Never mind the streaming services: the Q4 2016 RAJAR figures reveal that, despite increased competition for listening from Spotify, Apple Music et al, radio remains as important as ever to the great British public.
The total live radio audience recorded across the UK was the second highest ever, with 48.68 million listeners tuning in every week.
BBC Radio delivered a large chunk of that, with its share of 53.5% up on the previous quarter’s 51.5% and level with Q4 2015. Its total of 35.2 m listeners was up both quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year.
Bob Shennan, director of BBC radio and music, said: “With more competition for people’s time, it is heartening to see the increased relevance of live radio listening in their daily routines, and that the time they spend with us is growing again.”
Meanwhile, the figures for individual stations revealed a relatively quiet and stable quarter for the industry after some of the upheaval of last year.
BBC Radio 1 stayed below the magic 10 million mark for the quarter, with its audience drifting down 3.2% quarter-on-quarter to 9.56 million. That figure was down 7.4% year-on-year, although – when listeners aged 10-14 are factored in, the audience hits 10.54m.
The station's share of listening for the quarter was 5.8% (from 6% last quarter and 6.1% last year) but the Radio 1 Breakfast Show With Nick Grimshaw grew quarter-on-quarter, pulling in an audience of 5.37m listeners per week in Q4 2016, compared to 5.25m in Q3 and 5.87m in Q4 2015. Including all listeners aged 10-plus, the show has a weekly audience of 5.82m.
1Xtra dropped back below 1m, with 909,000 (from 1.03m last quarter and 1.05m last year).
Radio 1/1Xtra/Asian Network controller Ben Cooper again stressed that, these days, RAJAR figures don’t give the full picture when it comes to Radio 1’s audience.
“Radio 1’s Listen, Watch, Share strategy means that RAJAR is only part of the story,” said Cooper. “Alongside the 10.5m listeners, our YouTube videos have received over 1.4 billion views and we have 8.7m followers across social media. I’m delighted that young people are listening for longer to our distinctive content and that, alongside the 12m Playground Insult views in this quarter, our young audiences donated over 1m hours of volunteering to UK charities.”
BBC Radio 2’s weekly audience was also down 2.7% year-on-year and 0.6% quarter-on-quarter to 15.05m, from 15.14m last quarter and 15.47m last year, while the station’s share of listening was 17.3%, up on 16.7% last quarter but down slightly from 17.7% last year. The Chris Evans Breakfast Show attracted 9.21m listeners per week, up from 9.06m in Q3 and down on 9.44m last year.
BBC 6 Music dropped back marginally from last quarter’s record audience with 2.33m (from 2.34m last time) but was still up 5.8% year-on-year from 2.20m in Q4 2015.
6 Music head Paul Rodgers said: "Record listening hours and share, and a second highest ever reach demonstrate that BBC Radio 6 Music continues to thrive and drive digital listening with its unique music mix, more live sessions than any other station in the UK, and its brilliant presenting roster of musicians and music-lovers who are loved and trusted by our audience. Special mention goes to Steve Lamacq, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, and Lauren Laverne whose shows all now attract over a million listeners, with Cerys on Sunday achieving 615,000 – a real milestone for a single show - plus fantastic record audiences for many other presenters as well.”
BBC Radio 3’s audience was 2.12m for the quarter, up 7.2% from 1.98m last quarter and 3.4% from 2.05m last year after its 70th anniversary celebrations last year. The station’s share also rose to 1.4% from 1.2% in both Q3 2016 and Q4 2015.
On the commercial radio front, Global continued to lead the way, reaching an average audience of 24.4m in Q4 2016. It claimed to have the top four commercial radio brands in Heart, Capital, Smooth and Classic FM, with Heart the most popular commercial brand, attracting 9.28m listeners per week.
“Global’s brands continue to lead the field, by some considerable distance,” said Global founder/executive president Ashley.
The Capital Network, meanwhile, achieved an audience reach of 7.79m, down 3.3% on Q3 but up 3.9% year on year. Classic FM saw its audience increase 1.6% on the previous quarter to 5.37m, although this figure represents a 2.8% drop on the same quarter in 2015. In addition, Global’s Smooth Network saw its audience share drop 2.4% year on year to 4.75m.
Radio X, meanwhile, saw its audience dip slightly on the previous quarter, down 0.9% to 1.25m, although it was still up 2.4% on Q4 2015.
As for Bauer, the main Absolute Radio saw a significant dip in its Q4 listenership, taking a hit of 19% on the previous quarter to 2.14m. It was, however, 0.6% up year on year. Absolute Radio 90s registered 727,000 listeners, up 11.8% year-on-year and Classic Rock 703,000, up 18.8% year on year.
The Kiss Network hit 5.24m, down 3.5% q-o-q and 2.9% y-o-y, although the breakfast show with Rockie, Melvin and Charlie was up to 2.21m.
The Magic Network reported 3.65m listeners for the period, while a 5.2% q-o-q increase in reach to 446,000 listeners was registered for new digital-only station Mellow Magic.
“These are fantastic results in both our national and local markets,” said Dee Ford, Bauer’s group managing director, radio. “Special recognition must go to Rickie, Melvin, Charlie and Christian O’Connell and their respective breakfast teams. Maintaining the No. 1 and No.2 national commercial breakfast shows reflects our powerful music and personality mix which entertains millions of listeners week in, week out. We look forward to building on the record audiences achieved by Absolute Radio when we welcome Dave Berry later this year.”
Stay tuned to MusicWeek.com and our print editions for further in-depth RAJAR Q4 analysis.