RAJAR results day has come around again for the broadcasting industry – Q2 covers the period up to June 24. Here, Music Week crunches the numbers and looks at the battle for breakfast as Nick Grimshaw gets ready for a lie-in...
Radio 1’s Q2 wobble
With 10 days of the World Cup included in this set of RAJAR figures, some radio executives will doubtless be claiming there was a negative impact from the football (such as that scintillating Morocco vs Iran match). BBC Radio 1 was down on the year by 3.7% to 9.24m (10.25m including children over 10), as well as down 2.4% on the quarter. Ben Cooper, controller, BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and Asian Network, is looking on the bright side. “At a time of huge change for Radio 1, I’m delighted to see us bringing in 10m weekly listeners, 10m social followers, and a record 16m weekly viewers of our YouTube content,” he said.
Radio 2 edged up year-on-year to 14.9m, though was down on the quarter. The new Jo Whiley and Simon Mayo Show started mid-way through these RAJARs, but the network already seems happy with the quarter-on-quarter increase in reach for that time slot from 6.23m to 6.31m.
1Xtra is stable at 1.03m, while BBC 6 Music surged 9.4% year-on-year to hit 2.44m (it was down on three months ago when it had a record 2.53m weekly listeners). There were new ratings records for the following 6 Music shows: Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie (1.13m), Steve Lamacq (1.2m), Mary Anne Hobbs (731,000), Chris Hawkins (338,000) and The Huey Show (577,000).
Commercial radio is quick to highlight its successes, and why not? Global claimed a new record number of listeners with 25.4m people across its networks, not far off half of all adults. The Heart brand hit new records with 9.76m weekly listeners, up 250,000 on three months ago. Radio X had its highest ever reach (1.68m), up 280,000 (20.7%) in 12 months. Capital Xtra also had a record high with 1.76m people – up by 565,000 listeners in a year (47.3%). But Classic FM spoiled the Global party – it was down 10.9% to 5.15m. Richard Park, group executive director & director of broadcasting at Global, said: “We’re delighted to see four out of the five top commercial radio brands in the UK are Global’s as well as a record overall reach for Global. I’m particularly pleased to see Capital Xtra, LBC and Radio X do so well.”
Over at Bauer, their networks grew 3% to reach 17.7m people. The Hits Radio brand launched with a healthy 6.5m listeners, while there was big growth at Absolute Radio (up 20.9% to 2.54m), Magic Network (up 6.8% to 3.88m) and Kisstory (up 16.7% to 2.02m). Dave Berry’s show is the No.1 national commercial breakfast show with 2.2m listeners, though Capital is top in London. Dee Ford, group MD radio, Bauer Media, said: “The stand-out digital station in the UK has to be Kisstory – the first ever digital commercial station to reach more than 2m listeners every week. Absolute Radio 90s, Kerrang!, Magic Soul and Magic Chilled also recorded strong growth – all proof that the explosion of choice on digital radio has enabled listeners to seek out the music of their passions presented by the brands they love and trust.”
Breakfast of (ratings) champions
Who’s winning the breakfast show battle? There’s all to play for as Nick Grimshaw is swapping jobs with Greg James at Radio 1. Grimshaw lost 600,000 listeners in the last set of RAJARS, a result that was followed soon after by the announcement of his departure. Grimshaw has bounced back in Q2 by winning back almost 200,000 listeners (5.29 million), though he was still down on the ratings for a year ago (5.5m). Radio 1’s shift to a three-day weekend came in at the end of this set of ratings, which may only confuse matters when it comes to assessing the network’s breakfast numbers as RAJAR measures that slot from Monday to Friday.
Over on Radio 2, Chris Evans dipped to just over 9m, but was up slightly on 12 months ago and he’s still the man to beat. Nevertheless, commercial radio seems to have a knack for cheering people up over their cereal, with big year-on-year gains for Absolute despite the departure of Christian O'Connell (up from 1.84m to 2.15m), Magic (up from 1.09m to 1.24m) and Radio X (750,000 to 859,000). So perhaps the big breakfast winner is Chris Moyles.
Like the music industry, digital is increasingly dominant for radio. In its latest set of figures, Bauer Media revealed that no less than 61% of listening is via a digital device – up 2% year-on-year and above the commercial average of 52%.The BBC has recently overhauled its radio app with the launch of BBC Sounds, which is designed to drive discovery and compete with the streaming services on listeners’ smart phones. RAJAR doesn’t break down listening purely by app, but the combined figure for online/app is now 9.3% of all radio listening. With other digital options (DAB and digital TV) slipping back in terms of share of all listening in Q2 compared to three months ago, expect plenty of announcements from radio networks about their whizzy new iPhone and Android listening options for the young people.
One thing the radio industry can agree on is the FM signal – no one wants to switch it off just yet. “We agree with the BBC that the time for a switch-off of FM is not now,” said Global’s Ashley Tabor recently in a surprising show of unity between the BBC and commercial sector, In the last set of RAJARs, we passed the historic tipping point with listening via a digital platform accounting for more than half of radio listening – it increased from 47.2% a year earlier to 50.9% in Q1 2018. So has that prompted a streaming-style rapid shift away from traditional radio? Apparently not, as digital has fallen back to 50.2% of listening in the latest Q2 figures. Curiously, there’s also a year-on-year decline for people listening to live radio via smartphone or tablet (25.9% compared to 27.2% in Q2 2017). Perhaps we’re on the cusp of an FM revival?
Radio 1 had Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift playing its stage at Swansea for the Biggest Weekend in May, so you might have expected the excitement surrounding the build-up, on-air performances and coverage to have boosted the station’s ratings. While it certainly benefited the performers, Radio 1 was down on the quarter and the year. So what happened? Whereas the regular Big Weekend is very much about Radio 1, this year’s edition was expanded to include all music stations and it featured prominently on BBC One. So perhaps the Biggest Weekend audience was spread too thinly across TV and radio networks. At least Radio 1’s doing its own thing (with 1Xtra) in Ibiza this weekend. Rave on.