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The Communications Market: Digital Radio Report 2013

Ofcom's fourth annual digital progress report, published 25|09|13

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. The Action Plan stated that a decision on setting a date for digital radio switchover will be made when the following criteria are met:

  • 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 coverage varies by platform. The BBC's national multiplex covers 94.4% of homes, the national commercial digital multiplex covers 89.5% of homes and local DAB multiplexes are estimated to cover 71.7% of households. Over 98% of homes receive digital television services which carry digital radio stations and 76% of homes have a broadband internet connection.

In the 12 months to the end of June 2013, RAJAR data show that just over a third of all radio listening hours were to services delivered over a digital platform. This is an 11.2 percentage point increase since the same period in 2010 and a 4.4 percentage point increase year on year.

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 2013, accounting for 64.9% of all digital listening hours. The proportion of digital listening through the internet or apps grew by 1.6pp year on year to account for 14.9% of digital listening.

Four of the stations that are only available through digital platforms were listened to by at least one million listeners in an average week in the 12 months to Q2 2013. BBC 6 Music had the largest number of listeners, at 1.74 million, followed by BBC Radio 4 Extra which reached 1.66 million listeners and 1Xtra from the BBC which reached 1.1 million listeners. Commercial radio station Absolute 80s increased its reach by 16.7% to 1.01 million.

Over one third (33.4%) of all radio sets sold in the 12 months to Q2 2013 included a DAB tuner. A total of 5.6 million radio sets were sold in this period, a fall of 14.3% on the same period last year. Sales of DAB sets remained steady while analogue sales volumes fell by 1 million units year on year.

Almost four in ten (38.3%) of new cars are now fitted with DAB as standard, 12.4 percentage points more than were fitted with DAB as standard in Q2 2012.

Forty-six per cent of people claimed ownership of a DAB digital radio, an increase of 4pp year on year. DAB take-up varies across the UK, ranging from 54.4% in Surrey to 18.1% in the Scottish Borders.

Ofcom research shows that the proportion of those listening to digital radio varies by demographic group. At 67%, those in the AB demographic group are the most likely to listen to digital radio at least monthly. Those aged 16-24 are also more likely to listen to digital radio, with 62% listening on at least a monthly basis.

Among radio listeners who do not have access to a DAB digital radio set at home, 14% claim that they are 'likely'/'very likely'/'certain' to buy a set in the next 12 months. Fifty-eight per cent of radio listeners without a DAB set at home said they were 'unlikely'/'very unlikely'/'certain not to' 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.

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