Written by Ross Nester, Radio Manager, Manning Gottlieb OMD
As the latest quarterly results are released, here are my thoughts and observations on the jamboree of facts, figures, Year on Year (y-o-y) and Quarter on Quarter (q-o-q) that is RAJAR.
As a radio enthusiast and advocate, I’m pleased see that the headline figures are resoundingly positive. Total weekly reach is basically unchanged at 46,676 per week (or 90% of the population if you prefer). On average these listeners spend almost 23 hours a week engaged with radio. Listening to commercial radio is up to over 33 million (64%) and total hours are up q-o-q by 3.1%. In a week where Twitter made headlines by achieving 10m users, it’s worth noting that despite all the increased media choices available to people, listeners still choose radio as a key source of entertainment, music and news.
One of the reasons for radio’s continued success is that more than any other channel, radio is platform agnostic. From digital TV to mobile and online, all new platforms include a method of listening to radio. Undoubtedly its core strength is in the traditional FM and AM formats but this quarter listening via digital formats increased once again so that its share of listening is 29.2%, now reaching 45.1% of the population every week. The growth this quarter was driven by online listening, while being helped by the success of the Radio Player.
Nationally, Absolute radio posted strong figures with a 15.6% increase y-o-y holding onto recent gains, with both of the group’s recent launches, Absolute 60s and 70s, delivering reasonable launch figures and reaching over 150,000 each per week. Global saw strong performances from Heart which held its national audience at 7.5 million and Capital which posted a 5% growth y-o-y. However, falls in the old ILRs outside of London might be cause for concern, with Manchester, East Midlands and South Wales all suffering big falls in reach q-o-q. Classic FM was down 10.5% y-o-y but saw 1.5% growth this quarter, but hopefully this is a sign that the new station talent is bedding in and a corner has been turned. For GMG, Smooth Radio provided good news with 7.6% growth and Bauer once again saw strong performances from its digital stations, Heat posting 14.4% growth y-o-y and The Hits regaining the crown of biggest digital commercial station. An honourable mention to Jazz FM too as it posts its strongest ever hours performance.
The London figures provided mixed fortunes for the biggest two players. Global will no doubt be delighted that Capital remains London’s number one station in terms of reach (2.269 million) and also retains the title of biggest breakfast show, with Dave Berry pulling in an average of 1.26million in his first three months alongside Lisa Snowdon. On the downside, an 8% fall y-o-y saw Heart sink to fourth most popular station. Bauer will be pleased with the excellent performance by Kiss, a 7.5% increase y-o-y, which sees the station rise to 1.958m listeners, its highest ever figure. Although it retains second place in the market, Magic 105.4 suffered a 9.4 % fall in reach this quarter. Both Magic and Heart seem likely to have lost listeners to Smooth London, which posted a q-o-q increase of 37.3% and seems to be recovering nicely after a poor quarter last time out.
As a final thought, it was the Sony Awards this week and in a notable coincidence two of the commercial sectors station of the year winners came from Liverpool and both have good news to talk about today. Radio City 96.7 (station of the year, 1 million plus) delivered an 8.8% increase in hours and 107.6 Juice FM (station of the year, 300,000 – 1million) delivered a weekly reach over 200,000 for the first time in its history. This shows that not only does commercial radio have the ability and talent required to produce high quality award winning output, it shows audiences will vote with their ears. What they won’t do though is turn off, 5 years ago over 31 million people listened to commercial radio and they’re all still here, as the RAB say “Britain Loves Radio”.