From the Premiership title to the Presidential elections, 2016 was full of unexpected results. Has that continued with the Q4 2016 RAJAR listener survey? Our expert analysts have been poring over the figures to give you the lowdown on the very latest results.
Overall, it’s great news, with more than 90% of the adult (15+) population enjoying the huge choice of listening radio offers. That’s 48.7 million people – up nearly half a million year on year – listening for more than 1 billion weekly hours over the quarter. Commercial Radio and the BBC remain very close in number of listeners with less than a quarter of a million separating the two sectors nationally.
Here’s our detailed analysis of how the Commercial Radio results breakdown by platform and area.
Nationals and Networks
Starting with a wider view of the big groups, Bauer has had a generally steady quarter, while Global has experienced more fluctuations than they would probably like.
The Wireless Group, acquired by News UK at the start of the quarter, have put themselves in a good position for growth under the new owner with flagship talkSPORT gaining 150,000 listeners.
For Bauer, the Absolute network gained nearly 60,000 listeners and a solid 5% increase in hours. Kiss UK continues to flourish with an additional 47,000 listeners and 7% increase in hours. The City network has maintained both its reach and hours.
The highlights for Global will be a growth in listeners to premium brand Classic FM (still the largest national station), and the support they have given to Radio X helping it gain a solid increase in hours year on year.
Digital listening continues to grow in importance with share now 45.2% – up from 41.7% the previous year. 31 million adults now own a DAB radio (+6% year on year) and this is still the main digital platform, but listening via DTV, online and or an app are all in the mix.
Many listeners are now preferring to listen to their favourite analogue stations via digital means, but the increased choice digital offers also gives new content. Among the digital only stations, generally the most popular are brand extensions of existing formats, but a special mention should go to standalone Fun Kids which doubled its London audience (the only place it’s measured).
The Absolute decades stations continue to be popular, and Mellow Magic has enticed 22,000 new listeners and enjoyed a healthy 12% increase in hours.
The jury’s still out on Virgin Radio and talkRADIO, but talkSPORT2 has gained 44,000 listeners proving there may be more to sport than football.
The battle of the big music stations has seen Kiss 100 return to claim the top spot in reach. Capital 95.8 slipped back to be virtually neck and neck with Magic 105.4, leaving it all to play for among the top 3.
No doubt bolstered by a turbulent year of politics, LBC 97.3 has built on its position as number 1 in listening hours with an 8% increase. It also gained in reach with over 1 million listeners now tuning into the conversation.
Offering answers of a different kind, Premier Christian Radio has also grown impressively with reach up 11% on the quarter and 35% year on year. Hours are also up 8%.
The breakfast show slot is always a highly contested and coveted prize, and in this quarter the winner was Kiss 100, with LBC 97.3, Magic 105.4, Smooth 102.2 and Radio X all making gains.
Overall, among the big players, Bauer has stepped up its game to leave Global with some work to do in the year ahead.
Top 3 stations by Weekly Reach
Kiss 100 – 1,860,000
Capital London – 1,730,000
Magic 105.4 – 1,723,000
Top 3 stations by Total Listening Hours
LBC 97.3 – 11,350,000
Magic 105.4 – 9,788,00
Kiss 100 – 9,398,000
The Local Picture … in England
Proving that loyal listenership is the foundation of local radio reach has generally been steady across the ILR stations, but many have grown their total weekly hours through longer average listening hours. A few stations in the Bauer city network stations have had very good results, but we’ll pick out the highlights region by region.
In the North East, heritage station Metro Radio has gained a very significant 22% in reach and now has 367,000 weekly listeners. Star NE is definitely shining with a 9% increase in total hours since last quarter. Heart North East and Smooth North East have both experienced growth in both weekly reach and total listening hours.
Over in the North West, Radio City is up by 13% in total hours while sister station Radio City 2 has increased 37% since last quarter. Blackpool’s Rock FM has given itself a big stick to hit the competition with by increasing reach to 215,000 and total hours by 34%. Rock 2 increased total hours by an incredible 47%. Tower FM has seen a high rise in total hours – up 49% quarter on quarter. Manx Radio is up 6% in reach and 16% in hours. Wire FM is holding steady on hours, but has increased reach by 18% to 33,000. 2BR has shown huge growth as it expanded its TSA to include DAB and merged with The Bee. Heart North West saw a 15% rise in overall listening hours. Capital Manchester increased in both weekly reach and total hours. Smooth North West’s audience tune in for the longest compared to the other Smooth regionals.
Yorkshire has seen Radio Aire gain both reach and hours since Q3 with total hours up by 16%. Radio Mansfield is up 15% in reach and 38% in total hours. Rother FM is up 14% in hours, and Trax FM is on track for success with 13% increases in reach and 17% in hours. Stray FM is also staying on course – up 14% in total hours.
Looking to the East and listeners are now tuning in to Norwich 99.9 for nearly 12 hours per week on average, giving the station an increase of 39% in total hours compared to last quarter. Town FM is up by 15%, Connect FM is up by 13% and KLFM is up 11% in total hours.
In the Midlands, Free Radio Coventry has grown its audience by 12% to 105,000 and average hours have also increased so total hours are up 47%. Capital East Midlands had a slight dip overall, but the Derbyshire audience demonstrate their love for the brand with an increase in weekly reach by 11% and total listening hours by 8%. Capital Birmingham increased its total listening hours by 8%.
The South East has seen one of the strongest ILR stories this quarter, with the KMFM group up by 29% in total hours. The majority of that comes from West Kent, which grew reach by 15% to 84,000 and total hours by a very impressive 66%. Audiences are listening for longer to Capital South Coast, with a 3% increase in total hours – up from 1,145,000 in Q3 to 1,176,000 this quarter.
Across in the South West, the Sam FM brand is making a name for itself. In Bristol it’s up by 25% in total hours and Swindon by 16%. On the South Coast, Sam FM has grown its audience by 16% to 171,000. With many major brands to compete with in the region it’s a fantastic achievement. Smooth West Country is doing particularly well, increasing by 34% in weekly reach and 17% in overall listening hours. Heart Solent has also increased in weekly reach and total hours. Wessex FM is up 15% in total hours since last quarter. IOW Radio is up 17% in total and Jack FM Berkshire has grown total weekly listening hours by 50% since Q3.
… in Northern Ireland
Local radio is proving ever more popular in Northern Ireland. Reach is up, up, up, with nearly every station growing its audience. Only Cool FM bucked the trend with a slight cool down in reach quarter on quarter, but still showing overall gains year on year.
The big winner is U105 who posted a 15% increase in reach and 23% increase in hours, more than making up for a slight dip last time round.
Downtown Radio has made more modest gains with a 6% increase in reach, and slight dip in hours. If we take the longer view, however, Downtown has shown it’s really on the up with a 20% hike in reach and a 34% hike in hours year on year.
… in Scotland
It has been a fantastic quarter for radio in Edinburgh with Forth One and Forth Two both reporting significant growth. Listeners now tune into Forth One for an average of 10.7 hours per week, helping to boost the station’s total listening hours by 26%. Forth Two has also reported some pretty dramatic results with a 36% increase in reach and a 40% increase in hours.
Across the central belt, it looks like the City Network heritage stations are winning the battle against the new Capital and Heart brands, with Forth and Clyde both reporting substantial growth in listening hours.
Over in Fife, local station Kingdom FM is battling for the crown with a strong set of results – a 6% increase in reach and a 21% increase in hours.
Local radio is also going strong up in Aberdeen with Original 106 reporting a solid 14% hike in both hours and reach.
… in Wales
Capital North West and Wales has reported an incredible surge in listening hours this quarter with the average listener now tuning for more than 9 hours per week. Compared to the average 5.5 hours across the Capital Network, this is phenomenal.
Heart South Wales remains a formidable force in the Welsh marketplace, reporting a 13% increase in its total listening hours. This builds on a respectable set of figures last quarter, and it now reaches 26% of its potential audience each week.
Dragon Radio has been a roaring success with 36% growth in reach and a 30% in hours. Whilst it’s still a small station, it’s certainly one to watch if this trend continues.
Other notable success stories include Nation Radio, Radio Pembrokeshire and Bridge FM all reporting solid growth in their total listening hours. Special mention goes to Nation Radio which has shown a 13% rise in reach and 14% in hours.
Commercial radio is in rude health overall, and the trend for digital listening shows consistent growth. There are many strong local stories and, with News UK entering the market, the established groups will be looking at how they can shore up and improve their brands in 2017.
Contact us if you have any questions about how this latest RAJAR will affect your radio advertising, and to discuss how you can take advantage of the latest airtime and sponsorship opportunities.