'One slightly concerning issue is overall radio listening in London'

02 Aug 2012  |  Adam Bowie 

Adam Bowie gives a brief whizz through the latest RAJAR results...

I think it's fair this time around, to say that one of the main stories this RAJAR is actually the Absolute Radio's network of stations' performance. So let's start there.

Absolute Radio Network is up 6.7% in reach on the quarter to 3.2 million - the biggest cumulative reach the business has had for something like four years. And in hours terms it's up 20% on the quarter to just over 25 million hours - a 12 year high.

The gains have individually come across the board with nearly all the Absolute Radio branded services seeing gains in reach and hours. Notably FM in London has jumped right back up after a disappointing result last quarter.

Elsewhere nationally, Classic FM had a relatively static reach performance, although a slipped a little in hours. But talkSPORT is bound to be disappointed with a 10% fall in reach and a 11.5% fall in hours, particularly coming in a period when there was a tight Premier League run-in and extensive Euro 2012 coverage.

The BBC's national services broadly did pretty well in with only Radio 2 and Five Live falling back a bit while the rest gained listeners. In terms of listening hours, it wasn't quite as rosy a picture with all the core BBC radio services falling in time spent listening.

Indeed on a broader level, radio listening overall fell. Of course the weather was poor during that period, and anecdotally that means stronger TV audiences, which does impact on radio listening.

But the BBC's loss is commercial radio's gain, and the gap has been closed a little. In Q1 2012 the overall picture was BBC 55.4% to Commercial Radio's 42.3%. That's now BBC 54.3% to Commercial Radio's 43.3%. Those may seem like small changes, but they're important to the commercial radio industry, and get things closer to level pegging with the BBC.

One slightly concerning issue is overall radio listening in London. It's fallen 6% this quarter, and what's more, there's more listening to BBC Radio than Commercial Radio in the capital, which is unusual.

The reason for that shift is that with a few exceptions (including Absolute Radio), many of the big commercial services in London have seen substantial falls this quarter in listening hours. Capital is down 19%, LBC 97.3 is down 22%, Kiss is down 15%, Magic is down 22% and Smooth is down 53%. Of the bigger stations in London, only Heart (up 15%) and Absolute Radio (up 37%) have done well. This will be something that everybody in radio looks at closely.

In overall commercial terms, Capital can still say it's the biggest in terms of reach, while Heart jumps from #4 to #1 in terms of hours. But the fact that no commercial station has more than 11 million hours this quarter, compared with three stations achieving that last quarter certainly says something.

That does of course mean that outside London, commercial radio has done pretty well, and I suspect (but haven't examined the data in detail yet), that there'll be some record performances around and about.

A couple of the BBC's digital services have recorded new high reaches, with Radio 4 Extra getting more than 1.6 million listeners, and Radio 1 Xtra seeing more than 1.1 million listeners.

And that means that it's not surprising that this quarter more listening is taking place via digital than ever before. We're now up 31.5% of all listening being via a digital service, and 51.7% of radio listeners spend at least some time during the week listening on a digital platform.

It's again worth noting listening via the internet is growing quite substantially. 4.6% of all listening coming via the internet is a record high, jumping up substantially from last quarter's previous record of 3.9%. I suspect that this is being driven both by RadioPlayer and mobile. It's notable that 18% of adults say that they listen via a mobile phone, up 24% on last year.

In terms of breakfast shows, the two Chris' at Radio 1 and Radio 2 have both seen falls. Moyles is down a modest 2.5% in what we now know is his penultimate RAJAR on breakfast at Radio 1. What price a big jump next time around for his final hurrah?

Christian O'Connell has seen a 16% jump at Absolute Radio, while Dave Berry and Lisa Snowdon have fallen back a bit in London on Capital. Most of the other major commercial breakfast shows have seen drops, although talkSPORT has seen some gains at breakfast.

Read Adam's blog here and Absolute Radio's full details at Onegoldensquare.

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 24 June 2012, Adults 15+.

Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they're based on work I've done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.

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