The third quarter of 2023 was another mixed bag of events across the UK.
Greenpeace on Rishi’s Roof, a fourfold increase in sightings of Red Admiral Butterflies and Harry Kane’s move to Bayern Munich all contributed to the stories during this period. But whatever happens in the world, Radio is always there – providing the news, insight, debate and, of course, fun and entertainment for UK listeners.
For the third consecutive quarter, Commercial Radio reported its highest-ever audience reach of 39.3 million (70% reach). This is an increase of 2.9% year-on-year from 38.2 million in Q3 2022. Commercial Radio now has 7.6 million more listeners than the BBC’s reach of 31.7 million (56% reach). It also posted the second-highest-ever share of listening.
Since the latest figures were released, the Radio Experts team has been pouring over the data to bring you the highlights.
National Stations and Networks
It’s no surprise that Ken Bruce continues to draw audiences for his show on Greatest Hits Radio. His 10am-1pm slot grew 24% in Q3 to 3.7 million listeners. This helped GHR post a record-breaking RAJAR, increasing listening figures to an amazing 6.7 million with listening hours also up by 17% to 56.6m compared to Q2.
Heart is beating once again nationally, increasing reach by 2% up to 11.3m across all Heart Brand stations – a solid 200,000 increase on Q2.
For the Hits Radio Network, listening hours now stand at 51.5m, which is an increase of 1.5% quarter on quarter. Meanwhile, it’s smooth sailing for the Smooth Network, with some impressive numbers for Q3. Reach has increased by 6.5% to 5.5m and total listening hours are up by 8.4%. If we look at year on year, the picture is even rosier, with reach up 13.2% and total hours up 14.2%.
The Magic Network continues to wave its wand and add to the growth of the big networks with a 5.9% increase in weekly reach to 4.1m, and a 3.8% increase in total hours, in Q3 compared to Q2.
Over at the Radio X Network, Chris Moyles and Co. have kept the country rocking out with an increase of 10.7% in total hours in Q3, and a steady reach with nearly 2 million listeners.
The Capital brand remains as strong as ever with the network reaching over 7.99 million listeners each week, that means 14% of the UK population is listening to Capital Stations.
Pucker up because it was a good quarter for the KISS Network too. This Bauer-owned brand saw its weekly reach increase by 5.5% (from 4,244,000 to 4,479,000), and also reported a 3% increase in total hours.
The Absolute Network is absolutely holding steady this quarter with reach maintained at 5.4 million. Listeners like what they hear when they tune in because they’re listening for longer on average, resulting in a 3.4% increase in total listening hours, up to 39.8 million per week.
Looking at some of the other big National stations, all eyes were on BOOM Radio again to see whether it was boom or bust in Q3. Well, we can confirm that BOOM reported another explosive quarter this time around. Reach was up 3% to 662,000 weekly listeners, with hours also rising by 18% to a solid 11.7 hours per week.
Meanwhile, GB News is making headline news itself with hours up a whopping 40% and reach up 26% to just shy of 400,000 listeners every week. However, LBC and talkSPORT are still the front runners for the talk stations, with both in the region of 3 million weekly listeners.
Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations
With digital listening continuing to evolve, the choice for listeners is at an all-time high. 76% of the population tune in to Digital Radio every week. It’s an opportunity the networks have fully embraced, expanding the choice on offer.
The ‘decade’ stations in particular are showing impressive numbers. For example, in Q3, Bauer’s Absolute 80s has a weekly reach of 1.5m listeners and Global’s Heart 70’s has added 302,000 listening hours to give a total of 2.8m hours, an increase of 12%. Over at Capital Dance (led by Mista Jam) they’ve been hitting the beat well, also increasing total hours by over 12% from 4,030,000 to 4,550,00 in Q3 and reaching close to a million listeners.
Meanwhile, there Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, that could keep listeners away from Magic Soul! The station has seen an impressive 38.9% jump in total hours from last quarter (2,158,000 to 2,998,000) and a 9.3% increase in weekly reach in Q3 to 495,000.
In the big city, Heart is still loved by listeners, reflecting its popularity nationally, by increasing reach by over 300,000 weekly listeners and taking the station over the 2m listeners mark, up an impressive 17% from last quarter.
Over at Capital London they’ve also seen a rise in reach (from 1,582,000 to 1,819,000 weekly listeners), up 20% year on year and 15% quarter on quarter.
Meanwhile, Smooth Radio London is closing in as the strongest regional performer for the brand, with a 13% increase in weekly listeners in Q3, now at 1.05 million (just shy of Smooth North West at 1.06 million).
KISS London performed the best out of the Bauer network stations in London, with a weekly reach increase of 13.1%, and is hitting over the 1m mark for weekly listeners.
It’s abracadabra, as Magic London pulls an increase in weekly reach out of the hat – up 19.2% year on year and 6.9% quarter on quarter to over 1.5 million listeners.
Meanwhile, Greatest Hits Radio now reaches 1.1m weekly listeners in London for Q3.
The top 5 London stations are as follows:
Weekly Reach (‘000)
|Greatest Hits Radio London||1145|
Total Hours (‘000)
|Greatest Hits Radio London||6874|
The people of Sussex love a bit of Heart, with the station’s North transmitter reporting an amazing Q3 – a 25% increase in weekly reach to 35,000, and a whopping 71% growth in total hours (that’s an extra 2 hours per listener). Heart Exeter is also showing growth, gaining in reach and hours compared to the last two quarters, now with 67,000 weekly listeners, which is 22% higher than Q2.
It was an excellent set of results for Greatest Hits Radio locally, of the 66 local stations that make up the network, 82% gained some reach, 44% gained over 15% more listeners and 55% have increased total listening hours by over 15%. This is great news for local advertisers and those wanting to hyper target these areas. Greatest Hits stations with the most significant increases include Suffolk, up over 130% in hours and 65% in weekly reach, Bradford & West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and Coventry are up 128%, 87% and 76% respectively in total listening hours.
For the Hits Radio Network, stand out winners were Manchester, which increased total weekly hours by over 50%, and reach is now standing at an impressive 292,000 listeners per week in Q3, an increase of 10% since last quarter. Manchester was a particular highlight for Radio X as well, with an impressive 46.9% jump in total hours, rising from 1,497,000 to 2,199,000.
Staying with the North of the country, Smooth Radio North West and Smooth Radio North East posted significant increases in audience this quarter – in fact Smooth Radio North West maintained its spot as the highest reaching Smooth station with over 1m people tuning in each week after a rise of 11% quarter on quarter. Whereas Smooth North East is up 13% to 523,000 listeners each week.
Moving across to South Wales, and Smooth has continued with the great numbers, increasing reach by 14.3% to 80,000 and moving total hours up by 38.8%. Listeners now tune in for an average of 9.5 hours a week, compared to this time last year, people are now listening for an average of 4.1 hours longer every week.
So, what are the take outs of the RAJAR results for Q3 2023?
Commercial Radio achieved its highest-ever audience reach of 39.3 million, continuing to deliver big audiences for advertisers. Investment in the marketing of the radio brands, the presenting talent and those behind the scenes have all contributed to this amazing performance. The result is Radio is stronger than ever before, keeping pace with the developments in digital listening and is the perfect medium for advertisers looking to communicate with consumers.