It’s now been a full year since radio audience listening research recommenced with a new methodology for the Q3 2021 results due to the pandemic. This means we now have year on year-on-year comparisons which gives us a more robust picture of listening trends.

Digital stations help commercial radio to power ahead

You may get the feeling of déjà vu when you read this.  The commercial radio sector has recorded another record reach: Commercial Radio now reaches 38.188m (68.3%) of adults a week, an increase of 3.7% year-on-year. The audience gap over the BBC is widening with every research survey period, and it now stands at 5,167m (BBC Radio adult reach is now 33,021m).

Of course, in any survey period there are winners and losers as stations’ listening ebbs and flows; but a lot of this growth is coming from new commercial digital stations and digital derivatives from established radio brands.

The digital advantage

One thing that these digital services have in common is the advantage of a ubiquitous audience. They are available on digital radios, apps like Radioplayer and Global Player, smartphones and tablets, smart speakers and connected cars.

This set of results shows that of all digital listening, the share of online listening is up from 18.1% to 23.6% year-on-year.  Smart speaker listening share is also up – from 10.8% in Q2 2022 (the first time it was measured) to 13.4%.

The digital stars

One of the newest stations is independently owned Boom Radio that launched in February 2021, targeting the 55-75 year-old baby boomer audience. It debuted on RAJAR this time last year with an audience of 233,000.  A year later Boom is reaching 443,000 listeners a week – an impressive 90% increase.  Boom Radio has just launched a marketing campaign so expect this upward trend to continue.

Another station new to the airwaves is from the TV Channel GB News. GB News Radio now reaches 415,000 listeners a week, an increase of 73.6% on its first RAJAR number of 239,000 from Q1 2022.

The majority of UK radio services are from the major radio groups – Global, Bauer and Wireless Group.  They’ve been innovating with formats for a number of years, and have racked up a number of impressive audience increases: People are lapping up Global Radio’s ‘Dance’ brands, as the Heart Dance audience is up 117% and now reaches 1,007m listeners a week.  Capital Dance is up a whopping 186% with an audience of 820,000. 

The Bauer-owned Magic Radio brand extensions saw increases too.  Magic Chilled is up 73% to 410,000 listeners, and Magic Soul saw an upturn of 28% – it now reaches 455,000 adults a week.

At News UK towers, the owners of Wireless Group saw their talkRADIO station increase audience by 41.6% to 637,000 and Virgin Groove grew audience by 379% from a low base of 45,000 listeners to 215,000. 

Déjà vu

It may seem like it, but what a great position the commercial sector is in and long may the growth continue, because it benefits both listeners and advertisers alike.

National StationsReach 000sNational NetworksReach 000sLondon StationsReach 000s
Classic FM4,645Heart Network UK7,944Heart1,835
Magic2,847Hits Radio Network6,570Capital1,512
talkSPORT2,705Capital Network UK5,720LBC 97.31,357
Kiss2,702Smooth Radio Network UK4,835Magic1,278
Absolute Radio2,488Kiss Network4,262Kiss1,039

Sources: RAJAR Q3 2022.  Reach numbers are weekly adults 15+

We’ll be back on Thursday 2nd February 2023 with the Q4 2022 results…


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