Digital radio audiences increase

Radio audiences are continuing to tune into digital radio despite concerns about the future of the platform. Digital now accounts for 18.7% of all radio listening, up from 15% from the same time last year.

The Rajar figures for the third quarter of the year, show that Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), the platform that radio operators are struggling to make profitable, accounts for 11.3% of all listening on digital platforms, up from 11% in the previous three months and 8.6% for the same period last year.

Listening via the internet is also growing and now has a 2.2% share in all digital listening, compared to 1.6% for the third quarter last year. Meanwhile, listening through digital TV has fallen back slightly on the quarter from 3.3% to 3.2%, but has risen from 3% for the second quarter of 2007.

The figures come just days after Channel 4 was forced to scrap plans to launch a series of digital stations, a move which has thrown the future of the second digital commercial multiplex into doubt. The first digital multiplex currently broadcasts just three stations – Absolute Radio, TalkSport and Classic FM – all of which are available on analogue.

A number of commercial digital services have seen audience growth over the quarter with Bauer Media-owned service The Hits, the largest digital only station, growing listening by 7% year on year to 1.6 million listeners. Planet Rock, owned by Global Radio, also grew its audiences year on year by 16% to 633,000 listeners, while Virgin Classic Rock was up by 27% to 310,000 listeners.

The BBC’s digital services also reported strong increases with 1Xtra, the urban music station, reporting a 42% increase from the same period this year, giving it an audience of 600,000. Meanwhile, Five Live Sports Extra has reported 6% rise year on year to 776,000 listeners and BBC Radio 7 saw a 12% rise year on year to 887,000. These are record highs for both stations.

Listening to FM and AM analogue radio is in decline falling from a 71.1% share in the third quarter of last year to 68.4% this time.

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