The majority of radio listening is now digital

The UK radio industry hailed a major landmark today, with digital listening reaching a new record share of 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago, to account for the majority of all listening for the first time, according to RAJAR Q1 2018 data released today.

This compares to 47.2% in Q1 2017 and to 24.0% in Q1 2010 when the Government’s Digital Radio Action Plan, which outlined a programme of work to progress digital radio take up, was launched. [See Notes to Editors].

With the 50% digital listening threshold now met, it is anticipated that the Government will undertake a review to assess digital radio progress and determine next steps in due course.

Speaking at the Tuning In commercial radio conference yesterday, Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said “the 50% share will be an important milestone for radio” and confirmed that Government will “work closely with all partners – the BBC, commercial radio, Arqiva, car manufacturers and listeners – and subject to this will make some further announcements.”

Ford Ennals, CEO, Digital Radio UK, said: “This is a landmark moment for the radio industry and for listeners alike. Digital platforms now account for the majority of all radio listening for the first time. The digital transition is good news for radio and is helping our industry compete more effectively in a digital age. We look forward to continuing to work with broadcasters, the supply chain and Government on delivering radio’s digital future and the upcoming digital radio review.”

Digital listening share is comprised of listening across all digital platforms – DAB in homes and in cars, Apps and online (which includes the growing number of smart and voice-controlled speakers) and DTV – and this is the first time that listening to digital has been greater than analogue platforms – FM and AM.

Overall, digital listening hours grew by 7.8% compared to Q1 2017. The greatest amount of digital listening takes place on a DAB radio which now accounts for 36.8% of all listening and 72.2% of digital listening, with hourly growth of 8.9% year on year. Online and Apps now accounts for 9.3% of all listening and 18.3% of digital listening, with the greatest percentage hourly growth of 17%. Listening via digital TV meanwhile accounts 4.8% of all listening and 9.4% of digital listening.

The success of digital radio has been driven by industry investment in DAB coverage; the availability of DAB in cars; the development of mobile and online Apps along with the proliferation of smart and voice-controlled speakers with IP radio capability; combined with a huge expansion in the number of digital stations available.

63.7% of adults now have access to DAB digital radio at home, plus millions more are listening via the expanding range of smart and voice-controlled speakers. Additionally digital radio is in over 11 million cars on the road, equating to 33% of all cars in the UK, and 90% of all new cars registered have digital radio fitted as standard [Source: CAP/SMMT Q1 2018].

This growth in availability has been matched by an expansion of national and local DAB coverage which is now available in over 90% of the UK due to the launch of an additional 435 digital transmitters, as part of a programme of work supported by Government and broadcasters.

As DAB has become more widely available more DAB stations have launched, providing listeners with much greater station choice, and most of the UK now has access to over fifty DAB stations and some major cities over seventy.

This includes leading digital-only stations BBC 6 Music and Kisstory, and the most recently launched new national digital-only station Heart 80s, all of which achieved record-breaking audiences this quarter, and as of next month, Hits Radio; plus stations historically available only in certain areas of the UK on FM, such as LBC, Radio X, Kiss and Magic, have launched nationally on DAB. Long-standing MW stations such as BBC Radio 5 live, Absolute Radio and talkSPORT now have the majority of their listening via digital platforms, as do FM speech-based stations BBC Radio 4 and LBC.

The UK’s three leading radio broadcasters, the BBC, Global and Bauer, which collectively account for over 90% of UK radio listening, are fully committed to delivering a digital future for radio and look forward to working with Government and the supply chain to continue the transition to digital radio.

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “By fully embracing new technology and innovation, the radio industry has increased the ways audiences can listen to this popular and much-loved medium. The majority of radio listening is now on a digital platform and we are completely committed to supporting radio so it continues to thrive in the future.”

Bob Shennan, BBC Director of Radio, said: “We are extremely proud of our digital-only stations like 6 Music and 4 Extra which continue to go from strength to strength and have introduced millions of listeners to new ways of listening digitally to their favourite BBC stations. Digital radio has brought great success to the radio industry, and our priority now must be to work together to harness the full potential of existing and new digital technologies to ensure radio remains a relevant and vibrant force in listeners’ lives.”

Ashley Tabor OBE, Founder & Executive President, Global, said: “We are delighted that digital listening continues to grow right across the UK. We’ve invested more than ever in digital transmission, growing digital listening with new digital only stations like Heart 80s, Heart Extra and Smooth Extra, as well as expanding the UK’s biggest and most loved commercial radio brands like Heart, Capital, LBC and Radio X, and developing innovative new mobile products like Global Player which drive digital listening and enhance our content even further. Across the board, we have made a significant investment in the digital growth of our brands, and it’s great to see that reflected in today’s results including highest-ever reach for Radio X, Capital XTRA and Heart 80s.”

Dee Ford, MD, Bauer Radio said: “It’s a good news day! Our digital listening share which at 60.7% leads the whole UK radio industry is the result of our skilled programmers and on-air talent understanding what audiences really want from our audio brands. We’re always working with consumer insight to develop new radio products and digital services to build on the evident love for Magic, Absolute Radio and KISS.

“Our new national digital brand, Hits Radio, will launch in June and will broadcast across the nation from Manchester. Hits Radio will have a personality and playlist like no other radio service and will offer UK listeners yet another reason to tune into digital radio. We’re proud to play such a strong role in enriching the listening experience for UK consumers and growing the digital listening habit.”

Steve Holebrook, Managing Director, Terrestrial Broadcast, Arqiva: “Greater station choice and coverage are some of the key drivers that have propelled digital listening to now account for the majority of listening. We are proud of the role we have played extending the national and local networks over the last 3 years to allow millions more people to receive DAB and enjoy the enhanced range of new stations that are available via digital.”

Notes to Editors:
The Government Digital Radio Action Plan ran from 2010 – 2013.