The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2011
Basis of report publication
The government announced its Digital Radio Action Plan in July 2010. Ofcom was asked in the plan to publish an annual report on the availability and take-up of digital radio services.
The plan emphasises that digital radio switchover should begin only when the market is ready and that it should be predominantly consumer-led. An aspirational target date of 2015 was supported by the report. But it also concluded that a decision on switchover could only be made once two criteria had been fulfilled:
- when 50% of all radio listening is via digital platforms; and
- when national DAB coverage is comparable to FM, and local DAB reaches 90% of the population and all major roads.
This report includes data on digital radio devices share of radio listening and information on the coverage project, designed to measure current levels of FM and DAB coverage.
In this report digital radio is used in its broadest sense to include all platforms and technologies that allow listeners to access digital radio services.
1.1 Digital radio services are available through a number of different platforms including DAB digital radio, digital television (Sky, Freeview, Virgin Media, Freesat), and via the internet (which includes services received on PCs, radio sets and tablet devices with a WiFi connection, and internet-enabled mobile phones).
1.2 Digital radio coverage varies by platform. Local DAB multiplexes are estimated to cover 66.2% of households; the BBCs national DAB multiplex covers 92.2% of homes (which will increase to 93.8% by the end of this year) and the comparable figure for the national commercial multiplex is 84.6%. Ninety-three per cent (93%) of main TV sets are connected to digital television and carries some radio services, and 75% of homes have an internet connection.
1.3 In the three months to the end of March 2011, just over a quarter (26.5%) of all radio l i stening hours were to services delivered over a digital distribution platform. This was a 2.5 percentage point (pp) increase in digital listening over the year and an 8.7pp increase in three years.
1.4 The proportion of digital listening varies by demographic group. Listeners u n der 65 and those from more affluent demographic groups are the most likely to listen to radio over a digital distribution platform. Digital listening is less prevalent among those over 65, and among the less affluent.
1.5 DAB digital radio was the most widely-used means of listening to digital radio services in Q1 2011, accounting for almost two-thirds (63%) of all digital listener hours; DTV was the second most popular choice (15%) with streaming over the internet ranking third (14%).
1.6 Four digital-only stations drew in over a million listeners (aged 15+) per week in Q1 2011. BBC 6 Music reached 1.3 million listeners a week in Q1 2011 (up by 27% year on year). BBC Radio 7 / 4 Extra attracted 1.2 million listeners while Smash Hits and The Hits weekly audiences reached 1.1 million.
1.7 We estimate that there are between 66 million and 79 million radio sets in use that are less than ten years old (in the form of portable sets, clock radios, audio systems or tuners/receivers) ; there are a further 34 million sets installed in cars and commercial vehicles. The total universe of these sets is therefore estimated to be 100 - 113 million.
1.8 In addition to sets in the home and in vehicles, there are also analogue radio tuners in other devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players.
1.9 A total of 8.5 million radio devices were sold in the 12 months to Q1 2011; just over a fifth (22%) included a DAB tuner. Nearly 13 million DAB digital radio devices in total had been sold in the UK by the end of that period.We estimate that 11 12% of radio sets in the home were digital. In vehicles, we estimate that the number of DAB sets represents just over 1% of the total on the road.
1.10 More than one third (38.2%) of households in Q1 2011 claimed to have access to DAB digital radio, up by 3.7 percentage points year on year. DAB take-up varies significantly across the UK; it was highest in south-east England: Reading and Basingstoke (47%), Sussex and Surrey (46.5%) and Kent (45.9%). Set ownership was lowest in the Scottish Borders at 21.6%, Northern Ireland (22.7%) and north and west Wales (25.9%), where the choice of stations is also lowest.
1.11 Among those who do not yet have access to a DAB digital radio set, 21% claim that they are likely/very likely/certain to buy a set in the next twelve months. Fifty-one per cent (51%) of respondents without a DAB set at home said they were not likely to buy one within the next year. It should be noted that stated intentions measured via research are rarely achieved in practice, and actual take-up is likely to be lower than this.
Background on survey methodology
This report uses a range of data drawn from research sources, including:
- Ofcom licensing data;
- Retail equipment sales and pricing statistics (from an external agency, GfK);
- Ofcom technology tracker research data;
- Ofcom digital radio omnibus research;
- Department for Transport statistics; and
- RAJAR / Ipsos MORI / RSMB radio consumption analysis.
As with any survey data, Ofcoms technology tracking study is subject to an error margin which will be up to +/- 2 percentage points. Note that this report supersedes its predecessor.
The full document is available below