Digital radio hits nearly 40% of all listening

BBC Radio 4 Extra overtakes 6 Music as digital-only commercial stations such as Absolute 80s and Planet Rock attract record audiences

Nearly 40% of radio listening is now on digital with record audiences for digital-only commercial stations including Absolute 80s and Planet Rock.

Absolute 80s pulled in an average of 1.45 million listeners a week with another 1.25 million tuning into Planet Rock, both owned by Bauer Media, in the first three months of this year, according to Rajar listening figures published on Thursday.

Kiss spin-off station Kisstory, another Bauer station, also hit a new high, up 21% to with 1.13 million listeners.

Digital listening was also given a boost by record audiences for the BBC’s Radio 4 Extra, which leapfrogged BBC 6 Music as the UK’s biggest digital-only station, with 2.17 million listeners.

Digital platforms made up 39.6% of all radio listening, up from 36.6% in the same period in 2014, including DAB radio, online and via apps.

In the London area, digital listening has now overtaken analogue, with a 46.8% share ahead of FM and AM’s 46.2%.

But nationwide, analogue listening on FM or AM continued to take the lion’s share, with 54.3% of all listening, down from 57.8% a year ago.

While early hopes of a 2017 digital radio switchover were dashed by slow uptake, Digital Radio UK chief executive, Ford Ennals, said: “The surge of digital listening to almost 40% share is a landmark moment for digital radio, and shows the achievability of the 50% listening criterion set by government for a radio switchover.”

Among the big national commercial stations (broadcasting on both analogue and digital) Absolute 80s’ success was mirrored by the main Absolute Radio station, up 7% year on year to just under 2 million listeners a week.

Global Radio’s Classic FM was up 4.1% year on year to 5.53 million listeners while UTV’s TalkSport was up 1.6% to 3.25 million.

But Global’s Capital and Heart networks were both down, Capital down 4.4% year on year to 7 million and Heart slipping 1.5% to just under 9 million. Global’s Smooth network was up nearly 11% on the year to 4.77 million.

In London, Bauer’s Magic and Kiss held the top two commercial spots in terms of reach, with Magic on 1.91 million, overtaking Kiss on 1.88 million.

Capital was in third place in London on 1.79 million, down 6% year-on-year, but there was a double-digit drop for sister station Heart, down 15% to 1.53 million.

Global’s talk station LBC, the former home of Call Clegg, is now a nationwide affair and had 1.36 million listeners across the country, up more than 10% year on year. But it did not do so well in the capital, down 12.4% on the same period in 2014 to 887,000 listeners a week.

There were also double-digit declines in London for Global stations Xfm, down 15% to 363,000; Capital Xtra, down 24.3% to 311,000; and Gold London, down 13.5% to 263,000.

Contributor

John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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