“Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown”.
Presumably, this is not the most popular Bob Dylan song doing the rounds in New Broadcasting House right now. The latest RAJAR figures shine a harsh spotlight on Radio One’s predicament, with the station losing almost a fifth of its listeners in the last five years.
Radio One was down by 8.1% year-on-year and 4.8% for the quarter, reaching an audience of 9.1m weekly. Nick Grimshaw’s breakfast programme dropped dramatically to 5.14m from 5.43m in Q1 of 2016.
To take a few steps back, consider that in the last quarter of 2011, Radio One attracted 11.7 million listeners, meaning a decline of over 20% in just over five years.
It’s a cruel comparison to make but make it we must- Spotify currently has 100m active users worldwide and reportedly more than 9.1m of these are in the UK.
Meaning that for the first time, the audience of a streaming service has surpassed that of the BBC’s flagship radio network. Don’t pretend that you didn’t see this one coming in the rear view mirror.
It isn’t all bleak for the Beeb however- According to Rajar, BBC 6 Music posted its biggest ever weekly audience in the period with 2.35m, its highest ever listening figures.
Radio One’s Station Controller Ben Cooper came out on the defence, saying: “You can’t judge Radio 1 on RAJAR figures alone – just as you can’t judge a newspaper solely on physical sales – you have to take into account our digital innovations as well”.
Fair point but the emerging picture seems to be one of younger listeners in particular migrating from Radio One to the shiny playlists and curated experiences of streaming platforms.
Interestingly, the average UK weekly radio listenership grew slightly in Q1 of 2017, up to 48.23m people- an increase of over 409,000 on the equivalent period in 2016.
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