Rajar Q1 2020: Breakfast markets
National breakfast market
The national breakfast market set off to a shaky start in 2020, with 9 of 17 stations witnessing a decline in reach since the end of the festive period and 8 down year-on-year – although notably, Rajar’s data for the first quarter of the year does not reflect listenership since the UK went into lockdown.
According to Rajar, the implementation of the lockdown interfered with data collection for the final two weeks of Q1. To counter the imbalances caused by the shortfalls in weeks 12 and 13, the audience research body imported the requisite data from the corresponding weeks in 2019 and configured it to fit into the Q1 2020 design.
The outcome is described as a normalised data set, with a typical profile, and which passed through the weighting process without issue.
With that in mind, Q1 saw BBC Radio 2 – hosted by Zoe Ball – continue to top the national breakfast market with a whopping 8.1m weekly listeners. However, the station saw its reach fall -1.5% QoQ and -10.3% YoY, marking a loss of just under one million listeners since Ball took over from Chris Evans at the beginning of 2019.
Over at Virgin Network Evans also lost listeners to his breakfast show, down -5.9% QoQ to a total of 1.1m. Over the year the station grew 7.2%, or by 75,000 listeners.
BBC Radio 4 remains second in the rankings, still reaching just under 7 million listeners despite a quarterly decline of -2.7% and a -2.6% slide YoY.
In third, Greg James’ breakfast show on BBC Radio 1 was the only station of the top seven to experience growth over the quarter, up 1.3% to 4.9m. However, the show’s reach dropped -3.4% over the year.
The three most popular commercial breakfast stations also suffered a difficult quarter, with Global’s Heart Network down -3.9% QoQ to 4.1m listeners (the station has no comparable data YoY), Capital Network down -1.4% QoQ and -11.1% YoY to 3.3m, and Bauer’s Absolute Radio Network down -5% QoQ, though holding steady at 2.2m over the year.
However, some stations did manage to record notable growth during the quarter.
Classic FM saw a 3.2% QoQ boost and a 5.1% boost YoY to 1.9m, while talkSPORT’s last figures before the halt of live sport saw the station up 6.8% QoQ and 4.3% YoY.
London breakfast market
Q1 2020 saw some considerable shakeups in the London breakfast market, with almost all stations down both over the quarter and the year.
Global now claims the top three most popular stations, with LBC London shooting into top spot following a 5.2% QoQ rise and an 11.2% jump YoY in the aftermath of the December general election and the UK officially exiting from the European Union. The station now reaches just over 800,000 listeners.
Heart London also grew significantly, up 13.3% QoQ and 6.4% YoY to 793,000 listeners.
However, after topping the charts during the festive period, Capital London struggled to retain its new listeners and dropped into third with 781,000, a -17.8% decline QoQ and -19.7% YoY.
Bauer’s Magic (London) held fairly steady, sliding -1% over the quarter to 610,000 (although down -1.9% over the year), however Kiss (London), which is typically one of the most popular stations, experienced the largest decline in reach – down -31.6% QoQ and -18.9% YoY to 544,000 listeners.
Meanwhile, Absolute Radio (London), fell -12.9% QoQ to 391,000, but was up 20.7% over the year, while Smooth Radio London (Global) tumbled -26.1% QoQ and -12.6% YoY to 292,000.
Given the restrictions on social contact imposed in order to combat Covid-19, it is anticipated that Q1 2020 will be the “bedrock” of the Rajar data for more than one quarter. This action has been approved by the audience measurement body’s board, on which all sides of the industry are represented.