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Rajar Q1 2022: BBC Radio 2 and Heart remain top despite audience dips

Rajar Q1 2022: BBC R2 and Heart remain top despite audience dips

UK radio has reported its largest ever total audience – 49.7 million – in Q1 2022, according to Rajar data.

The record audience is due in part to the performance of commercial radio, which recorded a total audience of 37.2 million, beating the previous high mark of 36.8m in Q3 2021.

The figures, which cover listening from 3 January – 3 April 2022, put total commercial radio ahead of the BBC by nearly 3.4 million listeners.

Global scored its best-ever audience results, with records for reach, hours and share. The company was propelled by brands like Heart, which remained the biggest brand despite a 0.4% decline in listeners quarter-over-quarter to 10.2 million.

However, BBC Radio’s share of listening time still prevails overall despite a slight decrease from last quarter, with a 49.2% share (compared with 49.9% in Q4 2021). Commercial radio increased its share of listening time from 48% Q4 2021 to 48.4%.

BBC Radio 2 remained king among individual stations, reaching nearly 14.6 million weekly listeners, though numbers were down 1.9% from the previous quarter.

It is followed by BBC Radio 4, which reached 10.6 million listeners, a 1.2% increase quarter-over-quarter. BBC Radio 1, however, saw a 6% drop in listeners, from 8.2 million to 7.7 million.

For its part, BBC World Service saw a 22.3% increase in audience, likely attributed to ongoing reporting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in late February.

Meanwhile Bauer’s Hits brand saw a substantial 9.7% increase in weekly listeners this quarter, with programmes such as Greatest Hits Radio (27.5% increase) leading the way.

Market ‘slowing down’ amid rising cost of advertising

Lockdown restrictions were fully lifted in the UK during the past quarter, but do not seem to have affected listening habits, Jennifer O Beirne, former Global manager and current client director at The Specialist Works, told The Media Leader.

“The shape of radio listening has remained similar to lockdown periods, with a large number of people still working from home,” O Beirne said. “This is a great thing for advertisers as listening remains high throughout the day, which opens up more opportunities in other ‘less costly’ time bands than during breakfast shows.”

Although inflation may not directly affect channel radio, most major radio groups have increased their prices this year. O Beirne notes that Global and Wireless have had price increases of 12.5% and 20%, respectively, and more companies may follow suit.

She added: “The market is slowing down a bit now after the post-lockdown surge in advertisers coming back to the market. In Q1 all radio was up by 18%, but Q2 numbers show growth of just under 10%, so it seems like the market is levelling out again. Interest in music streaming and podcasting is definitely on the increase and remains high after the surge during lockdown.”

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