Rajar Q1 2014: Commercial radio closes in on BBC

Digital radio: listenership is rising according to the latest Rajar figures
Digital radio: listenership is rising according to the latest Rajar figures

The small gap in weekly reach between BBC radio and its commercial rivals tightened in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest Rajar audience listening figures.

Year on year, the commercial sector pulled in a strong performance, with 48.1 million adults listening to the radio each week in the first three months of 2014, up around 800,000 on the first quarter of 2013.

However, both BBC radio and commercial radio's reach declined compared to the last quarter of 2013. BBC radio's reach fell slightly to 35.3 million listeners in Q1, compared to the 36.2 million in Q4 2013, and commercial radio dipped from 34.9 million listeners to just over 34 million.

And digital radio is making waves, with 27.1 million people now tuning into their favourite stations through digital TV, DAB radio and online – a four per cent increase year-on-year.

BBC Radio 2 continues its stronghold with a weekly reach of more than 15.5 million listeners. Chris Evans' perennially popular breakfast show continued to attract an audience of around 9.8 million in Q1 of 2013, remaining steady year on year and quarter on quarter.

While the second-strongest BBC station – Radio 4 – also managed to cling onto its breakfast figures, Radio 1's breakfast show with Nick Grimshaw has haemorrhaged 450,000 listeners in the past quarter, taking it down to a weekly reach of just over 5.8 million, from almost 6.3 million in Q4 2013.

Although the BBC's network radio has almost twice the weekly reach of national commercial, it is at a local level where the commercial stations come into their own.

BBC London's 443,000 weekly reach is up against the likes of Absolute Radio London, which pulls in 646,000 listeners, and the capital's big three stations – Magic 105.4 (1.94 million), Capital (1.9 million) and Kiss (1.84 million).

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