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Commercial radio stations overtake BBC for first time since 1990s, according to RAJAR

For the first time since the 1990s, commercial radio stations have overtaken the BBC over the summer period – thanks to investing heavily in marketing, poaching BBC talent and launching new services.

According to the latest data from the RAJAR Q2 stats, 32.9 million listeners tune into BBC radio each week compared to 36.2 million listening to commercial stations.

However, overall, total hours per week spent listening to commercial radio was down slightly by 0.3% to 488,503, while BBC Radio declined faster by 4% to 479,845.

The latest figures show that Global leads the commercial radio market, with 25.3 million weekly listeners, across 242 million hours and a 24% share.

Changes to the traditional listening patterns which were disrupted by the pandemic and working from home are still recalibrating with radio listening at home appearing to be more important now than before the Covid-19 pandemic began. Home share of listening now stands at 64%, up from 59% in 2019, while drivetime figures have increased to 21% as more people return to the office and commute by car.

The ascendancy of commercial radio comes at an opportune time for the sector as the advertising industry approaches what is predicted to be the busiest ever ‘golden quarter’ with media at a premium due to the unusual double whammy of the Word Cup and Christmas.

Rik Moore, Managing Partner, Strategy, The Kite Factory

A flatter RAJAR than the preceding quarters, but the fluctuation is so minimal vs Q1 figures, especially given the improvement of the weather in this quarter, there is little cause for concern. If anything, it’s good to see Radio’s continued strong performance maintaining at this high level.

Of particular interest is the increase in smart speaker use, with 53% of speaker users claiming to listen to radio weekly, and 22% using their speakers to listen to radio every day, up from a respective 52% and 22% in Q1 2022. This is really encouraging for media planners and buyers as it means a larger audience to reach with the targeting opportunities and creative integration possibilities that smart speakers bring.

Jennifer O’Beirne, Client Director, The Specialist Works

After last quarter’s excellent news that all Radio listening had peaked with a record high of 49.7m people tuning in, there has been a shift backwards with audiences dropping by 700k, which has impacted quite a number of the big players, however this is still a strong performance and represents 88% of the total UK audience with commercial radio stations ahead of the BBC by 3.7million which is the highest ever lead.

This decline isn’t being driven by the 15-24 demographic as you could assume, however the amount they’re listening to has dropped and stations will be paying close attention to this.

Station wise the consolidation of Bauer’s hits network has now created a significant rival to Capital in reach and hours, but this will also be helped by big marketing campaigns driving new listeners in to listen to the rebrand and may level off in future RAJARs but it certainly poses a challenge for Global.

What this RAJAR does demonstrate though is the continual rise of smart speaker listening, now at 10.8%. With digital listening at 67.6% of all radio listening the total listening time on smart speakers now accounts for almost half of all online radio listening.

At home listening has dropped slightly QoQ which would reflect the changing wfh habits but it isn’t a significant drop which would suggest. As always, a single RAJAR isn’t a true representation of what is happening in the audio industry and it’s best to look at trends over time to understand the shifts in audience behaviour and consumption.

Aengus Boyle, Director, Media, VaynerMedia London

While the numbers across ‘reach’ and ‘time spent listening’ are notable, marketers should bear in mind that radio is a format that largely doesn’t allow users to engage with brands. This kind of one-sided communication is not only less engaging to the consumer, it also leaves brands devoid of the rich insights which can be gathered through platforms that allow users to comment or respond to what they see or hear.

Audio offers an impressive reach, which has arguably become more pervasive in line with the continued shift to working from home over the past few years. But it is likely that consumers will, over time, be more receptive to brands who engage them in a two-way conversation vs. speaking to them through more traditional broadcast channels.

Pair this with the relative lack of available measurement solutions and it becomes clear that advertisers should carefully consider where they are allocating their budgets. If audio is the medium, there are some promising measurement and attribution solutions within DAB and other digitally enabled channels, but podcasts have the strongest options.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Business News .

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