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Radio Remains Resilient Against Digital Challenge

U.K. regulator’s report tracks radio and audio trends

LONDON — Digital listening is transforming the radio landscape, but radio continues to be resilient. That was the key finding of the United Kingdom media regulator Ofcom’s new “Media Nations” report, reviewing key trends in radio and audio, as well as the television and audio-visual sector.

Ofcom highlights that U.K. radio listening reached what it calls “a significant milestone” in the first quarter of 2018. For the first time, more than half of all listening hours (50.9 percent) were through a digital platform: DAB, online, or through digital TV. The regulator found this was being driven by several factors: almost two-thirds of households now have a DAB set; smart speakers are a convenient way to listen to radio at home; DAB coverage now stands at 90 percent of the U.K.; and there has been an increase in the number of national commercial radio stations available.

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Ofcom also notes that other online audio services are becoming more popular. Music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music are increasing their reach, offering music on demand —

these account for eight percent of all U.K. audio listening, rising to 29 percent among 15 to 24 year olds.

However, despite the increase in competition for audio time, radio continues to maintain its reach of nine in 10 U.K. adults. Three-quarters of all audio listening is to live radio, and although this drops to 36 percent for 15 to 24 year olds, it is still the audio source with the highest proportion of listening hours.

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The regulator also reports that although listeners aged 15 to 24 have declined across all U.K. radio sectors — BBC and commercial — there are signs that the increase in availability of national commercial radio services is beginning to reverse this trend: reach for these stations in this age group has increased to 42 percent, from 38 percent ten years ago.