RAJAR Q4 2023 observations – and record listening figures for commercial radio

Commercial radio has an additional one million weekly listeners according to the latest RAJAR results.

The data shows that 39.1 million people listen every week, which is up from 38.1 million in the same quarter last year and sets a new Q4 record.

These new figures reveal a sustained increase in commercial radio listening, as there are now 3.5 million more listeners tuning in to commercial stations compared to five years ago, an increase of 10%. The length of time people listen for has also increased as total hours have grown by 19%.

According to RAJAR, commercial radio has 7.8 million more listeners than the BBC, as the gap grows from 4.8 million in Q4 2022.

Its share of listening hours is also at its highest ever level, with a combined share of 54.8% which is up from 50.2% in Q4 2022.

In comparison, the BBC has seen its share drop to 43.2%, down from 47.1% in same period last year.

Commercial radio listening on smart speakers continues to grow to a record level – now at 17.7%, up from 17.1% in Q4 2022.

Total combined digital listening is now 72% of all radio listening. This is predominantly DAB which is 42.7% and online which is 25.6%.

Analogue platforms now account for 28% of all listening time which is down from 33.4% in Q4 2022.

The combined weekly audience for all BBC and commercial radio in the UK also remains extremely strong at 49.5 million people, representing 88% of the adult population.

For easy to use graphs exclusive to RadioToday – visit RadioToday.co.uk/rajar.

Observations – quarterly comparisons based on weekly reach

All eyes are on BBC Local Radio following recent changes. Across the network, 23 stations are down, 15 are up and one has no change. The biggest movers are BBC Radio Berkshire, which dropped 31% (31,000 listeners) whilst BBC CWR and Radio Wiltshire both added the most, at an increase of 16%.

BBC Radio London lost 54,000 listeners (9%) this quarter, but increased hours.

Nationally, all the main BBC services have lost reach in the last three months.

BBC Radio 1 is down 6% from 7.7m to 7.3m. It has 8.10m listeners aged 10+ and the Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Greg James reports 4.29m 10+ listeners.

BBC Radio 2 is down slightly from 13.4m to 13.3m listeners with 6.56m tuning in for The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show.

BBC Radio 3 is down from 2m to 1.8m listeners.

BBC Radio 4 is down slightly from 9.3m to 9.1m listeners with 5.7m tuning in for The Today programme.

BBC Radio 5 Live is also down slightly from 5.5m to a reach of 5.25m listeners.

BBC Radio 6 Music is down from 2.75 to 2.5m listeners.

BBC Radio 1Xtra has 718k listeners (from 644k), BBC Radio 4 Extra has a static 1.4m, BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra has 1.5m from 2.2m, and BBC Asian Network has 448k from 462k.

Around the Greatest Hits Radio network of stations, of which we count there are 63, 23 are down, 35 are up and five haven’t changed.

Noticeable changes include Devon up 105%, Suffolk up 61% and Sussex up 148% – all thanks to larger TSAs. London is up 26% to 1.4m now.

Greatest Hits Radio Oxfordshire has doubled its audience thanks to the benefit of an FM transmitter, taking over from JACK. Hits Radio Oxford has tripled its audience for the same reason.

At the current six Hits Radio branded stations, three are down, two are up (including Oxford) and one is no change. Hits Radio South Coast has lost 29% of its audience this quarter.

Absolute Radio is static this quarter but up 11% year on year to 2.4m. The Dave Berry Breakfast Show reaches 2.2m listeners.

The KISS Network reaches 4.2m, within which KISSTORY continues its reign as the UK’s biggest commercial digital station with 2.4m weekly listeners.

The Magic Radio Network has increased its audience slightly to 4.2m, with the main station Magic Radio up to 3.4m, with another record for Magic Soul with 502k listeners.

Scala Radio has dropped below the 200,000 mark having lost 18% of its audience last year. It’s gone from 201k to 199k.

Cool FM increased slightly this quarter but got its highest ever reach of 538,000.

GB News Radio is up to its highest ever weekly reach with 430,000. It claims to be the fastest growing speech station in the country in today’s press release.

Boom Radio is down on reach and hours this quarter, but remains solid with over 600,000 listeners and 11 average hours. The station is promoting it has 504,000 listeners over the age of 55 rather than its all-adults figure of 627,000.

Radio X Classic Rock has increased its national audience by 41% – up from 174,000 in Q3 to 244,000 in Q4.

Radio X celebrates its highest ever weekly reach with 2.2 million listeners tuning in every week.

Around the 20 Capital stations, 12 are down, eight are up with London down 11% to 1.6m and Leicestershire up 23%.

Capital Yorkshire, which once attracted over a million reach, is down again to 723,000 from 785,000 last quarter.

The new Smooth sound gives the network of 18 stations over 5.5 million listeners, rising to over six million for the Smooth brand in total. Eleven stations are down, seven are up and London and the North West stay above one million weekly reach.

Smooth North West remains the only commercial radio station outside London to regularly report over a million listeners.

Out of the 40 Heart stations, 28 are down, 10 are up, two report no change. Heart is the biggest commercial radio brand with 11.5 million weekly listeners, increasing in reach, hours and share year-on-year.

Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden is the biggest commercial radio and breakfast show in the UK with 3.8 million weekly listeners.

Heart’s decades stations 70, 80s, 90s and 00s all experience audience gains year on year, whilst Heart 90s celebrates its highest ever audience with 1.2 million weekly listeners, an increase in reach, hours and share year-on-year. Heart 00s reaches 825,000, adding 499,000 listeners in the last year.

Capital XTRA Breakfast with Robert Bruce and Shayna Marie has its highest ever 653,000 listeners – a year-on-year increase in reach (+24%), hours (+34%) and share (+50%).

Classic FM has added 222,000 listeners in the past quarter, now reaching 4.7 million people each week.

LBC sticks with three million weekly listeners. Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, which saw Nick celebrating his 20th anniversary of helming the show last month, has an audience of 1.3 million listeners, growing in reach, hours and share in the past quarter.

In London, Nick’s programme is the number one commercial breakfast show for hours and share.

LBC News, one of the UK’s rolling news radio stations, increases its reach to 810,000 people tuning in.

The talkSPORT network delivered a reach of 3.3m listeners, an increase of 6.2% year-on-year, up 14.1% year-on-year and 4% this quarter.

TalkRadio meanwhile has 725,000 listeners each week – one of its highest ever – and up from 690,000 last quarter.

Times Radio listening hours were up 16% year-on-year to a record 3.96m, with a weekly reach of 492k

The Virgin Radio UK network reached 1.8m listeners, with listening hours across the network of 11.6m, up 4.7% year-on-year. The brand is down 8% and the main station down from 1.5m to 1.4m weekly reach, with new addition Ryan Tubridy yet to register.

U105 across Northern Ireland delivered a reach, up 8.1% year-on-year to 253k listeners, with listening hours up by 11.4% year-on-year to 2m.

Staying in Northern Ireland, Q Radio kept its new found increase last quarter, down slightly to 351,000 from 362,000.

In Scotland, Original 106 is the biggest station in Aberdeen in terms of hours – keeping the lead it stole from Northsound last quarter. In terms of weekly reach though, Northsound remains on top.

Nation Radio Scotland posted a new record audience of 133,000 listeners and total weekly listening of over 1.1 million hours – up nearly a third on the previous quarter.

In Wales, Nation Radio Wales achieved its highest ever weekly reach of 185,000 listeners and now has more than 1.1 million listening hours in South Wales – an increase of nearly 40% from the last published results.

Easy Radio SE Wales however – a DAB only service – is back down to just 1,000 listeners whilst Dragon Radio across Wales posted its highest ever market share.

Nation UK has anew record too – with 146,000 listeners.

Quotes

Ashley Tabor-King CBE, Founder & Executive President of Global, said: “It’s been another fantastic set of audience numbers for Global, for which we’re always incredibly grateful. As Capital and LBC turn 50, and Heart turns 30, to see record numbers and sustained growth, shows the importance of well made and consistent radio, in the lives of the UK population.

“We’re extremely thankful to our listeners and to the exceptionally talented teams who are at the heart of these results. Their laser focus is on being the very best they can be for our listeners, every moment of every day, making everyone’s day brighter. Leading the market is a huge responsibility that we take very seriously and shows how our strategy and unique culture combines to deliver exceptional results.”

James Rea, Chief Broadcasting & Content Officer at Global, said: “Congratulations to the team on delivering another great set of results. I am in awe of the teams at Global who, alongside delivering incredible audio every day, are creating a slate of chart-topping podcasts, producing live events, reaching millions of fans on social and making TV shows. Radio is an extremely exciting medium to be working in and I’m excited to see our supercharged strategy take shape this year.”

Simon Myciunka, CEO for Bauer Media Audio UK said, ‘At Bauer Media Audio UK, we’re passionate about delivering value to our audiences and it’s fantastic to see this mirrored in our year-on-year increase of 7.8% in reach and 13.2% in hours.

‘We are attracting more listeners, who are listening for longer thanks to our high-quality content and investment in presenter line-up. I’m really proud of our teams that have contributed to this sustained growth throughout the last 12 months. Already home to the UK’s most listened to commercial station and with a focus on future growth, who better to partner with than Bauer?’

Ben Cooper, Chief Content & Music Officer, Bauer Media Audio UK said, ‘Congratulations to Magic Radio which celebrates its new line up of presenters with a fantastic increase of over half a million new listeners. And a huge well done to Greatest Hits Radio up an amazing 2.8 million listeners in a year with Ken Bruce, Rossie and Simon Mayo getting record increases, helping the station achieve its own record audience of 6.8 million.’

Aled Haydn Jones (Head of BBC Radio 1) said: “Radio 1 Breakfast with Greg James continues to bring in more and more young people to the BBC, with those audiences spending even more time with us across the station. As the #1 youth station in the country, we will continue to focus on delivering the best new music and entertainment to all our listeners.”

News UK EVP, President of Broadcasting, Scott Taunton, said: “News Broadcasting continues to invest in creative, must-listen audio, with our national stations again breaking records for listening hours in this latest RAJAR period. At the same time we are driving more visualisation across all areas, bringing our brilliant brands and shows to new audiences on social and streaming platforms.

“TalkRadio goes from strength-to-strength, delivering record reach and listening hours and building on our innovative approach to building the Talk brand across broadcast, streaming and social platforms. talkSPORT remains the destination for live sport on the radio, as our investment in sports rights continues, most recently with the thrilling India v England Test Cricket series. The Virgin Radio network delivers the best guests and star signings, most recently including Ryan Tubridy and Tom Allen. And Times Radio has cemented its position as the destination for political analysis and debate as the country gears up for the next election.”

Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, said: “Audiences have been waking up with BBC Radio as they choose to tune in to our brilliant breakfast shows for news, entertainment and company. Radio 2 remains the biggest station, and congratulations to Vernon Kay who as the host of the most popular radio show in the UK, inspired people up and down the country with his triumphant BBC Children in Need Ultra ULTRA Marathon, raising over £6m.

“There’s fierce competition for people’s time and with the success of the global streamers and digital listening reaching record levels, we know that audience habits are changing and they expect more choice and control over their content. I’m pleased that BBC Sounds continues to grow as audiences discover on-demand programming from us whenever they want to, and are able to choose from a wide range of high-quality BBC podcasts and music content to suit their moods.”

Nation Broadcasting’s Programme Director Neil Greenslade said; “We are delighted for our hard-working programming, news and production teams across the UK and look forward to building audiences further during 2024.”

Surjit Singh Ghuman MBE, Managing Director, for Panjab Radio says: “The latest data proves Panjab Radio is a powerful voice in the South Asian community and trusted source of information which is why listeners tune in for longer to us than any other South Asian Station. It nice to know that Panjab Radio is still making a mark as a radio station the South Asian community can trust.”

GB News Radio Commercial Director Nicole O’Shea said: “This is simply astounding growth by any measure, especially in a market that’s flatlining or declining for everyone else.

“GB News Radio launched with little fanfare only two years ago and now we’re bucking every industry trend. This is proof that our unique brand of lively news, opinion and debate is a hit across the United Kingdom and delivers a unique audience not reached by other commercial stations.”

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