RAJAR Q3 analysis: BBC Radio 6 Music ratings soar following schedule changes

RAJAR Q3 analysis: BBC Radio 6 Music ratings soar following schedule changes

BBC Radio 6 Music has seen ratings soar in the past three months, according to the latest Q3 audience figures from RAJAR (June 26 to September 17, 2023).

The digital-only alternative station has a weekly audience of 2.753 million, up 11.7% year-on-year and an increase of 3.1% on the prior quarter. It remains the biggest digital radio station.

The 6 Music Breakfast Show with Lauren Laverne had 1.4m listeners. 

6 Music won the Radio Station category at the 2023 Music Week Awards.

An audience of 2.75m is not quite a record result – the station headed by Samantha Moy hit 2.85m in Q2 last year – but it’s impressive nonetheless at a time when other BBC networks are shedding listeners. 

6 Music implemented a series of schedule changes in the quarter, including the launch of evening show New Music Fix with Deb Grant & Tom Ravenscroft in early June. 6 Music Artist In Residence (featuring acts such as Manic Street Preachers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Idles) was moved to a more high-profile schedule time of 9pm, while Marc Riley and Gideon Coe were paired in the 10pm to midnight slot.

6 Music has also brought back Cillian Murphy to his late-night show, although that was not covered by this set of RAJAR figures. Veteran presenter Steve Lamacq stepped down from his weekly show on Friday (October 20) after 18 years.

Radio 2 remains the most popular station in the country on 13.473m, though it was down 6.8% year-on-year – a loss of around 970,000 listeners – but stable compared to the prior quarter. The station has 6.5m tuning in for The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, while Vernon Kay has the biggest UK radio show with 6.9m listeners having taken over Ken Bruce’s mid-morning slot. However, that’s 1.3m fewer than Bruce had when he left the station.

Charlotte Moore, BBC chief content officer, said: “Radio 2 continues to be the country’s most popular station and I’m delighted with the flying start Vernon Kay has made to mid-mornings as the UK’s biggest radio show, bringing his warmth, energy and charisma to listeners up and down the country.”

Radio 1 was down 4.6% year-on-year to 7.773m, though it was up 1% on the prior quarter. Greg James has 3.998m listeners at breakfast.

“In a summer quarter, which is traditionally difficult for Radio 1, we are pleased to see stable figures which follows the gains made in this quarter last year,” said station head Aled Haydn Jones. “We had so much fun over the summer with projects like Greg James’ DJ Hunt, so it’s satisfying to see them reflected in these audience figures and on BBC Sounds.”

After recent gains, BBC 1Xtra lost a chunk of its audience in Q3. With 644,000 weekly listeners, the station was down 11% year-on-year and dived 15.5% compared to the prior quarter.

In contrast, BBC Radio 3 surged to just over two million, a year-on-year increase of 17.2%. The Proms coverage aired on the station during the quarter.

Asian Network was down 2.9% to 462,000.


Commercial radio recorded its highest ever reach in the quarter, with 39.3m weekly listeners (up 2.9% year-on-year).

Global is the No.1 commercial radio group with 26.4m listeners. 

Heart is the biggest commercial radio brand, while the network has 8.587m listeners (up 8.1% year-on-year).

Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden is the biggest commercial radio and breakfast show in the UK with 3.805m weekly listeners. 

Capital Network had a similar increase, up 6.9% year-on-year to 6.116m. Roman Kemp was stable at breakfast with 2.484m listeners. 

Capital Dance has been on a growth trajectory and it’s up again year-on-year – the station’s audience has increased by 19% to 976,000. However, it’s down on the quarter which takes it below the million listeners it managed to reach in Q2.

The Radio X brand has its highest ever reach, with 2.22m listeners tuning in every week, 65,000 more than the last quarter. At breakfast on Radio X, the Chris Moyles Show set a new record with 1.192m, having added 75,000 listeners in the last quarter.  

Capital Xtra has 1.496m listeners (up 4.8%), while the brand’s Reloaded station surged by 45.7% year-on-year to 472,000. Capital Xtra Breakfast with Robert Bruce and Shayna Marie has 558,000 listeners, a year-on-year increase in both reach and hours.   

Ashley Tabor-King, founder & executive president of Global, said: “When we started Global in 2007, we wanted to reinvigorate the commercial radio market after many years of decline. It’s just brilliant to see it happening, and continuing to grow and grow. There’s record audiences for both the sector and some of our brands, bringing listeners more of what they love. We’re proud to have pioneered the growth of commercial radio and we continue to innovate.” 

James Rea, director of broadcasting & content at Global, said: “This is another set of fantastic results from the team at Global. It's incredible to see even further growth for Heart, the UK’s biggest commercial radio brand. I'm also delighted to see the iconic Capital brand deliver impressive growth and a record audience high for Smooth. When it comes to delivering world class content, there’s no better team in the business - a massive thanks to everyone at Global.”  


Ken Bruce has been the biggest story in broadcasting this year, following his defection from Radio 2 to Greatest Hits Radio.

The Greatest Hits Radio network has grown its reach by 61.6% year on year, now reaching 6.66m weekly listeners. Ken Bruce’s audience has grown to 3.7m (three million in Q2) and Simon Mayo has the biggest commercial drivetime show, reaching 2.5m listeners (up 71% year-on-year). Greatest Hits at Breakfast with Rossie now has 2.744m listeners (up 71.8% year-on-year).

The Hits Radio Network is stable at 6.529m listeners a week, with flagship station Hits Radio reaching a record 1.895m listeners (up 53.7% year-on-year).  

The Hits Radio Brand, which is the portfolio combining the Hits Radio and Greatest Hits Radio Networks, has a record 12.011m weekly reach, and record 14.1m when partner stations are included.

The Absolute Radio Network has a record 5.458m weekly listeners (up 3.9%). Dave Berry also has a record 2.333m listeners at breakfast. 

Absolute Radio Country is the UK’s biggest country station with 430,000 weekly listeners (up 52.5%).

Kiss was off 3.8% year-on-year at 2.599m, but there was record reach for Kisstory, which is almost ahead of the parent station on 2.572m weekly listeners (up 11.9%). Kiss Breakfast with Jordan and Perri has over 1.046m listeners (up 2.1%). Kiss Fresh increased 13.8% year-on-year to 289,000.

Bauer has a record result of more than 81% of listening via digital devices and is home to three of the Top 5 digital commercial stations – Kisstory (No.1), Absolute Radio (No.2) and Absolute 80s (No.4). It’s also ahead of the market in terms of listening via connected devices, with Bauer reporting 29.4% of listening via smart speaker, web and app.

Simon Myciunka, CEO for Bauer Media Audio UK, said: “Yet again, more and more people are choosing to listen to Bauer stations and for longer. This is the place to reach quality audiences, including Greatest Hits Radio which now has the biggest market share of any commercial radio station in the UK.”

Ben Cooper, chief content & music officer, Bauer Media Audio UK, said: “Ken Bruce and the Greatest Hits Radio team have surpassed our expectations with record-breaking growth as new audiences enjoy our mix of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s music. Congratulations to our Breakfast shows on Absolute Radio, Kiss, Magic Radio, GHR, Hits Radio and Planet Rock, which have all increased listeners, helping Bauer Media Audio UK achieve its fifth consecutive record reach.”

Elsewhere, Virgin Radio was up 12.6% to 1.498m, with Chris Evans adding 100,000 listeners at breakfast over the past year (876,000).


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