AM/FM streaming on the rise, says latest Radio On The Move data

Radio Connects and Signal Hill Insights have released the latest Radio On The Move survey, exploring shifting consumer audio behaviour and the impact COVID-19 restrictions and more time spent at home have had on radio and music streaming.

In its 12th year, the survey was in field this past February and included a representative sample of 2,001 Canadians, 18+, from online market research community, Maru Voice Canada.

It finds that radio’s weekly reach is at 93% of what it was pre-pandemic in Feb. 2020, as time spent listening ebbed and flowed with changing lockdown restrictions. Over-the-air radio still has a reach of 63% – the most of all forms of audio – with its closest competitor music listening on YouTube (42%).

Streaming of AM/FM radio is up with weekly listeners, from 14 to 18% year-over-year or nearly one-in-five Canadians, as more consumers embrace listening to the radio on smart speakers and smartphones. While 68% of Canadians still have a “regular” radio in their home, the shift to digital is accelerating.

That growth is being driven in-home where the number of those streaming AM/FM radio is up from 10 to 15% year-over-year. The trend was evident across all demos and regions across the country, with the most noticeable bump among 18-34-year-olds.

“Only 47% of 18 to 34-year-olds say they have a regular radio in their home…that reflects the in-home increase in streaming and the big factor here is smart speakers,” Jeff Vidler of Signal Hill Insights told Tuesday’s Radio Connects webinar.

Smart speaker penetration is continuing to grow with almost one-third of Canadian households now owning one. 44% of smart speaker owners now have two or more, increasingly showing up in bedrooms, kitchens and offices. Data shows however that privacy concerns remain quite high and are a barrier to smart speaker adoption with 65% of Canadians still wary, down from 70% last year.

Over the past year, smartphones have surpassed computers as the main device for streaming AM/FM radio, growing from 33 to 38% year-over-year. Smart phone apps connected to wireless speakers like Bose or Sonos are part of that trend with the number of those streaming radio on a smartphone in the past week higher among connected speaker owners.

Additionally, listening on headphones is growing with one-third of 18-34-year-olds’ listening time now happening over headphones. Overall, 18+, time spent listening on headphones grew from 13 to 17%.

Radio On The Move found that smartphone use is up for all audio, with the exception of those who listen to YouTube for music. 

Among the survey’s more interesting findings is that among the 29% of Canadians with connected cars, those listeners spend slightly more time with radio – 1.6 hours vs. 1.4 hours on a typical weekday.

The survey also found that music streamers are still listening to radio with 86% of weekly users listening to AM/FM on a typical weekday. Of those, 21% are heavy radio users who listen more than two hours per day.

Overall, Radio On The Move says the growth of music streaming services has been slowing as Canadians catch up in the space, going from a 305% bump in 2015-16 to only 16% growth in 2019-20. Spotify continues to lead all digital services, led by growth in paid, ad-free users, while Apple Music growth remained flat.


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