The UK radio industry came into 2019 full of excitement with a belief that investment and innovation in digital content and digital platforms would attract audiences and deliver returns. January brought a massive upheaval in terms of new digital stations and new schedules. The biggest changes were at digital stations, Virgin Radio and BBC 6 Music, as well as the industry-leader and station with the largest digital listening, BBC Radio 2. All three stations introduced new breakfast shows with high-profile talent, and no other UK radio broadcaster comes more high-profile than Chris Evans.
Evans departed his Radio 2 show and 9 million listeners on Christmas Eve and arrived at Virgin Radio on 21 January, bringing with him his BBC production and on air team, and delivering the first ad-free commercial radio show. What’s more, Wireless and their new parent company, News UK, got behind his arrival with a high-profile marketing campaign including TV, press and outdoor support.
Quarter 1’s structural platform developments were the proliferation of new smart speakers in homes after the Christmas gifting season and the expansion of DAB radios in 93% of new cars sold.
Q1 2019 RAJAR listening results
The impact of these changes was seen this week in the publication of the Q1 2019 RAJAR listening data, which highlights three key points:
1. Radio listening remains strong with over 1 billion hours listened to every week
2. Digital radio has increased to 56.4% share of all listening, the highest growth ever seen
3. The new Chris Evans show has been successful, attracting over 1 million listeners, as has his successor, Zoe Ball, who has retained BBC Radio 2's 9 million breakfast listeners
Looking more closely at the digital performance, it appears that the combination of new digital content and new digital devices in homes and cars has helped boost the audience for digital radio. In Q1 2019 there were 2 million more digital listeners increasing total digital listeners to 36.3 million. Digital hours increased by 55.9 million, an increase of 10.7% year on year, with 66% of growth coming from DAB and 31% from online and apps. DAB digital radio now accounts for 40.4% of all radio listening, 71.6% of digital listening, and online and apps accounts for 11.0% of all radio listening, 19.5% of digital listening. The area of highest growth was digital listening in car which increased by 20 million hours, 24% year on year, to reach a new record share of 41.5% of all in car listening.
Minister announces Digital Radio Review
Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, welcomed the outstanding radio results and rapid digital listening growth while re-affirming her announcement of a Digital Radio Review, saying: “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.”
On Monday, speaking at the Radio Academy Radio Festival, the Minister announced the start of the Digital Radio Review which has been triggered by the expansion of national and local DAB coverage and the sustained achievement of digital listening over 50%. The Review will commence in the next few weeks and be completed by mid-2020. It will feature a collaborative programme with DCMS working with regulator Ofcom, the broadcasters and the supply chain to assess what can be done to support the delivery of a vibrant digital future for UK radio. The Review will encompass the challenges and opportunities offered by the global IP platforms as well as looking at what can be done to support and accelerate digital migration. Terms of reference for the review and further details will be discussed at the Digital Radio Stakeholder Meeting in July.
The Minister also confirmed that DCMS and Ofcom are continuing their work to licence small-scale DAB in a range of markets across the UK and will introduce legislation to support this in June 2019.
"The positive results seen in the first quarter of 2019 are likely to embolden the UK radio industry to invest further in digital content and promotion."
In March, Bauer launched two new digital stations, Scala Radio and Country Hits Radio. Scala Radio, a radio station offering a modern take on classical music, has the benefit of high-profile presenters, including Simon Mayo, and an extensive off-air marketing campaign. With the continued investment in BBC Sounds and Global Player, we expect online listening to both linear stations and on-demand content to increase, as will digital listening in cars as DAB continues to roll-out in more new vehicles.
So as the industry heads in to the start of the Digital Radio Review, it does so with real confidence in the future of digital radio.
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.”
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 gov.uk here.
Life's always better when the radio's on. And with a DAB digital radio, it can be even better.
This May Bank Holiday you'll find great deals on new DAB digital radios at participating retailers - John Lewis & Partners, Argos, Currys, Halfords and eBay. Offers are available from Friday 3 May until Sunday 19 May 2019.
Digital radio gives you so much more to enjoy with extra stations and great features such as easy search and tune, digital quality sound, and in some cases Bluetooth and smart audio features.
There are now over 50 stations available on DAB in most of the country, including all your favourite stations and extra digital stations. To see a full list of all the stations available where your are, use our station checker.
With lots of in car digital radios and adapters available, it’s easy to take all the stations you enjoy at home and all benefits of digital radio with you on the road.
So don't miss out. Switch to digital radio and make life even better this May.
Look for the Digital Radio Tick Mark on approved products. It means the radio is future-ready.
For details of the offers available, look in store, or visit the retailers' websites by clicking on the store name in blue below.