Guest blog: with so many options available, Radio Experts explains why it has never been easier for brands to use radio to help find their voice. 

Commercial radio has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the last few years. The two main players in the commercial sector, Global and Bauer, have invested heavily in acquisitions alongside consolidation of brands backed up by talent and new station launches.  

As a result, commercial radio has recorded record listening and over the last two years has grown to a 2.5M listener lead over the BBC, and this is expected to grow further in the coming years. 

Underpinning all of this has been the growth of DAB listening and national DAB stations. 

Digital listening in the UK continues to grow, with overall digital listening now at 56%, the vast majority of this (70%) via DAB radio, with 23% via online and 7% through a digital TV. Having passed the 50% mark, many stations are turning off analogue (AM) transmitters in favour of the superior quality of DAB. 

2019 was a record year for DAB with 2.38M new vehicles fitted with DAB digital radio as standard. DAB in new car registrations rose to a record 95% of all new cars in Q4 2019, while DAB in new commercial vehicles increased to a record of over 64%. This means that for the full year of 2019 there were 2.15M new cars and 232,600 new commercial vehicles fitted with DAB as standard. 

Whilst DAB set ownership has grown, the radio industry has been hard at work to add more services in a concerted effort to increase consumer choice. Back in 2016, we saw the launch of a wealth of national DAB only stations including now household names: Mellow Magic, Magic Chilled, Virgin Radio, talkRADIO and Kisstory. Since 2016 even more national DAB stations have been launched, meaning the variety of content available on commercial radio has never been better; from Classical to Country, from Indie to Heavy Metal, from live football to live cricket. If we fancy a bit of Aretha or Marvin, we can head off to Magic Soul, Oasis and Blur are readily found at Absolute 90s and Guns N’ Roses are ever present on Planet Rock. 

Aside from investment in new stations, there has also been huge investment in talent by the commercial sector in talent. Both Eddie Mair and Sheilagh Fogarty were recently tempted away from their BBC Radio 4 and 5 Live shows respectively to host their own shows on LBC, whilst Simon Mayo left Radio 2 to help launch the new national Contemporary Classical Music station, Scala Radio. The biggest and most high-profile move was, of course, that of Chris Evans, who gave up hosting the biggest breakfast show in the UK for the breakfast show on Virgin Radio. 

But the commercial sector isn’t just attracting presenters, it’s also investing in top content. talkSPORT2, for example, is now host to a wealth of live sport including England Test Cricket, which has long been one of the jewels in BBC’s crown, allied to the wealth of domestic and international football and rugby on offer. 

The proof of the success of this effort is, of course, in the numbers. Kisstory has overtaken BBC 6 Music as the largest national DAB station in the UK with a reach of over 2.5M, Absolute 80s continues to attract around 2M listeners per week, youth station Capital Xtra sits at 1.9M listeners, and sports commentary station talkSPORT2 attracts 400,000 per week. During England’s cricket tour of the West Indies, talkSPORT2 saw record listening whilst BBC 5 Live Xtra listening hours fell by 33%. 

Along with this extra choice for consumers comes more options for brands. With DAB stations being more genre specific, advertisers can target more specifically than using analogue radio. By advertising on a sport station, a classic rock station, or one formatted for the over-55s, you know exactly which target market the message is reaching. Additionally, due to the specific nature of the music played on stations such as Scala, Classic and Jazz, advertisers can now have access to stations attracting high net-wealth audiences alongside more mainstream audiences. More importantly, these stations are offering genuine national reach at a more affordable price point. 

Radio continues to work effectively as a standalone option, or part of a wider marketing mix, but now with so many options it has never been easier for radio to help brands find their voice. 


Categories: Silver Blog