Rajar Q4 2014: BBC takes lion's share of year-on-year listening hit

Nick Grimshaw: BBC Radio 1 host
Nick Grimshaw: BBC Radio 1 host

BBC radio has taken a greater hit to its year on year audience size than its rival commercial stations, according to the latest Rajar listening figures for the quarter to 14 December 2014.

Overall, the BBC stations lost 3.9 per cent of their weekly reach compared to a year ago, while commercial radio also saw a decline, but a smaller dip of 1.6 per cent.

With BBC radio attracting just fewer than 34.8 million listeners on average each week in the final quarter of 2014, and commercial radio drawing in around 34.4 million, the gap is closing.

In the previous three months to 14 September 2014, the BBC attracted a weekly audience of 34,845,000 compared to commercial radio’s 34,045,000.

Meanwhile, a year ago the BBC radio stations pulled in 36,219,000 listeners, against the 34,914,000 people who listened to commercial radio.

The BBC’s decline is apparent across all its big network stations, with BBC Radio 1 losing 4.9 per cent of listeners, BBC Radio 2 shedding 1.5 per cent of its audience and BBC Radio 4 dropping four per cent.

However, BBC Radio 2 remains the most popular station overall, with 15.28 million listeners, while BBC Radio 4 continues to hold onto second place with a 10.76 million strong audience, after overtaking BBC Radio 1 in the previous quarter.

Only the two million strong audience at Radio 3 has increased – by 1.9 per cent – alongside the burgeoning audience at BBC 6 Music, which grew 6.2 per cent to just more than two million listeners.

The situation is paralleled in the stations’ morning offerings, with all dropping listeners apart from Radio 3.

BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw has lost almost 400,000 of his listeners compared to the same time in 2013, while BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans has shed 220,000. BBC Radio 4 has also lost around 370,000 listeners from its Today programme.

Nationally, the largest commercial stations fared better, with year-on-year figures showing growth for networks including Absolute (9.8 per cent), Heart (23.8 per cent) and Smooth (41.7 per cent). However, Capital network’s reach fell 4.5 per cent and TalkSport dipped 6.4 per cent, while Classic dropped 1.1 per cent.

The Rajar figures also show that 47.9 million adults tuned into the radio each week in Q4 of 2014, up by around 237,000 listeners on the previous quarter.

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