The Commercial Radio Sector has been poaching and attracting talent from the BBC to bolster its listening figures for a while now.  However, Ken Bruce leaving BBC Radio 2 for Bauer’s Greatest Hits Radio has turned the listening dial right up again.

Bruce’s mid-morning show time slot, which runs across the Greatest Hits Radio Network, is now showing an audience of 3 million, which is a massive 93% increase year on year and c. 36% on the previous quarter’s results. This has helped Greatest Hits Network record a total weekly audience of 5.787m listeners – up 44% year on year and 9% quarter on quarter.  This includes some stations rebranded to Greatest Hits Radio prior to the survey period.  

Taking the long term view

Once you have the talent and attracted the following, the trick here of course is not only to maintain the audience but bring in more new listeners. Before Ken Bruce, the highest profile move was Chris Evans moving from BBC Radio 2 to the Virgin Radio Breakfast Show in early 2019.  That had the immediate effect of increasing the station’s numbers by 205% year on year, giving an audience then of 1.301m. Across the last few years the audience has ebbed and flowed with a high of 1.631m in 2021. Virgin now stands at 1.438m, which would represent an incremental increase on the Evans launch number of 10.5%. Bauer will be hoping for more from Bruce.

These numbers have helped the Commercial Radio Network increase listeners and 39.192 million (69%) of adults tuning in each week, another listening record and an increase of 8%.

Not all plain sailing

It’s not all plain sailing for the Bauer team, though.  While they’ve hit a high with Greatest Hits Radio, Kiss in London can’t seem to regain its mojo, despite several attempts to get the winning formula back. At the end of 2021 it had audience of 1.125m and while the Kiss London audience remained on par quarter on quarter, it declined 5.4% year on year with an audience of 904,000.

By way of comparison, in London Global’s leading brands, Heart and Capital, registered double digit increases with Heart up 11.6% to 1.778m and Capital at +17% with 1.582m listeners.

Listeners staying connected

The share of listening to commercial radio stations via connected devices remains constant quarter on quarter at 28.3% but up year on year from a figure of 25%.  The majority of connected listening is happening via smart speakers; smart speaker listening accounts for 60% of the total connected share. As we’ve said before, this opens up enhanced targeting opportunities for advertisers of all sizes.

Free lunch?

We’ve seen again how high profile established personalities with an established following – Ken Bruce, Chris Evans and Graham Norton included –  can turbo charge a station’s audience. However, there’s no such thing as free lunch, and there’s a lot of hard work required from the commercial teams to turn the audience numbers into ad dollars!

We will be back on Thursday 27th October and we’ll find out if Ken is still rocking the show…

National StationsReach 000sYonY Change %National NetworksReach 000sYonY change %London StationsReach 000sYonY change %
Classic FM4,475-10.0Heart Network UK8,2506.2Heart1,77811.6
talkSPORT3,22119.8Hits Radio Network6,5614.9Capital1,58217.0
Magic3,03212.1Capital Network UK6,0136.0Magic1,4264.9
Kiss2,486-1.4Greatest Radio Hits Network5,78744.0LBC1,413-0.8
Absolute Radio2,3576.1Smooth Radio Network UK5,1419.0Greatest Hits Radio1,14547.7

Sources: RAJAR Q2 2023.  Reach numbers are weekly adults 15+


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