Unveiling the Resilience of Radio: Q3 2023 RAJAR Insights

Posted by
Dylan Doughty

The latest RAJAR results for Q3, 2023, reveal that radio listenership remains strong, with 49.5 million people tuning in, accounting for 88% of the adult population.

Commercial radio continues to outpace the BBC, with a listening share of 54.1%, a noticeable increase from 50.9% in Q3 2022.

The way people consume radio is evolving, with a growing shift towards online and digital platforms. More than half of all online radio listening, equivalent to 24.2% of total listening, now occurs on smart speaker devices (13.8%), reflecting a rise from 23.6% and 13.4% in Q3 2022, respectively.

Commercial radio maintains a strong presence in online listening, with a share of 28.2%, compared to the BBC's 19.1%. When considering all radio, combined digital listening has surged to 70.3%, primarily driven by DAB (42.3%) and online (24.2%). This is an increase from 66% and 38.9%, respectively, in Q3 2022.

In the London market, the top five commercial stations based on reach are as follows:

  1. Heart (2 million)
  2. Capital (1.8 million)
  3. Magic (1.5 million)
  4. LBC (1.3 million)
  5. Greatest Hits Radio (1.1 million)

Examining year-on-year weekly reach figures, several stations have experienced substantial increases. Notable mentions include Absolute Radio 00s (up 26%), Absolute Radio Country (up 52%), Boom Radio (up 49.4%), Capital Xtra Reloaded (up 45.7%), Greatest Hits Network (up 76.9%), Heart 00s (up 267%), Hits Radio (up 53.7%), and Virgin Radio Chilled (up 27.3%).

It's important to note that this analysis is based on weekly reach comparisons for the quarters, highlighting significant changes in station performance.

Greatest Hits Radio stations have generally seen an uptick, with over 50 stations increasing their audience this quarter, though 11 have seen decreases. Notable areas with significant differences include Northern Ireland (up 77%), Lincolnshire (up 56%), Teesside (up 53%), and Coventry & Warwickshire (up 51%). The GHR network has expanded its reach to 6.7 million weekly listeners, with notable successes for shows hosted by Ken Bruce (3.7 million) and Simon Mayo (2.5 million). "Greatest Hits at Breakfast with Rossie" now attracts 2.7 million listeners.

In contrast, Lincs FM, which transitioned to DAB-only broadcasting in April, has experienced a 27% decline in its audience, losing 61,000 listeners, bringing its total to 164,000. In contrast, Greatest Hits Radio Lincolnshire, which now broadcasts on FM frequencies, gained 55,000 listeners, increasing from 98,000 to 153,000.

BBC Radio 2 has managed to maintain its audience after a previous quarter's loss of one million listeners, standing strong at 13.4 million. Notably, Zoe Ball's breakfast show has lost 212,000 listeners, but it remains the most listened-to breakfast show in the UK. Meanwhile, Vernon Kay hosts the largest radio show in the UK, attracting 6.9 million listeners.

BBC Radio 1 has seen minimal change, maintaining around 7.7 million listeners. Greg James has garnered just under 4 million listeners (4.24 million 10+).

BBC Radio 5 Live has added half a million listeners (5.5 million), while 5 Sports Extra has gained 845,000 (2.2 million).

Across the BBC's local radio stations, 17 stations have seen increases, while 26 have experienced declines, including BBC Essex (down 18%), BBC Northampton (down 23%), and Norfolk (down 17%). Overall, the network is down 5%, or 250,000 listeners, from 5.53 million to 5.28 million weekly reach.

The Smooth Radio network has strengthened its position with two stations—Smooth London and Smooth North West—each surpassing one million listeners, pushing the brand's total audience above 6 million for the first time.

Among stations known as Hits Radio, three have seen increases, one remains unchanged, and one has experienced a decrease. The Manchester service, previously known as Key 103, has seen a 10% increase to 292,000 listeners, while the South Coast station is up by 42%.

Capital's network maintains its reach at around 6 million weekly listeners, with 10 stations experiencing gains and 9 seeing declines. Stations like Brighton (up 36%), Lancashire (up 26%), Mid-counties South (up 25%), and the North East (up 25%) have made significant strides, while Manchester has decreased by 11%, and NW & Wales is down by 12%.

In the Heart network, comprising local and regional stations, 14 stations have seen increases, while 23 have seen decreases. Notable changes include East Anglia Suffolk (up 24%), Sussex North (up 24%), South West Exeter (up 22%), Cambridgeshire (down 24%), and Four Counties 96.9 Hertfordshire (down 28%).

GB News Radio has experienced a 25% increase in listenership, rising from 317,000 to 398,000. In contrast, rivals TalkRadio (nayTV) and Times Radio have both seen 5% decreases, with TalkRadio going from 727,000 to 690,000 and Times Radio dropping from 523,000 to 498,000.

The LBC brand has dipped below 3 million listeners, with LBC News and LBC London contributing to the decline.

Boom Radio continues to grow, adding 21,000 listeners, a 3% increase, raising its weekly reach from 641,000 to 662,000, its highest audience to date and up from 443,000 year-on-year.

KISS in the East, which lost 70% of its FM TSA (Total Survey Area) this quarter, also lost 68% of its audience, dropping from 175,000 to 56,000 listeners.

Fun Kids has seen a 20% increase among London adults, with a weekly reach of 90,000, or 111,000 when including 10+.

Radio X Classic Rock has experienced a decline, losing 37% of its audience this quarter, with its reach dropping from 275,000 to 174,000, while Radio X has achieved its largest-ever reach at 2.2 million.

Downtown Country is down by 40%, while Absolute Radio Country, which recently expanded nationally, is up by 20%, and Countryline Radio has seen an 8% decrease.

At Nation Radio, Nation Radio South has declined, whereas Nation Radio Scotland (West) has seen a significant increase of 32.9%.

Central FM has retained its recent gains, with 46,000 weekly listeners, up from 30,000 a year ago and 44,000 in the previous quarter.

Q Radio has achieved its best-ever results, with a 28% increase in listenership,


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