UK commercial radio: sector update

23 May 2013

This report provides an update on the UK commercial radio sector, covering listening trends, digital platforms, group strategies and advertising expenditure.

Over the last few years, Global Radio has cleverly exploited the regulatory framework to rebrand, merge and share programming across its stations, creating the quasi-national Heart and Capital networks and slashing its operating costs in the process. But Global appears to have misjudged the competition regulators’ attitude towards local media mergers in its purchase of GMG Radio and has been ordered to sell off eight stations in seven local markets.

With at least eight stations to be divested from the Global/GMG portfolio and Absolute Radio still potentially up for sale, hot on the heels of Bauer's recent acquisition of Planet Rock, the radio industry is in the midst of a new wave of M&A activity. This report assesses the performance of the leading commercial groups and the strategies they have employed in recent years.

Alongside the formation of branded networks, another key development has been the launch of digital spin-off stations, first by Absolute Radio and more recently by Smooth and Kiss. We also discuss the impact of DAB growth on listening behaviour, the continuing challenge of getting digital radio into cars and the potential for smartphone listening growth.

Recent reports