Digital radio reaches record numbers

The BBC and commercial radio reported positive figures for digital listening in the latest Rajar figures despite recent concerns about the short-term viability of the DAB platform.

The Rajar figures for the first quarter of 2008 show that digital listening across all platforms now has a record share of 17.8%, up by 7.2% on the previous quarter. DAB takes a majority of that share at 10.8% with DTV, the second most popular platform, on just 3.2%.

Commercial radio has an 18.4% share of digital listening and a 19.5% weekly reach. DAB is the most popular platform with a 10.3% weekly reach and a 9.3% share. The Hits, the Bauer Radio-owned digital only station, is the biggest commercial radio service with a weekly reach of 1.57m, up from 1.36m last quarter, and a share of 0.6%. Bauer’s relaunched Heat made gains with a weekly reach of 446,000 up from 386,000 last quarter. GCap Media-owned theJazz also increased its weekly reach from 364,000 to 407,000.

The figures, released today (May 1), come nearly three months after GCap chief executive Fru Hazlitt announced the group was withdrawing from DAB. At the time, she said that the group could not justify further investment in the platform and that focus on broadband services instead. TheJazz and sister digital service Planet Rock, were due to be axed although this has been put on hold following Global Radio’s takeover of the GCap.

The positive digital figures come in mixed quarter of commercial radio overall. Weekly reach across the commercial sector was up from 30.7m last quarter to 31m this time although it is slightly down on the year. The local commercial sectors saw weekly reach increase by a 250,000 on the year to 24.8m and was slightly up on the quarter but its share dipped to 30.3% from 31.4% for the same quarter last year. As a result, share dropped across all commercial radio from 42.1% for the first quarter of 2007 to 41.1% this time.

Classic FM, the GCap-owned station, increase its weekly reach slightly on the quarter to 5.6m but was down on the year from 6m, but its share slumped from 4.2% on the year and the previous quarter to 3.7%. Meanwhile, TalkSport increased its weekly reach by 0.7% to 2.4m, after a record reach last quarter, which puts it ahead of Virgin Radio nationally. Virgin has a 2.4m weekly reach, which is steady on both the quarter and the year and its share was also static on the year.

GMG Radio’s Smooth Radio, which expanded to include the former Saga stations a year ago, reported an increase in audience across its stations. Its East Midlands station reported a record reach of 292,00 listeners and its London station also increase its reach to 518,000, up 43,000 on the quarter.

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