Having sifted through Rajar’s latest listening figures yesterday, the death of the radio star still appears little more than an affectation of 80s one-hit wonders (sorry Buggles).
A whopping 89% of the UK population (15+) tuned in to their selected radio stations each week in the third quarter of 2016, up by approximately 320,000 listeners compared to the same time last year (Q3, 2015). The average listener is now tuning into 21 hours and 30 minutes of live radio every week, which is a lot, particularly considering we only spend an average of four hours of quality time with our families in the same period. Maybe the fact that we can choose our radio stations has something to do with it. But I digress.
With digital technologies continuing their inevitable march toward galactic domination, and everyone glued to their phones and tablets, six out of ten Brits are now listening to radio on a digital platform (DAB, DTV and online). So while radio certainly isn’t anywhere close to dying, it continues to evolve faster than Darwin could ever have dreamed.
So where are we listening exactly? Well…
Despite generally positive results for radio as a whole, it seems that the traditional breakfast show could be on the way out, as widespread listener diffidence has seen audiences decline across the board.
Radio 2’s breakfast show with Chris Evans has lost a staggering 400,000 listeners since the last quarter. The fallout from quitting Top Gear and police investigation for alleged sexual misconduct has seen listeners snub Chris’s breakfast show to head elsewhere.
But they do not appear to have switched over to Radio 1, as the breakfast show with Nick Grimshaw is still losing listeners, falling dramatically by roughly 200,000 from the last quarter. Whether Grimmy will be able to stem the tide or face a schedule re-shuffle is a question which surely must be getting whispered around Broadcasting House.
BBC Radio London’s breakfast show with Vanessa Feltz has also lost around 50,000 listeners and LBC’s Breakfast show with Nick Ferrari has seen a 120,000 drop since the last quarter. LBC peaked in Q2 of 2016, reaching it highest listenership ever, 1,292,000, but has now dropped below a million.
Elsewhere, BBC’s Radio 4 the Today Programme also saw a big fall in listenership losing approximately 200,000, however they did see a large hike during the run-up to the EU referendum.
So where are all these listeners actually going? Well talkRADIO has gone from strength to strength since their launch on the 21st March 2016, increasing their listenership to 304,000 in the last three months.
BBC Radio 6 Music broke its audience record for the fifth quarter in a row, drawing 2.34 million listeners in what continues to be one of the most striking ‘phoenix from the ashes’ stories for many a year.
Overall, commercial radio stations have been eating into the BBC’s dominance and the BBC’s total share of the radio listening audience declined to 51.5% from 53.3% a year earlier. However the BBC still rules compared to national commercial radios, with BBC taking 44.4%, with commercial only taking 17.1%. National commercial radio stations posted strong growth during the quarter, up 7.4% to more than 9.5 million listeners, with the UK’s most popular commercial radio brands, Heart and Capital, reached record audiences.
And it’s also not all bad news for Radio 1. As a whole it has seen an increase of over 400,000 new listeners tuning into the other (non-Grimmy) shows throughout the day, while also increasing their daily YouTube Channel views to 1.5 million, with total 8.5 million users on their social media channels.
By Claire Burgess