Radio 1 loses nearly 1m listeners as Nick Grimshaw hits 12-year breakfast low

BBC station’s audience at lowest for 10 years as star DJ’s ratings continue to suffer, while Radio 4 Extra passes 6 Music in popularity

Radio 1’s audience has dropped to its lowest level for more than a decade, with a record low for its breakfast presenter, Nick Grimshaw.

The station had an average of 9.7 million listeners a week in the first three months of this year, its lowest audience since the end of 2003, according to official Rajar listening figures published on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Radio 4’s digital sister station Radio 4 Extra, home to classic comedy and drama including Dad’s Army and Hancock’s Half Hour, overtook Radio 3 and leapfrogged Radio 6 Music to become the most popular digital-only station.

Grimshaw had 5.5 million listeners, his lowest audience since succeeding Chris Moyles three years ago. The last time the breakfast show had so few listeners was Sara Cox’s final three months in the job in 2003, before she was replaced by Moyles.

Grimshaw has led the station’s drive to attract younger listeners after criticism that it had grown too old. Next Monday will see another change, with Radio 1 chart show host Clara Amfo succeeding Fearne Cotton on the station’s morning show.

Radio 1 controller, Ben Cooper, congratulated Grimshaw for “scaring off the over-30s”, who accounted for around 90% of the dip in his listening figures.

Radio 1 lost 830,000 listeners year on year, down from 10.5 million in the same period in 2014. The BBC said more than half a million of those were aged over 30, outside of its target listenership of 16- to 29-year-olds, although the station’s average audience age is 32.

Its sister digital station 1Xtra was also down nearly a quarter, to 839,000 listeners a week.

Cooper said: “Since Radio 1 has been completely focused on younger audiences – and the most common age of a Radio 1 listener is 21 – it was highly likely some older listeners would move on, like the half a million over-30s that left us this quarter.

“I’m pleased that Grimmy is doing what I’ve asked of him by keeping his young audience happy and scaring off the over-30s.”

The challenge for Radio 1, once known as the “nation’s favourite”, has been made tougher by a collapse in the amount of time young people spend listening to the radio in favour of online pursuits such as Facebook.

A report last year revealed that 16- to 24-year-olds spent 15 hours a week listening to the radio compared with more than 21 hours a week a decade earlier.

But Radio 1 remains a crucial gateway for the BBC to reach younger people and the next generation of licence fee payers (or its replacement). The station has been looking to extend its appeal on digital platforms such as YouTube, which is not recorded by Rajar.

Elsewhere, Radio 4’s digital sister station, Radio 4 Extra, leapfrogged Radio 6 Music to become the UK’s most popular digital-only station with 2.17 million listeners, in the process also overtaking Radio 3.

Up 26% year on year, 4 Extra stole the crown from 6 Music, which has a lineup of DJs including Lauren Laverne and Iggy Pop and was up a more modest 7% to 2.06 million.

Radio 4’s audience was broadly steady, on 10.9 million, as was the breakfast listenership for the Today programme, just under 7.1 million.

Radio 2 remains the country’s most popular station by some distance, despite a fall of nearly half a million listeners year on year to 15.1 million.

Its breakfast DJ Chris Evans was also down, to 9.46 million from a record 9.83 million last year.

Radio 3 had an audience of just under 2.1 million, marginally down on last year, while news and sport station Radio 5 Live was down nearly 7% on the year to 5.8 million. Its sister station, 5 Live Sports Extra, made big gains, to more than 1.3 million.

The BBC’s local and regional stations had a total reach of 8.8 million, down 1.8% on the quarter and nearly 5% year on year.


John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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