UK radio listening remains static at 89% of the population

Over a billion hours of radio were consumed in the UK over the last three months of 2021 according to the latest RAJAR results.

The data shows 89% of the population – 49.5 million adults – listened to live radio on average for 20.3 hours per week.

Commercial radio increased its share of listening time to 48%, up from 47.1% in Q3 2021, while BBC share fell back to 49.9% from 50.9%.

The total commercial radio audience is now 36.77m, just shy of its biggest ever audience of 36.8m in the last quarter.

Total digital listening now represents 64.4% of all radio listening. This is mainly accounted for by DAB at 42.5%, (down from 43% last quarter) but also online (including smart speakers) is now 16.9% (down from 18.1% last quarter) of all listening time. The remaining 5.1% is listening on digital TV (up from 4.7% last quarter).

Listening via AM/FM has actually increased slightly from 34.2% to 35.6%.

Another interesting stat is that 51% of people with a smart speaker claim to listen to the radio weekly, with 21% saying they listen to radio on it every day.

Ian Moss, Chief Executive of Radiocentre, said: “Radio listening as a whole remains incredibly strong. Despite all the competition for people’s time and attention, audiences still keep choosing radio, which is a tribute to the choice and quality available across all platforms.”

BBC Sounds had a total 162m plays to on-demand radio and podcast content, and 5.2m plays of music mixes. On third-party platforms, there were 257m downloads of BBC podcasts and on-demand radio programmes across the world.

The new data shows that 40 million adults, or 72% of the population aged 15+, now tune into digital radio every week, with strong growth seen across a number of digital stations compared to Q3 2021 including Capital DANCE, which grew by 106% to reach 592,000 listeners; Smooth Radio Chill, which grew by 19% to reach 449,000 listeners; Absolute Classic Rock, which grew by 10% to reach 980,000 listeners; talkRADIO, which grew by 20% to reach 542,000 listeners; Absolute Radio 70s, which grew by 36% to reach 421,000 listeners; and Magic Chilled, which grew by 11% to reach 263,000 listeners.

These stations join a host of established digital-only stations which continue to perform strongly, including the most popular digital-only station BBC 6 Music with 2.604 million listeners, and KISSTORY, the most popular commercial digital-only station, with 2.301 million listeners.

BBC Radio 4 Extra is the third most popular with 1.889 million listeners, followed by Virgin Radio with 1.620 million listeners. Other stations in the top 10 digital-only stations include Absolute 80s (1.605 million listeners); Planet Rock (1.396 million listeners); Heart 80s (1.326 million listeners); BBC Radio 5 live sports extra (1.218 million); and Absolute Radio 90s (1.026 million).

Digital listening in car now accounts for 50.6% of all in car listening, with DAB in car accounting for 45.8% of listening and online/apps listening in car accounting for 4.8% of all in car listening.

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, said: “The Q4 2021 RAJAR listening data confirms the digital transformation of UK radio with 64.4% of UK radio listening being on a digital platform. DAB is the pre-dominant platform for radio listening and delivers 20% more hours of listening than FM & AM combined.

“It is really pleasing to see strong performances across the leading digital stations BBC 6 Music, KISSTORY and BBC Radio 4 Extra, and the growth of a diverse range of digital stations covering all genres and formats, from Capital DANCE to Smooth Radio Chill and Magic Chilled; talkRADIO and Times Radio to Absolute Radio 70s and Boom Radio.”