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  • David Lloyd

Smart speakers and radio - the latest Ofcom data


The latest Ofcom data is out – helping us better understand a fast-changing media picture.


And - unlike the Ofcom website or the new complaints bulletin format – the Media Nations Report is really easy to interrogate.


Seriously, it’s useful data.


58% of people say they have radio sets in their house that they listen to - with 28% having just one, but 4% having four or five. Amongst 16-34s, the number having any radio set falls to 37%.


If 58% sounds low, it is broadly consistent with previous years - in this Ofcom data at least - with the 2018 figure at 56%.


41% of respondents say some of their sets are DAB. 13% have 2-3 sets.


51% use voice-controlled devices for any purposes. 53% for 16-24s – but still just under half (45%) of 55+. The speed of uptake of these devices has been huge. (Note - These percentages are of those who completed the Ofcom survey online, excluding the 8% of respondents who chose a paper response). The most comparable figure in 2019 'smart speaker take up' is at 20% - although in my own research of late, I have found that not everyone recognises the phrase 'smart speaker' as the generic name for their dear 'Alexa'.


67% of smart speakers users ask their smart speaker to play streamed music (77% for 15-24s, 55% for 55+), and 60% listen to a radio station (34% 16-24, 67% for 55+).


In streamed music, Spotify and YouTube dominate.


Looking at the territories in which radio has traditionally had a key role, 27% of those who have smart speakers use their smart speakers for news reports and 12% for travel news.


18% of those with smart speakers use them for podcasts, with 16-24s also at 18%; and 55+ at 12%. Of those with smart speakers, 35-44s are the most enthusiastic about using them for podcasts (20%).


In terms of smart speaker brands, it’s no surprise that Amazon rules, with 69% of those with smart speaker having Amazon Echo, compared with 25% for Google Home/Nest - and single digital% for other brands.


The revenue graphs show the pain of the last two years.



BBC income has fallen from £761m in 2018 to £733m in 2019; and then down1% to £726m in 2020.


Across in commercial radio, national commercial revenues have fallen 6% from £303m in 2019 to £284m in 2020.


Sponsorship has fallen 24% from £115m to £87m.


Local revenues have fallen a foul 34% from £119m (2019) to £79m (2020).


This suggests that without the consolidation of recent years – and the benefits to national revenues of powerful brand sells, a locally-driven commercial radio industry would have been unsustainable. The uncertainty of this year, of course, has yet to be seen.


Other revenues for commercial radio have been broadly constant (from £82m in 2019 to £80m in 2020), albeit this is up from £43m in 2018. Whilst stations are doing more in various ways to generate incremental revenues, there may be a specific in here the hard data does not explain.




The fall in popularity of owned or virtually owned music in favour of subscription services is clear to see.






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