The RAJAR results for Q4 2023 are in… and here is the big news you need to know.

Commercial Radio has added an additional 1 million weekly listeners, year on year.

The latest results reveal a sustained increase in commercial radio listening, as there are now 3.5 million more listeners tuning in to commercial stations compared to 5 years ago, an increase of 10%. The length of time people listen for has also increased as total listening hours have grown by 19%.

Commercial Radio now reaches 39.13 million listeners every week, 69% of the population, that’s almost 8 million more than BBC Radio, which reaches 31.29 million listeners, 56% of the population. Commercial Radio share is now at 54.8% (up from 54.1% compared to the previous quarter) whereas the BBC share of listening has fallen – down to 43.2% from 43.8%.

The latest figures have just been released and our audio specialist partner, Radio Experts, has been diving deep into the detail to bring you the highlights.

National Stations and Networks

Global remains the undisputed leader in the commercial radio market with a share of 23.4% of all radio listening and 25.2 million weekly listeners.

Over at Bauer, their network of stations and partners now reaches a huge 23 million listeners every week, with the latest RAJAR figures showing 8% growth in reach year-on-year.

The Ken Bruce effect has helped Bauer’s Greatest Hits Radio Network continue to grow its audience this quarter. It’s another record reach for the brand with 6.85 million listeners tuning in every week, up from 6.7 million compared to the previous quarter. Ken Bruce has personally increased his audience from 2.2 million listeners a week when he started with the station in the second quarter of last year to 3.8 million in Q3 2023.

The Capital brand remains as strong as ever with the entire brand, including Capital Xtra, reaching over 7.9 million listeners each week, which is 14% of the population across the UK.

Classic FM has tuned up with a strong Q3. Reach is up 5% to 4.7 million listeners per week and total hours are also up by an amazing 17%. This may have been helped by some new presenters coming on board plus additional investment in marketing the station.

The Heart brand is still very much loved with some steady increases. Reach is up 2% and total hours are also up 4% across the brand compared to Q3. Average hours per week are coming in at 6.6 per listener.

The Hits Radio Network marginally lost reach and hours compared to last quarter, but the network still reaches a whooping 6.3 million listeners every week and has a 4.9% share of listening in the UK.

It’s been a solid gold quarter for the Gold Network as a whole, with a slight dip in reach, now at 1.7 million each week, being counteracted by a 6.6% increase in its total hours.

The Smooth brand has made it smooth sailing, weekly reach across the network is steady at 5.5 million, or 6.2 million including all Smooth brand stations, such as Smooth Radio Country and Smooth Radio Chill.

Meanwhile, KISS Network is smacking its lips after it saw an increase in average hours per listener -from 4.8 to 4.9 hours this quarter.

Absolute Radio Network is absolutely on track – now reaching nearly 5.3 million listeners each week, up marginally from 5.2 million this time last year.

Its X marks the spot for the Radio X Network which has posted a solid set of results. The Rock and guitar-based station reported a slight increase in both reach and hours. It now has 2,013,000 weekly listeners, up 2% quarter on quarter and 1% year on year.

Looking at the news and talk stations…

LBC News (UK) had a very positive RAJAR with increases in both reach and total hours listened. Reach saw an increase by 8.7% quarter on quarter to 810,000, average hours per listener also climbed from 3.0 to 3.1 hours, resulting in total listening hours increasing by 11.8% (from 2,222,000 to 2,484,000).

Meanwhile, over at talkSPORT reach is now 3.1 million – up 2% compared to the previous quarter and hours are also up by 2%. It’ll be interesting to see whether those figures increase further this summer with coverage of the Euros in Germany.

New kid on the block, GB News, has had a good set of results. Weekly reach now accounts for 430,000 listeners, up 8% on the previous quarter.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

Digital listening is becoming more and more important for radio and is going from strength to strength. 76% of the population now tune in to Digital Radio every week. It’s an opportunity the networks have fully embraced, expanding the choice of musical genres on offer.

It’s clear that the UK loves Soul & Motown music, as Magic Soul saw a 9.6% increase in their total hours, rising from 2,998,000 to 3,285,000 in Q4 2023. Its reach has remained stable with 502,000 weekly listeners.

Global Radio can relax and chill-out as Capital Chill has increased its reach by an impressive 45% from 128,000 to 186,000 in Q4 2023. It’s also increased its total hours by a whopping 124% from 401,000 to 897,000.

Mullets are back in fashion as Absolute 80s has reported strong growth this quarter. Weekly reach is up 3% from 1.55 million last quarter to 1.59 million in Q4 2023. Average listening hours have also increased, leading to a 9% rise in total hours quarter on quarter to 8.5 million, which is an increase of 20% since Q4 2022.

The Heart decade stations have hit the high notes in Q4 2023. Heart 90’s is rocking away with an 18% increase in reach to 1.2 million and a nearly 30% increase in hours – that’s an increase of over 900,000 hours. But Heart 80’s is the winner. They’ve maintained reach, but listeners are listening for longer with over 1.9 million hours added in Q4 compared to Q3, up 33% to 7.6 million.

The UK’s biggest Hip Hop station, Capital XTRA, has increased its total hours by 19% from 5,239,000 to 6,213,000 with reach up 13% from 1,496,000 to 1,686,000 weekly listeners.

London

This is often where the real battle between radio brands takes place.

Heart London has had a solid quarter adding 1,466,000 listening hours to their total which equates to an increase of 14% to 11.9 million, this comes from adding just under one hour per listener to the average hours.

Second to Heart London in weekly reach is Magic London. Its total hours have risen by 56% from 7,424,000 to 11,578,000. Its weekly reach also saw a 9.6% increase, rising by 146,000 to 1,670,000. And to complete the hat-trick, Magic London’s average hours per listener also increased from 4.9 to 6.9.

LBC News (London) is making its own headlines. It saw a whopping 22.2% quarter on quarter increase in reach from 388,000 to 474,000. Furthermore, total hours increased by 11.7% to 1,503,000.

Bauer’s Greatest Hits Radio London station has grown in weekly reach by 25% to 1.44 million listeners and total hours are up by 13.4% to 7,794,000.

The top 5 London stations are as follows:

Weekly Reach

Heart London 2,003,000

Magic London 1,670,000

Capital London 1,618,000

Greatest Hits Radio London 1,394,000

Total Listening Hours

LBC London 14,866,000

Heart London 11,919,000

Magic London 11,578,000

Greatest Hits Radio London 7,794,000

Capital London 7,221,000

Locally

Outside of London there’s been some incredible increases in listening across the board.

Greatest Hits Radio Bucks, Beds & Herts increased its total hours by 54.7% and its reach by 11.7% compared to the last quarter. This station now reaches 67,000 listeners every week.

Over in Gloucestershire, Greatest Hits Radio also delivered some impressive numbers. Total hours are up by 51.4% and reach is up as well – by 13.8%, compared to Q3. The Gloucestershire station now reaches 33,000 listeners every week.

Much loved Clyde 1 in Glasgow increased its total hours by 33.7% and reach by 9%. Clyde 1 now reaches 683,000 listeners every week and has retained its strong reach in the area at 35% of all adults.

Staying North of the border, Nation Radio Scotland has increased both total hours and weekly reach in the central belt. Hours have increased by 28.4% and reach by 10.8% to 133,000 listeners every week, compared to Q3 2023.

Kent is in the spotlight. Not only is local football club, Maidstone United FC, through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, but Smooth Radio Kent has increased in reach by 31% – up from 74,000 to 97,0000 people tuning in per week. The Smooth station has also seen a huge 45% increase in total hours – up from 377,000 to 549,000 hours.

Meanwhile, Smooth Radio Thames Valley has increased in hours by a stunning 84% – up from 241,000 to 444,000 total hours. Weekly reach is now 66,000 and each listener is tuning in on average for 6.7 hours per week.

Summary

So, what does this all this mean?

Commercial Radio is flying high with a sustained increase in listening which is delivering big and diverse audiences for advertisers. The continued investment in talent, branding, and marketing (in particular, by Global and Bauer) has ensured that commercial radio is stronger than ever.

With further increases in digital listening, it’s the perfect medium for advertisers looking to reach consumers.

For a quick overview, take a look at the infographic.

Ian Southey

Ian Southey

Co-founder and Director of Skin Communications