LONDON: Radio faces increased competition for audio time, with the growth of music streaming services and the explosion of podcasting, but it continues to be “resilient”, reaching nine in ten UK adults and claiming the highest proportion of listening hours.

The description was applied in Ofcom’s first annual Media Nations study, which reviews trends in the television and audiovisual sector as well as the radio and audio sector.

Total commercial revenues rose by 1% in real terms in 2017 to hit £557m, and the regulator reported that “national commercial radio in particular is thriving”, as it benefits from the wider reach offered by digital platforms: it is one of the only radio sectors to increase its number of 15-24 year-old listeners, it said, as reach among this demographic has increased from 38% to 42% over the past decade.

Overall, three-quarters of all audio listening is to live radio and more than half of all radio listening hours now takes place through a digital platform.

Ofcom highlighted several reasons for this, including the extension of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) coverage to 90% of the country and the increased penetration of DAB sets (almost two thirds of households now own one).

Additionally, smart speakers are rapidly becoming a convenient way to listen to radio at home, while the increase in the number of national commercial stations available digitally has also encouraged more people to switch from analogue listening.

Car radio, stands out as an exception, however, with two thirds of in-car listening still via analogue. That will change in future as most new vehicles now come with DAB radio fitted.

But Radioplayer’s managing director Michael Hill recently warned that radio is in danger of losing its prime position on the car dashboard, where it is having to fight for space with tech giants in the new interfaces that are being developed.

“Car manufacturers and dashboard designers are having their heads turned by Spotify and other audio and music services coming into the dashboard,” he said.

Music streaming services accounted for or 8% of all audio listening in the UK in 2017, rising to 29% among 15-24 year-olds, said Ofcom.

Podcasts are also gaining in popularity with 9% of adults listening each week, rising to 15% over a month. Podcast listeners are also more likely to be younger (14% of 15-24 year-olds listen weekly, increasing to 23% who listen each month).

Sourced from Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff