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Lockdown drives listening boost for local and national radio

As Mediatel’s Future of Audio fortnight kicks off, recently published figures released by commercial radio marketing body Radiocentre have shown that the COVID-19 crisis is driving double-digit increases in online listening.

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While radio giants Global and Bauer released figures last month showing notable growth in connected radio listening, a number of local radio groups have also seen online listening surge in recent weeks.

Nation Broadcasting, which owns Nation Radio and a network of local stations in Wales as well as stations in England and Scotland, has recorded listening increases of around 40% across the majority of its portfolio, with some stations boosted by as much as 75%.

DC Thomson, which owns Original FM, Wave FM and Kingdom FM in Scotland, claims to have seen regular increases of more than 20% in online listener numbers, while KMFM – which has stations broadcasting in Kent – said it had seen a 36% jump.

The Jack FM group, which includes local radio services in Oxford as well as the national services Union Jack and Jack Radio, has seen a similar pattern, with online reach rising as much as 30%.

Meanwhile, Tindle Radio – operating Channel 103 in Jersey and Island FM in Guernsey – saw digital reach jump 25-35%, and Cheshire’s Dee Radio doubled its number of unique listeners to its online streams.

Since the closure of schools across the UK, children’s radio station Fun Kids has seen streaming hours up 80% overall.

Already, UK radio giants Global and Bauer have reported notable growth in connected radio listening. Global, whose stations include Capital, Heart, Classic FM and LBC, recorded a 15% jump in daily reach via devices such as smart speakers and phones between March 9 and 17, while hours of listening rose by 9%.

Rival radio broadcaster Bauer also reported a change in listening patterns via connected devices in its data from March 16-22, the weekend which saw lockdown put in place.

Bauer, which has stations including Kiss, Absolute Radio, and Magic, said it grew its total digital reach by 6% and its hours by 3% week-on-week, reaching a record daily reach for Bauer Radio streaming on Friday March 20.

“As the UK acclimatises to a new world of working from home and enforced isolation, radio proves its strength as a hugely valuable source of information, reassurance, company and, most importantly, fun,” said Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre.

“As one of the most trusted and accessible forms of media, it is perhaps no surprise that so many are tuning in right now.”

According to Radiocentre, particularly notable increases have been seen across morning programming, possibly a result of listeners continuing to stream content when they would normally be on the way to work.

The latest Rajar results for the fourth quarter of 2019 revealed that digital radio’s share of listening had grown to 58.5%, up from 52.6% the year prior.

Overall, digital listening grew by 43.4 million hours or 8% year-on-year, while listening via online and apps grew by 28.5 million hours (or by 30%) to now account for 12.5% of all listening and 21.5% of digital listening. Mediatel

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