Digital radio listening has continued to grow in the last three months and is now just short of a trigger point that will start discussions about a digital radio switchover.
According to the latest set of radio listening figures from Rajar, released today, 47.2% of all radio listening is now done digitally in the UK, a new record high, up from 44.1% during the same period last year. Digital listening hours grew by 9% or 39.5 million hours compared to Q1 2016, boosted by strong growth of 1.2 million additional digital listeners.
The government has previously indicated that digital listening will need to reach 50% nationally before further discussions about a digital radio switchover should proceed. Already ten areas (based on local radio coverage areas) have exceeded that trigger point, led by Nottinghamshire at 55.7%, followed by Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire/Buckingshire, London, Leeds, Swindon & West Wiltshire, Surrey, Bristol, Sussex, Reading & Basingstoke and Somerset.
Based on age ranges across the UK, there is a clear divide: with a majority of under 55s now listening digitally, but a majority of 55+ listeners still sticking with analogue radio.
DAB digital radio now accounts for 33.8% of all listening, or 71.5% of all digital-only listening. Digital listening via online/apps now accounts for 8% of all radio listening and 16.9% of digital listening, while digital television accounts for 5.5% of total radio listening and 11.6% of digital listening.
Digital listening has grown across both national and local stations. National digital listening is already over 50% and has increased to 55.3%, whereas local digital listening has grown to 32.8% and is increasing faster than national digital listening, with 12.8% growth year on year. Commercial radio and BBC have both grown digital listening share to 47.6% and 46.7% respectively, with commercial radio growing digital listening hours by 15% following the launch of new national and local digital stations in the past year.
The first three months of 2017 saw the highest-ever recorded proportion of in-car radio listening, accounting for 23.5% of all radio listening, growth supported by the increase of in-car digital radio with 87% of new cars now fitted with DAB as standard (Q1 2017 CAP/SMMT). In this quarter, in-car digital listening hours grew by 33% year-on-year to 64.3 million hours from 48.2 million hours in Q1 2016.
Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, said:
“The transition to digital radio has taken another significant step with 47.2% of listening now being on a digital platform and 66% of listeners listening on a digital platform. We are just 2.8 percentage points from 50% and 10 areas of the UK and three different age categories are already over 50% digital listening. We look forward to the achievement of the 50% listening threshold set by Government and working with the radio industry to determine a clear road map for radio’s digital future."