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Commercial radio hits new milestones

02 Aug 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Commercial radio hits new milestones

It's strange now to think there was ever a time when radio was thought to be on its deathbed.

In an average week, 89% of the UK population are now tuning in across both BBC and commercial stations, listening to 20.8 hours of live radio each.

And according to the latest figures from Rajar covering Q2 2019, things are looking particularly good for commercial radio - which has once again smashed its own record and achieved its highest ever weekly reach.

Commercial radio has also claimed its highest share of listening in recent years as it continues to close the gap on the BBC, with the public service broadcaster no longer taking a majority share.

But don't feel too sorry for the BBC - its listening figures are still colossal.

So it's safe to say that radio continues to play a vital role in the average consumer's media content consumption, Mindshare's AV business director, Thomas Balaam, tells Mediatel News.

"What's interesting, however, is that digital's share of all radio listening is steadily rising."

Digital radio now accounts for 56% of all listening as the popularity of commercial digital-only stations continues to grow. While Virgin Radio's reach has increased threefold since the launch of Chris Evans' new breakfast show (Q2 was less kind to Zoe Ball...), Bauer's KISSTORY beat BBC Radio 6 Music to become the most popular digital-only station, another milestone for commercial radio.

And it's the rising popularity of smart speakers which is helping to drive digital growth - particularly for commercial radio, as smart speakers encourage listeners to ditch their loyalty to a single station by forcing users to ask for a channel every time they use them.

"With this trend set to continue at speed, we are predicting growth in bespoke campaigns targeting smart speaker users, making audio advertising more interactive than ever," says Craig Eastwood, head of planning at audio specialist agency RadioWorks.

No wonder then that this week's AA/Warc adspend report has forecast a 22% rise in advertising spend on online radio platforms by the end of this year, following a 26.5% year-on-year boost over the first quarter.

Full Rajar analysis from Mindshare, RadioWorks and The Specialist Works can be found here. Full Rajar reports for the breakfast market, national networks and stations, and digital listening can be found here.

In other audio news, Spotify - one of the radio industry's main challengers - disappointed investors this week by announcing lower than expected growth in its premium subscription numbers. Shares fell +4% in pre-market trading, though founder and CEO Daniel Ek has promised to "make up the lost ground" by year end.


Michaela Jefferson is Mediatel News' reporter covering all aspects of the media industry.

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SimonRushton, Creative, Get Carter Productions on 5 Aug 2019
“"It's strange now to think there was ever a time when radio was thought to be on its deathbed." That IS strange because I can't think of a time when it was on its deathbed. The Biggles song was just a song. Radio has always been in rude health, since about 1922. Now it's reinventing and innovating.”