BBC Radio 1 sees drop in listeners while 6 Music soars to new high

The latest audience listening figures from Rajar are for the first quarter of 2022.

BBC Radio 1 lost nearly half a million listeners in the first quarter of 2022, new figures show.

The flagship channel enjoyed an average weekly audience of 7.7 million in the three months to April 3, down 491,000 from 8.2 million in the final quarter of 2021, according to research body Rajar.

It is also down nearly 600,000 from 8.3 million in the third quarter of last year, which was the first time data on radio audiences had been published since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards 2019 – London
Greg James attending the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards 2019 held at Television Centre (PA)

Greg James’ breakfast show on Radio 1 recorded a smaller drop, with an average of 4.1 million listeners across the first quarter of 2022, compared with 4.5 million in the previous quarter and 4.3 million in the period to September.

The BBC said James’ show is the nation’s most popular breakfast show among 15 to 29-year-olds and that Radio 1 is the most popular station for the same age group.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have contributed to a sharp rise in figures for the BBC’s World Service, which added over a quarter of a million listeners in the first three months of the year to take its average audience to 1.5 million.

BBC 6 Music also performed well, with listeners up quarter-on-quarter from 2.6 million to a new high of 2.8 million, in the same year the station celebrates its 20th birthday.

Samantha Moy, head of 6 Music, said: “I am so happy that more people than ever are listening to 6 Music in our 20th year. If you love music beyond the mainstream – we are your home – and we’ve room for everyone.”

Rajar has cautioned against making comparisons with listening figures from before the Covid-19 pandemic, due to a change in the way it collects its data.

All figures used to be compiled using face-to-face market research, but this has now been replaced with a mixture of in-person surveys and data collected remotely via apps on smartphones and tablets.

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, said: “How better to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the much loved BBC Radio 6 Music than with these figures.

“They really illustrate the unique place that the station has in its listeners’ lives, with its eclectic schedule and specialist, passionate DJs who day in day out champion music. Congratulations to everyone involved in making the station the success it continues to be.

“And what a way to mark the return of our live music festivals this year, as we emerge from the pandemic and look ahead to Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Coventry, an eight-week season of the BBC Proms and Radio 2 Live in Leeds, bringing big acts and a wide range of performances to audiences across the UK.

“All our live stations provide millions of people with relevant, world class content so brilliantly, and we also continue to see BBC Sounds grow as listening habits evolve, particularly amongst younger audiences.”

BBC Radio 2 had an average weekly audience of 14.6 million in the first quarter of 2022 – down from 14.9 million at the end of last year, but unchanged on the third quarter of 2021, Rajar said.

Radio 4’s audience is also holding steady, with an average of 10.6 million listeners across January to March, compared with 10.5 million the previous quarter and 10.8 million in the quarter to September.

Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show has seen its listening figures dip slightly in the most recent quarter, from 1.8 million to 1.7 million – but this is the same as the equivalent figure for the third quarter of 2021, suggesting the programme has held its ground despite the departure in November of presenter Nicky Campbell, who had co-hosted the show for nearly two decades.

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