LBC’s mid-morning presenter James O’Brien now has more listeners than rabble-rousing breakfast show host Nick Ferrari, as the pandemic changes British radio listening habits.
The breakfast show has been the highest-profile slot on almost every radio station for decades, as listeners tune in as they wake up and on their commute – only to fall away after 8am when people arrive at work.
But the significant uptick in working from home has increased listening on the move via smartphones, while the popularity of individual presenters like O’Brien is upending longstanding industry trends as listeners tune in later.
Official RAJAR listener figures, released on Thursday, reveal that Ferrari now reached 1.295 million listeners in the 7am-10am slot.
O’Brien on top
Meanwhile O’Brien has hit 1.307 million during his 10am-1pm slot, as listeners in their droves tune in to hear his lengthy critiques of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.
Zoe Ball’s breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 has retained its place as the most listened to morning programme in the country, figures show.
The early-morning slot pulled in 7.5 million weekly listeners in October to December 2021, up from 7.2 million in July to September, according to audience research body Rajar.
The figures showed the overall trend for most breakfast programmes to be steady quarter-on-quarter for the second half of 2021.
Greg James’ breakfast show on Radio 1 also saw an increase in listeners quarter-on-quarter.
His programme, which airs five days a week, rose from 4.3 million to 4.5 million listeners between the third and fourth quarters.
The Today programme on Radio 4, which broadcasts between 6am and 9am, saw a slight decrease – losing 62,000 listeners.
Meanwhile, Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show saw a slight increase, rising from 1.7 million to 1.8 million.
Times Radio, which launched in June 2020 and is owned by News UK, saw a 21 per cent drop in its overall listenership quarter-on-quarter, with its numbers falling from 637,000 to 502,000.
TalkRadio – another News UK venture – saw an increase of 20 per cent from 450,000 to 542,000.
Rajar was suspended in March 2020 after coronavirus restrictions forced face-to-face market research to be halted.
It returned for the third quarter of 2021 with a revised approach that also uses data from radio listening panels, which use both passive and active methods of data collection.
However, the method of collecting data has changed so significantly the latest figures cannot be compared with any previous data, and it is therefore difficult to identify long-term trends.
Chief content officer of the BBC Charlotte Moore said: “I’m delighted that millions of people choose to start their day with our most popular music breakfast shows and their brilliant hosts Greg and Zoe, who continue to entertain and amuse listeners as they go about their morning routines.
“And congratulations to Rick and Rachel whose new Radio 5 Live breakfast show seems to be a hit with audiences.
“These figures show the important role that BBC Radio plays in people’s lives, with 34.5m tuning in to listen live each week to our much-loved stations.
“We also continue to see on-demand listening grow for both our radio programmes and podcasts, as audiences come to BBC Sounds to discover content to listen to whenever they want to.”