In the interim, the research gurus have been working on innovative ways to collect and collate the data needed to provide robust up to date results, issuing an advisory that comparisons should not be made with previous findings such as station ‘reaches’ - that’s the number of adults tuning in each week. It also in any case would not be advisable to contrast the previous Quarter 1 survey with a Quarter 3 survey now.
What remains a telling metric though is the share of total listening achieved by each station, which reflects their success in attracting and keeping an audience. So this time, in addition to giving the latest reach and total hours of each local NI station, I’ve added the respective share and compared it to that in the last set of published results from May 2020.
Since then, the two longest-established local broadcasters, BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle and Downtown Radio have made significant on air changes; Ormeau Avenue refreshing its schedule, and the Newtownards station moving to a more modern music offering instead of being predominantly based on Greatest Hits and complementary to Cool FM. Downtown had also extended its FM service to the Belfast area by opening a relay at Carnmoney.
And so to the latest figures; leading on share is BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle with 19.9, from 19.3. Their reach and hours are 517,000 and 5,500,000.
Cool FM enjoys a 12.9 share (13.9 last time), a reach of 492,000 and 3,575,000 hours; while sister station Downtown has a 7.3 share (from 7.2), 281,000 reach and 2,012,000 hours, and Downtown Country a 3.4 share (from 2.2), 114,000 reach and 948,000 hours.
The Belfast-based commercial services next: Q Radio achieved a share of 7.6 (was 10.5) with a 292,000 reach and 2,108,000 hours, while U105 reporting in its original FM transmission area has a share of 7.1 (was 9.7), reach of 196,000 and 1,956,000 hours, with a further 1.8 share (no change), 27,000 reach and 185,000 hours outside of this.
With all the changes to people’s living and working patterns during the pandemic, and the increasing adoption of new ways of listening such as smart speakers, the radio sector has responded skilfully, playing to its strength as a ‘one-to-one’ medium. Many stations revised their ways of operating, with programme presenters broadcasting live from home.
So how did the aforementioned local NI stations fare in the big picture of all radio listening? Their combined share of total hours was 58%, the same as last time pre-Covid, from which we can tell that in the midst of the turmoil they held the attention and loyalty of their listeners.
*RAJAR is compiled by Ipsos-MORI
Please note that each station’s figures relate to its own Total Survey Area.
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