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Digital listening sees strongest-ever growth as it surges to a new record
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Digital listening sees strongest-ever growth as it surges to a new record

Digital listening has reached a new record share of 56.4%, up from 50.9% in Q1 2018, according to RAJAR Q1 2019 data released today, propelled by the ever-strengthening digital content offering alongside the proliferation of DAB digital radios in cars and IP-enabled devices in home.

The annual growth of 5.5 percentage points to 56.4% from 50.9% represents the strongest ever percentage point growth in digital listening platform share since records began. Digital reach increased by over 2 million listeners to 36.3 million and overall digital listening grew by 55.9 million hours or by 10.7% year on year.

Listening to all digital platforms grew year on year with DAB digital radio and online listening surpassing new milestones of 40% and 10% of all listening respectively for the first time. DAB digital radio now accounts for 40.4% of all listening, and 71.6% of digital listening, growing by 10% year on year. Listening online and via app now accounts for 11% of all listening, and 19.5% of digital listening, growing by 18%. Listening via DTV now accounts for 5% of all listening and 8.8% of digital listening.

Digital listening in car increased by 20 million hours or 24% year on year to reach a new record share of 41.5% of all in car listening. Online listening in home increased by 16.3 million hours or 26% year on year, with this quarter including the additional listening on IP-enabled devices such as smart and voice-controlled speakers gifted over the Christmas period. In the workplace, DAB listening grew by 14.5 million hours or 26%.

The first quarter of 2019 saw a number of exciting digital station developments including a brand new schedule for BBC 6 Music; the launch of Chris Evans' breakfast show on Virgin Radio; and new national stations, including Virgin Radio Anthems, Virgin Radio Chilled, and Greatest Hits Radio.

Virgin Radio’s reach increased threefold to 1.3 million listeners from 427,000 year on year, boosted by the return of The Chris Evans Breakfast Show and a high-profile marketing campaign. The most popular digital-only station remains BBC 6 Music with a weekly reach of 2.5 million listeners, with Radio 4 Extra the second most popular with 2.2m listeners. KISSTORY is the most popular commercial digital-only station, with a weekly reach of 1.8 million listeners, followed by Absolute 80s with 1.7 million listeners, and Heart 80s reaching a new record of 1.4 million listeners.
Digital listening grew across local and national stations to now account for over 40% of all local listening and nearly 65% of all national listening. Digital listening to national commercial stations continues to notably thrive growing by 29.4 million hours to account for 83% of all national commercial listening.

Welcoming the new listening data, Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said:

“With record investment and a rapid rise in digital listening, radio is in a golden period of innovation with more ways than ever for audiences to enjoy high-quality content.

“I’ve announced that there will now be a review of digital radio in the UK to develop a shared vision for a vibrant and sustainable future for listening on digital platforms.”

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, said:

“The first quarter of 2019 has seen the strongest-ever growth in digital listening since records began, driven by the launch of fantastic new digital content, both new shows and new stations, coupled with the growing number of new smart speakers in the home and DAB digital radios in cars. A great example of the ongoing shift to digital is that there is now more listening in homes on DAB radios than on analogue radios. It’s fitting that Digital Minister, Margot James, has chosen this time to announce a Digital Radio Review to support the delivery of UK radio’s digital future.”

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Minister confirms start of digital radio review
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Minister confirms start of digital radio review

Margot James, MP, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has today confirmed Government’s support for the radio sector and announced that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will collaborate with radio broadcasters and the supply chain on a review and programme of work to ensure a healthy and vibrant digital future for UK radio.

Speaking at the Radio Academy Radio Festival, the radio industry’s highest-profile event which brings together broadcasters from across the BBC and commercial radio, the Minister reinforced the importance of digital radio and the progress made towards digital migration with over 52% of radio listening now being on a digital platform.

The Minister commented that the expansion of digital radio has been good for radio listeners with an ever-increasing number of exciting new digital stations offering an increasing range of music genres, sports and the spoken word.

Ms James said that the forthcoming review would take into account the growing importance of listening across all digital platforms to ensure that radio is well-placed to compete and thrive.

She confirmed that DCMS would be moving forward on a programme of work that will begin in a few weeks and conclude by the middle of next year

Margot James, MP, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries at the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“A consideration about the future of radio can no longer be seen as just a binary decision about a switch from an analogue to a digital broadcast platform.

A review must have a much broader focus to reflect the growing challenges arising from IP based audio content delivery and how this affects future decisions on radio distribution.

So I can confirm that we will begin a review of digital radio for broadcasters and other stakeholders to collectively develop a shared vision for a sustainable vibrant digital audio sector for the UK.”

The Minister emphasised the robust success of radio’s efforts to position itself for the digital age with the medium maintaining its ubiquitous position but highlighted that the radio industry has entered a new audio age with increasing listener interest in on demand content and a new set of global IP-based competitors.

In parallel the Minister hailed the importance of small-scale DAB in order to widen opportunities for small local commercial and community broadcasters and confirmed that the Order setting out the new licence structure would be laid in Parliament in June, subject to the Parliamentary timetable.

Ms James said that small-scale DAB could be a significant boost for local radio and would enable new and existing ultra-local commercial and community radio stations to have an affordable path to digital.

Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK, said:

“Along with radio broadcasters and the supply chain, we welcome the Minster’s decision to instigate a review of how we can work together to ensure that UK radio has a long term, healthy digital future. So much progress has been made in digital radio take-up, coverage and choice but there is still much to be done as UK radio faces a new set of global competitors across a range of digital devices and platforms. We look forward to collaborating to sustain radio’s digital migration and momentum.”

The Minister’s full speech is available on here

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