UK digital radio numbers not pretty


The growth of digital radio’s listening share in the UK has continued to be minimal, sparking concern that the government’s switchover decision date is unrealistic. The new radio audience figures for the last three months of 2011, released today, show that digital listening now accounts for 29.1% of all radio listening. Digital radio listening must reach 50% of all listening by 2013, if the government can proceed with the switchover process. The current figure only represents a growth of just under 4% in Q4.

At the Oxford Media Convention last week, Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, said that the digital radio switchover process would be “consumer-led” and the date for switchover would be decided by the Government in the middle of 2013.

James Cridland, radio specialist and CEO of Media UK, told The UK Telegraph the rise “a fairly low increase” and said it was unlikely that the digital listening figures to make the 2013 target date: “A big part of the reason for the slow take-up is the lack of DAB in cars. 20% of all radio listening is done in cars and it makes a huge difference that the majority of existing cars and new ones don’t have DAB in-built.”

Cridland said content would be the major way of driving people in their droves over to DAB from FM. “If the BBC took a station like BBC 3 off FM and only onto DAB, in theory three million listeners should follow it. But it won’t and the DAB-only stations are too niche to make a huge difference. It comes down to content,” he explained.

But it’s not all bad news: The digital listening figure rose 16.4% in 2011 and nearly half of all radio listeners (more than 23 million) tune in via a digital platform each week.

Ownership of DAB digital radios in the home has increased to 40.3%, up 13% YoY, with almost 21 million adults living in a household with a DAB digital radio.

RBR-TVBR observation: It’s likely also the reason for the lackluster adoption of digital radio in the UK is the same as here on our shores: Consumers are buying and listening to content on smartphones, WiFi radios and online in general. However, what is surprising is the UK government said the percentage of digital radio listening–which includes access to content via the internet, digital TV and DAB–must be at 50% by 2013. If digital listening includes the internet, that may be the only thing driving up the numbers at all!