 2.1m, which means Radio City 2 has a greater market share than Radio City. This strong duopoly is about to be replicated in the West Midlands as Bauer flip Absolute Radio on FM into a similarly formatted AM station.
Over at the BBC, Radio 1 has pulled back a little q on q, back up to 9.6m leaving it relatively flat year on year (9.7m). This book shows a little positive news for R1 Breakfast, which is a majority Grimmy quarter, with a few weeks of Greg – it’s now at 5.44m (up from 5.37 q on q and 5.02 y on y). The next book will see how Greg fares.
Over at Radio 2, this will be Chris Evans’ penultimate book before he moves to Virgin Radio. He’s seen a marginal drop – 8.8m reach from 9.0m q on q (and 9.3, y on y) this change is reflected in Radio 2’s top line figure – 14.6m (down from 14.9 q on q and 15.3 y on y).
A lot’s been written about Jo and Simon on Radio 2 Drivetime, you’d assume it was bickering and tone based on the commentary. The numbers however shown some small changes. The times are slightly different for the new show (5pm to 8pm rather than 5pm to 7pm) so it’s not directly comparable. But if you compare this timeslot the current reach is 5.5m – down from 5.9m q on q and 5.8m y on y, but not something mortifying.
I’m overjoyed that DCMS today announced the arrival of the Audio Content Fund. It’s £1m a year, from the Government, for radio stations of scale to broadcast great public service programmes from a variety of production companies.
It all came about when the Government announced they were working on a content fund for television perhaps concentrating on genres that were hard to fund in today’s society – particularly children’s programmes. As the discussions for that were happening I started talking to people about how it shouldn’t be a TV fund but a cross-media one. I felt that if you’re creating public service media for children, that just keeping it on broadcast television – especially today – seemed a little anachronistic, and that it should be open for radio and new media too. I also run a children’s radio station, so you can understand why I was quite keen that the scheme be expanded!
RIG (now AudioUK) were very supportive of this, so we worked together to start talking to more people about it. I even wrote this piece for Broadcast magazine.
As part of those discussions we started a conversation with the DCMS, who were positive, but felt that the TV fund wasn’t the vehicle to do it. So instead we started having some exploratory meetings about what an audio fund could look like. First of all I started to ask some big commercial broadcasters about whether they would be happy to run public service material funded this way on their networks – things they would like to do, but couldn’t commercial justify. They were all positive.
Me, Will Jackson from AudioUK, Phil Critchlow, Audio UK’s chair and their policy expert Tim Wilson then had an interesting meeting with some of the policy team at DCMS where we explained how radio was made (commercially and at the BBC) as well as how the commercial radio business model worked. It was definitely a light bulb meeting for them, as they realised the cost-effectiveness of making public service programmes and broadcasting them on radio stations of scale, like commercial radio, would be.
AudioUK then started working with RadioCentre and doing the hard work with the Government which has resulted in what’s been announced today. The short version – £1m per year for radio stations of scale – to commission and broadcast public service programmes. It’s the cousin project to the £20m a year TV fund for children’s content administered by the BFI. The Audio Content Fund will be managed by a new company operated by RadioCentre and AudioUK – they’ll award the money to programme makers under the guidelines set by DCMS.
I think this really is a win-win for everybody. Commercial radio gets to commission quality programmes that they want to have on their networks, but can’t afford to do day-to-day. Production companies get an outlet for public service ideas that isn’t the BBC. This means more commissions for them (and new income), but it also means some competition for the BBC for these ideas.
At the moment many of the inefficiencies in the BBC’s radio commissioning structure stem from the fact that there’s no competition for great radio ideas. In television, the commissioning process has changed for the better because the influx of competition from Netflix and Amazon has meant the BBC now needs to be faster and more flexible. From discussions with BBC colleagues, the podcast commissioning rounds have also generated very different responses than radio, because there are a far broader range of outlets and business models for great podcast ideas – the BBC is just one. Again – it’ll change how the BBC works, for the better. Whilst £1m is perhaps only around 5% of what the BBC spend on outside commissions, it’s certainly a good start and will help invigorate radio commissioning.
More good programmes on a variety of commercial radio stations will also be good for ‘radio as a product’. If you consider all of the stations on broadcast radio (BBC and commercial) and our cross-platform delivery of them as a single product that we’re presenting to consumers – something I think is essential for radios continued relevance – then the addition of great shows can only enhance our offer. More great programmes can only ever be a good thing.
I’m excited to see what this new £1m a year delivers for commercial radio and listeners.
More information about the fund: audiocontentfund.org.uk