Radio 2 breakfast show audience falls to lowest level in a decade

Zoe Ball programme sheds a million listeners as Rajar data shows podcasts are on the rise

The Radio 2 breakfast show’s audience has fallen to its lowest level for a decade, although it remains the most popular programme in its timeslot.

Zoe Ball’s show attracted 7.9 million listeners a week between July and September, according to figures from the radio ratings body Rajar, down a million listeners from the same period last year when it was presented by Chris Evans.

Evans switched to Rupert Murdoch’s Virgin Radio in a big-money move this year. Despite enormous investment in the programme and promotion from other Murdoch-owned publications, his programme’s audience has remained flat at 1.1 million.

The Rajar data also shows large parts of the British public are discovering podcasts, with 8.4 million saying they listened to them, up from 6 million at the same time last year.

The BBC is pushing audiences towards its podcast-focused BBC Sounds app at a time when its traditional radio stations are losing market share to commercial rivals.

James Purnell, the BBC’s director of radio, said: “Young people’s audio habits have already been transformed with music streaming and the boom in podcasting. These are now spreading wider, with the overall podcast audience growing by 40% during the past year alone, and online listening is increasing too.”

The corporation recently shut down its iPlayer radio app in an attempt to push audiences to BBC Sounds, despite concerns over the lack of features on the new app such as the ability to set a radio alarm.

The audience for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme fell slightly to 6.7 million listeners a week during the summer months. Greg James’s Radio 1 breakfast show has continued to add listeners aged 10 and over, despite the overall trend against younger audiences listening to traditional radio stations.

Commercial radio is continuing to eat into the BBC’s market share, with listeners increasingly willing to try new stations due to the growing popularity of smart speakers equipped with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home software.

Global, which has combined dozens of formerly distinct local stations to create nationwide networks under brands such as Heart and Capital, has continued to grow its audience. Heart now attracts more weekly listeners than Radio 1, while its breakfast show – which replaced dozens of distinct local programmes this summer, prompting protests from MPs – has become the biggest commercial radio programme in the country.

Global’s talk radio station LBC, which has pushed opinionated presenters to the fore, has also achieved record high audience figures, aided by the ongoing Brexit debate.

Bauer, the other major commercial radio owner, has seen enormous growth at its digital-only Kisstory station. The audience for its mix of “non-stop old skool and anthems”, aimed at people who want to relive the late 1990s, grew 18% to 2.6 million.


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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