The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2012

17 October 2012

Executive summary

1.1 Basis of report publication

The Government launched its Digital Radio Action Plan in July 2010. Ofcom was asked in the Action Plan to publish an annual report on the availability and take-up of digital radio services.

The Action 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 Action Plan. But it also concluded that, when a decision is taken on setting a date for digital radio switchover, it will be the following criteria and not the aspirational timetable which takes precedence:

  • 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.

1.2 Key points

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).

Digital radio coverage varies by platform. The BBC's national DAB multiplex covers 94.3% of homes, the national commercial digital multiplex covers 84.6% of homes and local DAB multiplexes are estimated to cover 66.4% of households. Ninety-five per cent of main TV sets receive a digital television service which carries some digital radio services and 77% of homes have a broadband internet connection.

In the 12 months to the end of June 2012, RAJAR data show that almost three in ten (29.5%) of all radio listening hours were to services delivered over a digital platform. This is a 10pp increase since the same period in 2009 and a 3.6pp increase year on year.

The proportion of digital listening varies by demographic group. Listeners under 65 and those in the AB and C1 demographic groups are the most likely to listen to radio over a digital platform.

Listening on a DAB digital radio set was the most widely-used method of listening to digital radio in the 12 months to the end of Q2 2012, accounting for 64.9% of all digital listening hours. Listening through digital television (DTV) accounted for 15.6% and listening via online methods accounted for 13.3%.

Six of the stations which are available only through digital platforms were listened to by at least one million listeners in an average week in Q2 2012. BBC Radio 4 Extra had the largest number of listeners, at 1.6 million, followed by BBC 6 Music which reached 1.4 million listeners. In comparison to the same period last year, Five Live Sports Extra increased its listeners by 34.7% to 1.1 million.

We estimate that there are between 66 million and 85 million radio sets in use that are less than 12 years old (in the form of portable sets, clock radios, audio systems or tuners/receivers); there are a further 35 million sets installed in cars and commercial vehicles. The total universe of these sets is therefore estimated to be between 101 and 120 million.

Three in ten (29.1%) of all radio sets sold in the 12 months to Q2 2012 included a DAB tuner, as GfK sales data show. A total of 6.7 million radio sets were sold in this period, a fall of 18.3% on the same period last year. Sales of DAB sets remained steady while analogue sales volumes were down 1.5 million units year on year. Over four in ten people (41.7%) claimed ownership of a DAB digital radio, an increase of 2.8pp year on year. DAB take-up varies across the UK, ranging from 54.4% in Surrey to 25.8% in the Scottish Borders.

Over one quarter (25.9%) of new cars are now fitted with DAB as standard, more than double the proportion fitted with DAB as standard in Q2 2011.

Among those who do not yet have access to a DAB digital radio set at home, 19% claim that they are 'likely'/'very likely'/'certain' to buy a set in the next 12 months. Forty-nine per cent of respondents without a DAB set at home said they were 'not likely' to buy one within the next year.

1.3 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;
  • Data on the number of DAB radios in newly registered cars, from the Society of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT);
  • Department for Transport statistics; and
  • RAJAR / Ipsos MORI / RSMB radio consumption analysis.

As with any survey data, Ofcom's technology tracking study is subject to an error margin - which will be up to +/- 2 percentage points. Note that this report supersedes its predecessor.

Full Reports 

The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2012 PDF, 969.4 KB

Digital Radio Report chart pack PDF, 820.8 KB