RAJAR – Q1 2022

Commercial radio hits a new record high of 37.1m listeners a week in the latest RAJAR survey.  There’s a strong lift again for News and Speech stations, and even some new ones on the block.  Trisonic’s Howard Bareham gives his view on the latest radio audience figures.

This is the third round of radio audience listening numbers since research recommenced with a new methodology for the Q3 2021 results which we reported on in October last year. RAJAR had been suspended in March 2020 during the pandemic as it’s a diary-based survey and relies on face-to-face communication for diary collection.

These Q4 2021 results follow the new methodology, and means we have like-for-like quarter-on-quarter comparables.

LBC Climbs To Second in London

LBC has climbed one spot and is now the second largest station in London with a weekly reach of 1,524m, up 5% , and is only 92,000 listeners behind Heart, which declined 13.8% to 1,616m. This result is impressive and follows a trend we’ve seen over the last few years for LBC.

Even more impressive when you consider most of the leading station brands in London have lost audience… Capital and Smooth (from the same ownership stable as LBC and Heart, Global Radio), are down 12.4% and 26% respectively, with weekly reaches at 1,482m and 699,000. There were some rays of hope for two other Global stations, though, with London News (LBC’s sister rolling news station) up 41.9% to 576,000, and Gold, which targets an older audience, up 31.3% to 361,000.

Bauer, another major radio operator, suffered the same fate in London, with Magic losing 8% of its audience, meaning it now has a weekly reach of 1,334m. Kiss continues to lose audience, despite several programming changes, and is now below a million listeners at 908,000, down 19.3%. There’s better news for Greatest Hits Radio London (which sits on the old Absolute Radio FM frequency and includes Simon Mayo in its lineup) – that increased by 7.5% to a weekly reach of 879,000.  

Greatest Hits Radio’s Simon Mayo

Commercial Radio Increases its Reach

In total, commercial radio saw a 1% increase in audience and now reaches 37,168m listeners a week – 67% of the Adult 15+ population – which is a new record high. This has helped it extend its lead over BBC Radio by 3,358m which continues a trend that first started in 2017 when commercial radio first recorded more listeners than the BBC. The commercial sector has benefited from long term investment, innovative programming formats and new entrants to stay ahead of the BBC.

New digital-only formats have played a big part in this growth, and the digital share of listening is at 67.9%.  While the majority of listening is still via DAB digital radios, accounting for 41.1%, smart speaker listening has been reported for the first time and accounts for 9.9%.

News and Speech Expansion

No apologies for another spotlight on the news and speech sector, as it’s one that has seen significant audience growth over the last few years, investment, new station entrants and new formats.

The latest development has been the launch of Talk TV, with Piers Morgan as the headline presenter.  This is News UK’s extension of the radio brand talkRADIO. In essence talkRADIO and Talk TV are hybrids of each other, mixing audio and visual elements with the radio shows being broadcast on Talk TV and specific evening Talk TV television shows being simulcast on talkRADIO.

As the Talk TV/Hybrid format launched on Monday 25th April, any effect won’t be seen in these numbers as this survey period is up until  3rd April…   But this survey is one that’s seen talkRADIO enjoy a significant increase in audience of 20% and the station now reaches 650,000 listeners a week – the highest since launch in 2016. Times Radio, the stablemate to talkRADIO, is blowing hot and cold.   Following an audience decline of 21% in the last quarter, it has recorded a 40% increase this quarter with an audience figure of 703,000.

One of the most recent additions to the list of stations in the survey is from the TV channel GB News. Unlike talkRADIO/Talk TV where the radio station came first, GB News Radio programming is purely the audio of the TV station output. Even without any specific audio-only content it has posted a respectable debut audience number of 239,000.

However, the market leader by some way remains LBC, which has posted increases over the last few years and has a national weekly reach of 2,738m, up 5% .

Longer Term View

We’ve seen some big swings in both directions in this set of results, and while it’s tempting to look for trends now, it’s prudent to look over a 12mth/18mth period to properly identify listening and station performance trends. Q2 2022 will be out on Thursday 4th August and this will take us further to seeing the full 12 month picture in Q3 2022 since the new methodology was implemented in Q3 2021.

National StationsReach 000sNational NetworksReach 000sLondon StationsReach 000s
Classic FM5,159Heart Network UK8,498Heart1,616
talkSPORT2,951Capital Network UK6,068LBC 97.31,524
Magic2,798Hits Radio Network5,798Capital1,482
Kiss2,307Smooth Radio Network UK5,205Magic1,334
Absolute Radio2,183Kiss Network4,263Kiss908

Sources: RAJAR Q1 2022.  Reach numbers are weekly adults 15+


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