The dramatic upswing in BBC 6 Music’s listening during the first quarter of 2010 did not appear to have a knock-on effect on the BBC’s other digital stations [see graph]. 1Xtra was up slightly but still lower than it was in 2009. Asian Network dropped further and is now listened to less than part-time station Five Live Sports Extra.
In the commercial radio sector, Planet Rock recorded its best quarter yet and cemented its lead over all its digital-only competitors (BBC 6 Music excepted) [see graph]. Its continuing success only confirms that consumers prefer real programme content to the digital music jukeboxes whose performances are little more than limping along.
Even with this most recent quarter’s boost from BBC 6 Music and Planet Rock, total listening to digital-only stations has still shown almost no growth for three years [see graph]. Without the coincidence of those two successes, the latest quarter would have proven another disaster.
The question is what the next quarter will look like. We have seen listening to BBC 6 Music rise temporarily before at times when the channel has been in the press. Attracting listeners is only half the job. Keeping listeners is the much harder part.
Does the BBC 6 Music listening blip change the bleak outlook for digital radio stations? Not at all. Why? Because, even after this sudden upswing, 6 Music still attracts only two-thirds of the volume of listening to Radio 3, the BBC’s least listened to analogue national network. 207% of almost nothing still equals very little.