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Rajar Q1 2020: Analysis

14 May 2020 
Rajar Q1 2020: Analysis

Rajar has released its final pre-lockdown results for Q1 2020 - with the figures to serve as the "bedrock" of radio listening data for at least one more quarter due to Covid-19 restrictions on social contact. Here, industry experts analyse the findings

Full report for the national stations and networks available here. Breakfast market here, and a digital report here.

Liz Duff, head of media and investment, Total Media

Reporting predominantly on the pre-lockdown period of 2020 (how long ago that seems now), this set of RAJAR results is likely to be the one all subsequent quarters this year are measured against as the benchmark for ‘normal’ listening. The headline news that commercial radio continues to perform strongly is continuing good news for the sector.

Talk radio had a solid performance, likely due to a combination of Brexit and the impending lockdown driving a desire for information. This growth for speech-based content is also reflected in the recent Spring 2020 Midas report, which showed podcast reach growing to 10.1m. Interestingly, of the newer digital stations, it is the music-based stations which are growing more strongly than speech-based ones, suggesting that people favour established brands for information, but are more open to experimenting when they’re looking to satisfy other needs.

In the local sector, a good piece of news for XS Manchester. The station was due to close due to poor performance, but with 40% YoY growth this time round, the station has been saved by the regulator. This is a similar situation to the one we saw when BBC 6Music was threatened with closure, and public support in the form of listenership saved the station. A good example of people valuing something more when you threaten to take it away.

Mark Barber MBE, planning director, Radiocentre

The latest RAJAR numbers are out and the big winner this quarter is…radio. Again.

With just under 9 out of 10 adults listening every week – and record numbers tuning in to commercial stations within this – live radio remains in rude health, confounding those who for years have been predicting its imminent demise.

But how has listening to commercial radio remained so resilient across a decade of intensifying competition from new technologies for share of ear?

Increased choice underpinned by clearly defined brands and brand extensions has played a vital role, along with radio’s continued strengths in local content. Greater accessibility, with radio easily available on any device used to access media, is also important – note the increase in listening via apps/online.

But perhaps there’s also a more deep-seated reason for radio’s continuing success.

Sharing music and stories has been an essential part of the human experience – an evolutionary need if you like – ever since Homo Sapiens began to flourish by living and working together in larger communities than their hominid contemporaries. They provided crucial bonds, emotionally connecting the individual members to the wider group and maintaining the cohesion of the community.

Beyond the strength and variety of content, it could be that turning on the radio plays a more fundamental and deep-seated role in our lives – reminding us of what it means to be human. If so, it’s going to take more than a smart algorithm to unravel 300,000 years of evolution.

Justine O’Neill, director, Analytic Partners

The rise in commercial radio listening should be reason to rejoice at stations across the UK, but it will be a bittersweet moment given the exodus of advertisers, particularly in key client sectors such as car sales.

The next RAJAR will be the ‘lockdown quarter’ and it will be interesting to see if there is a double hit for commercial stations as listeners may have switched to the BBC for both news and local community action.

Radio has proved time and time again to be both an effective and efficient advertising medium, but with so many people working from home, the key lucrative drivetime commute slots will be suffering and the challenge will be in attracting revenue to make the most of their captive audience.

Martin Vinter, managing director - media, Ebiquity

From an audience perspective, these are stellar results for radio. They were also somewhat expected given the current climate. DAB - and digital listening in general - is breathing new life into radio – an existing trend but accelerated by COVID-19. It will be interesting to see if there is a longer term net positive listening impact once the world reverts to something that resembles normality - and with that, listening patters normalise, with commuters back in cars and on public transport.

As with the current advertising sector de facto, the industry-wide advertising slump is hurting radio media owners. As we move towards a much needed inflationary market again, it is key that advertisers remain ‘budget-agile’ and keep a keen eye on opportunities in radio. As the situation unfolds - and we slowly edge towards pre-COVID-19 market conditions - taking advantage of the strong radio value proposition is an attractive one to advertisers big and small.

Kirsten Jeffrey, account director, RadioWorks Group

Another successful quarter for radio, which is always pleasing to see. 89% of the UK are tuning in each week, with commercial radio rising back above the 36 million mark once again. Whilst this RAJAR release does not cover the lockdown period as the survey period concluded just prior to UK lockdown, these results demonstrate that radio continues to maintain its position in our daily lives.

As predicted, LBC went from strength to strength, posting yet another impressive set of RAJAR results. Interestingly, the newly national LBC News posted a fantastic 657,000 weekly reach in its first-ever RAJAR, which reflects the need for around the clock news and updates, even prior to the pandemic.

Looking at platforms, AM/FM just edges DAB (41% vs 40%) in terms of share. According to RAJAR, streamed listening is rising and now accounts for 14%. As the nation works from home (if possible) are we going to see digital growth accelerate? According to data provided by UK stations, this looks likely as they indicate a double-digit increase in streamed listening during lockdown.



Mediatel are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine.

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