The Q1 RAJAR results are in for the first three months of the year.
One standout result in terms of radio listening is the Ken Bruce effect. Although he only started on air at Greatest Hits Radio in April (a period not covered by these results), even the news of the high-profile presenter’s switch from Radio 2 has delivered a ratings boost to the Bauer Media Audio station.
Read on for the full RAJARs analysis…
More than 32.2 million people listened to BBC Radio stations live each week during the first quarter of 2023. BBC Sounds reached record audiences, with more than 4.6m weekly listeners across all platforms.
BBC stations had a solid quarter with Radio 2 down just 0.8% year-on-year to 14.46 million (still comfortably the most popular radio station). The results cover a period of one month following Ken Bruce’s departure and, encouragingly for the network, there was no dramatic shift in the overall ratings. Quarter on quarter, Radio 2 ratings were up 1.2%.
Charlotte Moore, BBC chief content officer, said: “Our brilliant music stations drew in audiences with their expert DJs, and Radio 2 with its incredible 14.46 million listeners delighted everyone with its unique content offer, which in this quarter put a spotlight on specialist music with programming such as 21st Century Folk, Country to Country music festival and Piano Room month with 20 live performances all accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra.”
For Radio 1, ratings were down 1.3% year-on-year to 7.58m (down 2.8% on the quarter). Both Zoe Ball (Radio 2) and Greg James (Radio 1) were steady at breakfast with, respectively, 7.26m and 4.05m listeners.
“Greg just continues to knock it out of the park with 300,000 new listeners to the Breakfast Show, and with our audience listening for longer, we’re really proud to be the No.1 station for young people across the UK,” said head of station Aled Haydn Jones, who’s quoting the age 10-plus listening figures for James.
As digital market leader, 6 Music is used to posting strong results. But this time the network is down 4.7% year-on-year to 2.71m. However, 6 Music was up 8.3% on the quarter (perhaps helped by the 6 Music Festival coverage including Christine & The Queens). The Lauren Laverne Breakfast Show on 6 Music has a weekly reach of 1.39m, up from 1.28m last quarter.
Asian Network is down 12.1% year-on-year (444,000). For a second consecutive quarter, though, BBC Radio 1Xtra is bouncing back: ratings are up 5.7% year-on-year to 792,000. At this rate, the station will be approaching its former 1m listener benchmark…
Faron McKenzie, head of BBC 1Xtra, said: “BBC 1Xtra’s continued growth is extremely encouraging to see and I'm so proud of my team’s relentless drive to deliver the best for our audience. We have seen another increase in our 10+ and 15+ listenership, as well as an increased audience of nearly four million across our social platforms – with a particular boost for our TikTok account, demonstrating our strong connection with younger audiences. The strategy we’ve developed at 1Xtra is clearly working and we have huge things planned for the rest of 2023 and beyond. Time to get back to work."
Commercial radio recorded its highest ever reach with 38.7m listeners (6.5m more listeners than BBC radio).
Global’s weekly reach is at a record 26.7m, and the media giant claims the top three commercial radio brands in the UK with Heart, Capital and Smooth.
Global hailed a record-breaking quarter for Heart, which had 11.2m weekly listeners across the network brand (of course, a growing portfolio of era-based brand extensions helps to bolster that number). Nevertheless, Heart Network is comfortably ahead of Radio 1 with 8.9m listeners (up 4.7% year-on-year). Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston & Amanda Holden is the biggest commercial radio breakfast show in the UK (4.017m).
Capital Network edged up 1.4% year-on-year to 6.15m. Roman Kemp was solid at breakfast with 2.6m listeners.
Hip-hop and R&B network Capital Xtra had a good quarter with double-digit growth (1.44m - up 10.7% year-on-year). As Global likes to point out, that’s double the ratings for BBC 1Xtra.
Capital Dance stumbled in terms of quarter-on-quarter growth, but the young station is on its way to 1m listeners. Its current figures stand at 903,000 (up 12.9% year-on-year).
Radio X now reaches 2.01m weekly listeners across the UK, up 4% year-on-year. At breakfast on Radio X, Chris Moyles’ audience is steady at 1m.
The Sky VIP Official Big Top 40 from Global also increased its lead over rival charts, scoring 1.6m weekly listeners.
James Rea, Global’s director of broadcasting & content, said: “This is a brilliant set of results for Global. Our teams work so hard to deliver world-class content and it is great to see their efforts being recognised. Congratulations to the Heart team for a truly magnificent set of figures, beating the 11m mark for the first time is a fantastic accomplishment, along with significant growth from our other brands, including Capital and LBC, all contributing to outstanding growth for Global.”
Ashley Tabor-King, Global’s founder & executive president, said: “How better to celebrate the 50th anniversary of commercial radio than to see record audience numbers for Global, our highest ever. We are delighted to see the UK’s first two commercial radio stations, LBC and Capital, both recording growth, and record numbers on the UK’s largest commercial brand, Heart. Thank you to our Global family who work so hard day in and day out to deliver these incredible results, they certainly are making everyone’s day brighter!”
BAUER MEDIA AUDIO
Bauer Media Audio UK claims a record 22.4m reach (up 6.5% year-on-year), including record performances by the Hits Radio Brand and Absolute Radio Networks.
Bauer also has more listening via a digital device than ever before (77.7%), ahead of the industry average (67.6%). It has six of the Top 10 digital commercial stations: Absolute Radio (No.1), Kisstory (No.2), Absolute 80s (No.5), Planet Rock (No.6), Absolute Radio 90s (No.8) and Absolute Classic Rock (No.10).
The Hits Radio Network was up 16.4% year-on-year to 6.7m, with the main Hits Radio station up to a record 1.8m (up 40.8% year-on-year).
The Greatest Hits Radio Network, which at the start of Q1 announced that Ken Bruce would be joining the station in April, has record reach at 5.3m (up 26.9% year-on-year). The publicity and marketing campaign appears to have paid off already and the station looks set for another boost once Bruce’s first RAJAR numbers at GHR are published in three months (when there will also be close attention paid to Radio 2’s performance including Vernon Kay in Bruce’s former morning slot). Simon Mayo added half a million listeners to his drivetime show on GHR, with a 2m reach (up 34.8% year-on-year).
The Absolute Radio Network has also recorded its highest ever audience at 5.3m reach (once again, a portfolio of brand extensions helped that result).
Since becoming digital-only, the main Absolute Radio station is now the No.1 commercial digital network. It is also home to the No.1 commercial drivetime show with an audience of 2.2m (up 10.5% year-on-year). Dave Berry’s Breakfast Show is steady on 2.2m.
The Kiss Network has a 4.2m reach, with the main Kiss station up to 2.5m (up 8.5% year-on-year). Kiss Fresh suffered a double-digit slump (it stands at a quarter of a million listeners, down 40,000), while Kisstory dipped to 2.16m.
Dee Ford, outgoing group MD, Bauer Media Audio UK, said: “Our relentless focus on delivering world-class content, while recruiting and nurturing the best talent in the industry is what continues to drive our growth and success at Bauer Media Audio UK. The future is exceptionally bright for commercial radio, and Bauer is in the best possible position to embrace the fantastic opportunities that lie ahead.”
Ben Cooper, chief content and music officer, Bauer Media Audio UK, said: “Greatest Hits Radio continues its unstoppable rise, with a million listeners added and that’s even before Ken Bruce had started – meanwhile Dave Berry’s Absolute Radio and Fleur East and the Hits Radio team celebrated their biggest ever audiences – so thank you for making this a record-breaking start to 2023 for Bauer Media Audio.”