Rajar Q2 2017: Commercial radio outperforms BBC for second consecutive quarter

Commercial radio has outperformed the BBC in the latest Rajar listening figures, as the sector shot ahead in Q2.

936,000 more listeners tuned into commercial radio each week than listened to BBC stations in the second quarter of 2017.

It is the second consecutive quarter that commercial radio has had the lead over the BBC, after winning 352,000 in Q1.

Before that, the last time that commercial radio was ahead of the BBC was in Q2 2016, when it pulled ahead by some 500,000 listeners.

Commercial radio attracted 35.88 million weekly listeners in the three months to 25 June 2017, growing 3.9% quarter on quarter, compared to 34.95 million who listened to BBC stations.

It wasn’t a particularly notable quarter for the most popular BBC stations, with listeners turning off Radio 2.

Although still the largest of any radio station with 14.88 million listeners each week in Q2, that represented a 0.9% downturn on the previous quarter for Radio 2, and a slide of 2.7% year on year.

However, Radio 4’s audience was up 3.9% to 11.55 million listeners compared to Q1, while Radio 1 was up 5.3% to an audience of 9.59 million.

But with expansion in all the major commercial networks in Q2 – Classic FM up 7.8%, Kiss network up 6.4%, Smooth network rising 4.1% and Capital network up 3.8% – the BBC could not keep up.

Bauer Media group commercial director Simon Kilby pointed out that it had been "a great quarter for commercial radio".

"There has been a really strong performance in terms of listening and revenue, which is just fantastic," he said.

"Success in listening is breeding success in the commercial world. It’s a virtuous circle at the moment."

The latest Rajar figures show that 49.2 million adults tuned into the radio each week in the second quarter of 2017, up by around 500,000 listeners on the same quarter last year, and up by a million listeners on Q1.

Digital listening is up, with 61% of the population tuning in each week, and Havas Media publishing manager Rich Hall said that phone listening would prove valuable for the radio sector.

"Commercial listeners are adopting mobile phone listening more frequently than the BBC, at a rate of 9.5% of listening versus the BBC’s 6.9%," he explained.

"This is a reflection on commercial radio’s younger skewing audience, but also the large variety it offers and the conscious efforts from sales houses that have gone into accelerating this avenue in recent years."

Meanwhile, Michael Williamson, head of AV planning at Carat UK, said the fact that digital radio’s share had increased to 48.7% was significant, along with the popularity of radio listening on smartphone.

"This trend has been driven by online/app listening," he explained. "Technology and content are the main reasons for this; Google Home and Amazon Echo devices are increasing audio consumption, meanwhile podcasts, streaming services and radio station apps have grown hugely in popularity in the past 12 months.

"This opens up a variety of opportunities for advertisers to evolve their targeting and messaging within the audio landscape."

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