RAJAR Q3 2019: radio market summary


RAJAR – or Radio Joint Audience Research – launch quarterly reports analysing who’s listening to the radio, and how this is split across the channels. Read on to see how audiences engaged with radio in Q3 2019.

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  • Q3 has seen an overall success for commercial radio with regards to reach and share, however the length of time audiences are listening for has taken a noteworthy hit.
  • It’s likely this is because audiences have more choice than ever before when it comes to how they spend their media day, and from an audio perspective this is no different.
  • The advancements in technology have resulted in Digital Audio becoming a significant player in the audio marketplace.
  • Online and in-app listening makes up the majority of digital listening, but more importantly, it makes up almost 40% of all listening. Figures like these mean for planners, digital audio can no longer be considered a ‘nice to have’, but an essential part of the audio plan.
  • With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas just around the corner, it will be interesting to see if there is a growth in ownership of voice-activated speakers and, in turn, the impact this has on digital audio.


The Context

  • UK radio listening has fallen below a billion hours for the first time since Q4 1999, a 2.5% decrease on the quarter and a 3.6% decrease on the year to 989.221m.
  • The UK has not fallen below the billion-hour mark in 20 years. Back in Q4 1999, RAJAR estimated the adult (15+) population to be 47.9m, and today it estimates it as 55.0m. That’s a 15% increase over a 20-year period, yet over that same period, hours haven’t truly grown.
  • Between Q3 2003 and today, amongst those aged 15-24-years listening hours have nearly halved, from 154m to below 80m.
  • However, the dip in this age group from Q2 2019 is only slight, and in this instance may reflect that more of us were outside and away from the radio during the summer.
  • Similarly, listening amongst 25-34s isn’t much better, falling 35% from its peak.
  • Indeed, in Q2 1999, when the current RAJAR methodology begins, those aged 15-44 years accounted for nearly half of all radio listening (49.3%). Today, they account for just over a third of listening (34.6%).


With linear listening hours, it’s important for us to find where audiences are consuming their audio and reach them through a varied audio mix. But first, let’s take an in-depth look at the findings from RAJAR Q3 2019.

BBC Radio Summary

  • The BBC’s total weekly reach over the period was 33.5 million, which is down -2.45% YoY.
  • This drop has mainly been driven by a significant loss in listeners to Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show. More than 1 million listeners have switched off (or over) since she took over from Chris Evans in January. This takes the Radio 2 Breakfast show down -4.4% QoQ and -10.4% YoY.
  • Radio 1 has seen more of a success story than Radio 2, with Greg James gaining 180,000 new listeners for Radio 1’s Breakfast Show in the last year, with a reach of 5 million.


Commercial Radio Summary

  • In a world of uncertainty surrounding Brexit (don’t worry, this will be the only mention of the ‘B’ word!), one thing we can still rely on is the strength of commercial radio
  • Commercial radio has achieved its biggest share of market in more than 20 years, with share of listening hours at 48.1%, increasing 5.3% vs RAJAR Q3 2018
  • Siobhan Kenny, Radiocentre Chief Executive said: “With radio continuing to hold the nation’s attention against increasing competition in the news and entertainment sectors, it’s great that commercial radio continues to grow audience.”
  • Global remains the top commercial broadcaster with a record share of 24%, capturing much of the growth during the quarter:
    • In terms of weekly listening, Heart took the top commercial radio spot with a record 9.8 million weekly listeners, up 150,000 YoY (+1%)
    • Heart’s growth will have been aided by the launch of The All New Heart Breakfast Show presented by Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden, who’s RAJAR debut comes in at 4.6m weekly listeners. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain this strong launch when Q4’s numbers are released.
    • Global’s other main power brands, Capital and Smooth, achieved 8.1 million and 5.8 million weekly listeners respectively
  • Overall, Bauer Media achieved a record 18.4 million listeners this quarter (+1% YoY):
    • Hits Radio saw the most significant growth in audience, up 3.8% YoY to 6.7 million listeners
    • Absolute Radio achieved their highest ever audience of 4.9 million (+1.4% YoY)
    • As well as holding onto linear radio listeners, Bauer have also invested heavily into their digital offering, with 72% of Bauer’s listening delivered via a digital device vs. the industry average of 57%
  • After launching ad-free in January, the Chris Evan’s Breakfast Show remains stable with a slight growth of 0.3% QoQ, reaching 1.1 million adults per week, however it doesn’t appear to have seen audiences flocking from his Radio 2 show. It will be interesting to see the direction Virgin’s flagship show takes in Q4’s results.
  • Overall, RAJAR Q3 2019 has shown a successful picture for Commercial Radio. For our clients, these results enforce the strength, reliability and scale of radio as part of the overall media mix, particularly in such a fragmented marketplace constantly battling for audience attention.


Digital Listening

  • Digital listening share has increased to a new record of 56.8%, up from 52.4% in Q3 2018, boosted by the growth of listening online and via apps, and to digital listening in car and to national digital stations
    • The most popular digital-only station is KISSTORY, increasing by 18.4% to reach a new record of 2.554 million listeners
    • Absolute 80s which grew by 3.5% to reach a new record of 1.824 million listeners
    • Heart 80s which increased by 23.2% to reach a new record of 1.672 million listeners
    • Mellow Magic which grew by 23.6% to reach 664,000 listeners
    • Virgin Radio which grew by 242% to reach 1.417 million listeners
    • talkRADIO which grew by 56.7% to reach 409,000.
  • The jewel in the crown of the RAJAR Q3 results is the continuing growth of digital audio.
  • Overall, digital listening grew by 24.1 million listeners (+5% YoY). This has been aided by the continued investment and growth in technology, making digital audio increasingly accessibly amongst audiences.
  • Listening via online and apps grew by 29.4 million hours (+1% YoY), which now accounts for 39.7% of all listening and 70% of digital listening
  • 28% of all adults claim to own a voice-activated speaker. This continued rise in popularity of voice-activated speakers has aided the growth of listening online and via app in the home.
  • Listening in this way is, for the second consecutive quarter, the fastest growing format to consume audio with an increase of 22.5 million hours (+33% YoY).
  • As an agency, we plan an audience-first approach as opposed to channel-first and the continual rise in digital audio is something we cannot ignore or discount from our client’s audio planning.
  • The growth in voice-activated speakers is something we need to continue to grow as part of Audio strategy by using dynamic audio to target by device. According to RadioCentre’s Hear And Now research, advertising that directly relates to tasks or activities that listeners are participating increases engagement with advertising by 23%.
  • The effects of speaking to people at relevant times endure beyond the moment to help build brand salience, with spontaneous ad recall increasing by 56% and prompted ad recall increasing by 33%


You can find out more about RAJAR here.

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