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Another record for UK digital radio

Digital listening has reached a new record high, with the CEO of Digital Radio UK indicating that growth will continue thanks to smart speakers.

According to new audience figures released today covering the last three months of 2018, radio listening on digital platforms rose to 52.6%, up from 49.9% in Q4 2017, boosted by strong digital listening growth to national commercial stations and to digital listening in car.

Now over 50% for four consecutive quarters, digital listening is at record levels across BBC and commercial stations, accounting for 51.5% of all BBC radio and 53.9% of commercial radio listening. Commercial radio’s digital share has increased as the availability and number of digitally distributed national commercial stations continues to grow. Digital listening to national commercial stations has increased by 13.9 million hours (or 10.3%) year on year, and now accounts for 80% of all national commercial listening.

Digital listening is increasingly the norm and all age demographics between the ages of 10-64 years old have digital listening above 50%, with 35-44 year olds having the highest digital listening at 58.5%.

An important driver of digital listening growth is in car digital listening which grew by 15 million hours or 19% year on year and reached a new record share of 37.5% of all in car listening. 93% of new cars sold now come with DAB as standard and an additional 2.36 million new vehicles were registered with DAB as standard in 2018, according to CAP/SMMT data for Q4 2018.

Most popular digital stations
The most popular digital-only station remains BBC 6 Music with a weekly reach of 2.3 million listeners, with Radio 4 Extra regaining the second most popular spot, growing to 2.1m listeners. KISSTORY is the most popular commercial digital-only station, with a weekly reach of 1.8 million listeners. The station is poised to gain a further boost when it goes live on Digital One, reaching more listeners.

DAB remains the most popular digital platform, accounting for a record share of 38.3% of all radio listening or 72.7% of all digital listening. 65% of the population now own a DAB radio at home compared to 62.3% in the same quarter last year.

Listening hours via online/Apps grew by 6.6% year on year, to now account for 9.4% of all radio listening and 17.8% of digital listening. Listening via digital television still accounts for 5% of radio listening and 9.4% of digital listening.

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, commented on the latest audience figures with a view to a further growth potential created by a surge of smart speaker sales at Christmas:
“Q4 2018 marks the fourth quarter in a row when digital listening has been above 50%. The growth of digital listening and launch of new digital stations is providing a platform for growth for all broadcasters and we welcome the increasing levels of digital radio content innovation and investment. We look forward to the listening data for Q1 2019 which will reflect the massive surge in smart speaker sales and usage post-Christmas and the impact of the new stations and schedules launched in January.”

Ten years after the move to digital threatened to fizzle out as radio groups deserted DAB, UK digital radio is going through a rapid transformation, with News UK-owned Wireless Group undertaking a massive publicity drive for its stations and Germany’s Bauer Media launching new services and acquiring local stations across the UK.  Earlier this week, Ofcom indicated it was planning to cut red tape on DAB+ stations launching, which could pave the way for more stations to launch on terrestrial digital radio. Other changes to radio regulation is likely to see national digital radio brands transferred over to local FM services.