VIEWS | RAJAR Q1 2020 Results: Carat's in-depth analysis


One of the questions going into this RAJAR was if the Q1 2020 listening figures were affected by COVID-19 and if we could really understand listening before lock down? Before lock down, do you remember those days?

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When looking at today’s RAJAR results specifically - the short answer is no, not really. As this morning’s snapshot of the results pointed out, today’s Q1 release did not cover the official lockdown period—a little bit more detail on this for you. The survey period concluded just before lockdown, due to guidance from The Market Research Society. However, from our point of view, even though lockdown measures had not been implemented during the fieldwork period, we can assume that from the early onset of COVID-19, some stations like LBC may have experienced an effect in growing listening. The conclusion being, just as the global pandemic was emerging, people sort more information about the pandemic.

To be clear, today’s results include only the first three months of the year, missing the COVID-19 lockdown period. This is key because there is a lot to celebrate in today’s results and do not reflect the impact that lockdown actually did and is doing to listening. Based on anecdotal evidence, it’s highly likely there will be a strong uptick next RAJAR. Global and Bauer have both noted a significant rise in connected radio listening since lockdown. Stations have seen a considerable change in consumption patterns via online connected devices, including smart speakers, smartphones and laptops/computers. As such, we, like most others, are expecting that reach may have risen by a whopping 25% for the Q2 update. However, we must pre-warn, that while restrictions on social contact are still in place across the UK, it remains to be seen whether RAJAR will be able to carry out enough research to release Q2 2020 as planned. 

RAJAR Q1 2020 -

We are happy to share that commercial radio overall now has its largest audience ever, with 36.3million listeners tuning in every week. All commercial radio listening now has a share of 47.8%, up from 45.7% a year ago. The results demonstrate that average listening is up year-on-year, to 13 hours per week. It means nine out of 10 adults continue to listen every week in the UK. Online remains the fastest growing area for radio, and its total share of listening now stands at 14%, up from 11% in Q1 2019. People are listening to more radio, that’s more ears than ever before, giving our brands plenty of opportunities to get their messages heard.

Listening to national BBC radio stations has fallen 3.2% compared with Q1/19 – from 31.8m reach to 30.8m; while at the same time the reach of national commercial radio has gone up 3.6% – from 22m to 22.8m listeners. Combined with the regional radio, means commercial radio has triumphed over the BBC for a third consecutive year.

The different sales groups new reach figures:

  • Global 25M
  • Bauer 20M (including new stations)
  • Wireless 5M

Global Network continues to lead the UK commercial radio market, growing its audience to 25 million weekly listeners. However, it is important to point out that the two biggest Network stations on Global, Heart and Capital YoY saw declines. Heart lost 787k listeners to 7.74m and Capital lost 815k listeners to leave its reach at 6.39m. The Heart network, despite being slightly down from 9.5m weekly listeners to 9.4m, continues to reign as the UK’s biggest commercial radio brand. Heart also remains the UK’s biggest commercial Breakfast radio show where Jamie Theakston and Amanda holden have 4.1m weekly listeners tune in, albeit a slight drop from last RAJAR results from 4.3m. Stations that have performed well across the Global network are Classic FM up 4% YoY to 5.5m and LBC up 24% YoY to 2.8m. LBC’s figures have reached the highest they have ever been with an extra 500k listeners to 2.78m. As pointed out above, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has attracted new listeners with there being a thirst for knowledge on the developing situation. In addition to this, LBC’s strong social media presence, particularly on Twitter, may have also attracted new listeners. In its first set of results, rolling news station LBC News launched with 657k weekly listeners. It is hard to conclude if this is a direct result of the COVID-19 spread across the Globe. Only time will tell and give a fair reflection on the station.

Across Bauer Network, total weekly listening has reached a record of 20m weekly listeners, with the inclusion of newly acquired groups Lincs FM Group, UKRD, and Celador and Signal Group (formerly Wireless local stations). Bauer’s biggest network Hits Radio Brand, was up by 9.1% YoY and holds a weekly listener reach of 6.6m individuals. Scala Radio with 310k weekly listeners has a percentage increase at 24% QoQ and Greatest Hits Radio which is listened to by 1.3m weekly listeners has seen the biggest YoY increase at 31%. It was recently announced that Bauer had acquired the remaining 50% share of the First Radio Group, we look forward to seeing how these stations will be folded into the Bauer portfolio and impact their RAJAR results further.

Overall, the Wireless Group remains relatively stable YoY reaching to 5m listeners. TalkSPORT has seen a positive growth of 2.5% reach QoQ, but it was 2.3% down YoY to 3m listeners. TalkSPORT2, however, has achieved a record reach and was up 51% on the quarter and 15% YoY, which was in part expected due to the commentary rights they had over the England cricket tour of South Africa last winter. At the same time, TalkRADIO saw another quarter of growth, being up 25% YoY reach-wise and delivering a record growth of 97% YoY in listening hours. Over at Virgin Network, their recent investment seems to be paying off, and we’ve seen a 15% increase YoY year to 1.5m. The gamble that was the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, continues to pay off, up from 1.048m to 1.123m

BBC Radio 2 has taken a big hit in the last year, losing almost 2m listeners and the amount of people listening to national BBC stations has dropped by 3.2% YoY. However, the results did show some increases for the BBC such as BBC 6 Music, who hit an impressive record 2.56 million and on BBC Radio 1 Greg James gained 343k new listeners since the last results. They also saw record results in listening via the BBC sounds app which achieved a high of 3.5 Million listeners during the first two weeks of lockdown. Our commercial counterparts will need to stay competitive with easy to use app software as mobile listening grows.

Breakfast nationally shows that Zoe Ball still has the biggest audience with 8.114m listeners a week down from 9.047m YoY. Radio 1, Radio 4 and 5 Live all lost audience at breakfast over the year. Increasing breakfast audience YoY were Tim Lihoreau on Classic FM up from 1.769m to 1.859m, Nick Ferrari on LBC up to 1.4m, Ronan and Harriet on Magic up from 1.304m to 1.360m, TalkSPORT breakfast up from 1.394m to 1.454m – the highest ever in a first-quarter, as Alan Brazil ended his 5-day-a-week run. The Chris Evans show is mentioned above, and Chris Moyles on Radio X up from 928k to 960k.

Other points to note; 

Niche genres have continued to prosper this quarter. With Stations like KISSTORY up 12% YoY, Smooth Radio Chill went from 301k to 312k and Smooth Radio Country jumped 40% QoQ from 204k to 286k.

Digital and streaming

The digital listening share has increased to a new record of 58.6% up from 56.4% in the latest RAJAR figures. As previously mentioned listening via online and apps now accounts for 14% of all listening and nearly a quarter (24%) of digital listening. With 32% of adults now claiming to own a smart speaker and 18% claiming to listen to radio on their Smart Speakers. This is an important long term trend and one we expect to see amplified during lockdown when there will be more listening in-home and less on the move.

Although not included within the RAJAR results, Spotify has seen an increase in those streaming podcasts and music throughout the day since the UK has gone into lockdown. We also expect to see an increase in premium Spotify usage going forward as they launch their their months of premium for free promotion this week.

Throughout lockdown, podcast listening has changed. Acast, the largest global podcast company, is seeing a big rise in the public making their own podcasts. Acast’s open upload platform is seeing usage increased by 74% in April, compared with February. Also, all podcast genres apart from sport have seen an increase in listenership, so we can establish that those who may not have had the time previously are now taking an interest in what podcasts have to offer. Hopefully, a rise in the popularity of the platform will see reach figures increase into 2020.

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