RAJAR Q2 Results: Carat's in-depth analysis


This was another particularly strong quarter for radio listening. Wireless Group report strong growth since the launch of their new stations, talkSPORT2, talkRADIO and Virgin whilst digital listening continues to go from strength to strength.  Carat’s Mike Wood, Monica Rodrigues, Jerome Nichols and Lyndsey Terrill round up the results from this quarter’s RAJAR report.

radio rajars analysis

Top 10 BBC Stations – Reach and Year and Year performance

  1. BBC Radio 2 15.298m (+1.04%)
  2. BBC Radio 4 11.507m (+8.82%)
  3. BBC Radio 1 9.455m (-9.40%)
  4. BBC Radio 5 Live 5.858m (+10.07%)
  5. BBC 6Music 2.266m (+10.27%)
  6. BBC Radio 3 2.201m (+16.21%)
  7. BBC Radio 4 Extra 1.950m (-0.20%)
  8. BBC World Service 1.454m (-6.07%)
  9. BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra 1.310m (-19.38%)
  10. 1Xtra from the BBC 1.079m (+12.63%)

BBC radio represents 52.2% of all weekly radio listening. However, its overall reach figure has dropped below that of commercial radio, with 65% of UK listeners tuning into BBC Radio each week compared to 66% for Commercial.

As per most quarters, Radio 1 provides the bad news stories for the BBC in terms of their radio listening. Their reach figure of 9.46m is the lowest in 13 years although they would argue that, as with many stations, particularly those aimed at younger listeners, radio listening is now just one of the station’s touchpoints. Combined with its 3.2m YouTube subscribers, 2.4m Facebook fans and 2.7m Twitter followers; their true reach figure will extend beyond the 9.46m. 

Meanwhile, Radio 3 has seen its best reach figures in five years with 2.2m listeners whilst Radio 4 has achieved its best ever reach since the RAJAR methodology changed in 1999 with 11.5m listeners (+8.8% year on year).

The UK’s other main news / talk focused stations, BBC 5 Live and LBC, both saw strong year-on-year results (+10.1% and +16.7%). This may be attributable to a greater interest in news around Brexit (as well as Euro 2016 for 5 Live) and it will be interesting to see if they manage to retain listeners.

BBC 6 Music (2.27m) and Asian Network (676k) both saw all-time record reach levels while 1Xtra’s increase of 12.6% reach year-on-year to 1.079m shows that it’s not all bad news for youth radio programming.

Top 10 commercial national brands – Reach (000s) and YoY performance (%):

  1. Heart Network; 8.9m (+1.1%)
    2. Capital Network; 7.8m (+10.5%)
    3. Bauer City Network; 7m (+0.6%)
    4. Kiss Network; 5.5m (+5.4%)
    5. Classic FM; 5.5m (+4.5%)
    6. Smooth Radio Network; 4.9m (+6.9%)
    7. Absolute Radio Network; 4.3m (+6.1%)
    8. Magic Network; 3.7m (-8.9%)
    9. talkSPORT;3.2m (+8.4%)
    10. Absolute 80s; 1.6m (-1.4%)

This quarter has seen the results of the latest RAJAR affected by a number of high-profile events including the Brexit outcome, the European Championships and a wave of new stations.

The big story to come out of this is that National radio has once again, overtaken the BBC in terms of reach.

It’s all change over at Wireless Group as Virgin Radio debuts with an impressive 409,000 listeners but talkRADIO racks up a disappointing 224,000 whilst talkSPORT2 manages 285,000. Over at Bauer, Mellow Magic brings in 380,000 weekly listeners and Magic Chilled pulls in 233,000.

Kiss also continues to grow YoY – up 500,000 listeners across the UK. On the other hand, Planet Rock has dropped below a million listeners for the first time in three years, down 22% QoQ with 986,000 listeners.

Over at Global, Heart remains the number station up 1% YoY whilst Capital XTRA continues to top itself by reaching 1.3m – up 40% YoY.

Top 10 digital only commercial station (Reach + Year on Year %)

  1. Absolute Radio 80’s 1,581k (-1.4%)
  2. Kisstory 1,540k (+5.6%)
  3. Smooth Extra 987k       (N/A)
  4. Planet Rock 986k (-21.0%)
  5. Heat 872k (-0.7%)
  6. The Hits 741k (+6.9%)
  7. Kerrang! 734k (-12.9%)
  8. Absolute Radio 90’s 679k (+26.0%)
  9. Jazz FM 597k (+17.9%)
  10. Kiss Fresh 593k (+8.2%)

This is a significant quarter for digital listening and radio listening as a whole with the release of the first set of RAJAR results for a number of the new stations on the new ‘national’ D2 multiplex (which, for full disclosure, actually only covers around 75% of the UK).

For digital in general we have record levels of listening via digital platforms which now accounts for 45.3% of all time spent listening to radio (up from 44.1% last quarter) and 78.6% of listeners tuning in at some point during the week via a digital platform.

In the last quarter Absolute 80’s was the largest digital only commercial station and this quarter has seen a drop in both hours (-10%) and reach (-8%). It wouldn’t be surprising if a major factor in this was the fact that it moved from the existing D1 multiplex with around 90+% of coverage of the UK to D2 (75% coverage) so there will have been a large number of people who were unable to receive it any more on their radio. This theory is backed up by Planet Rock’s drop in hours (-21%) and reach (-22%) having made the same move across multiplex. But overall digital commercial listening is strong with the vast majority of stations in this area increasing their year-on-year reach.

On to the new stations – firstly Virgin Radio which attracted the highest level of reach of any of the new stations with 490k listeners tuning in for 1.45m hours each week.  Although there is a possibility that some of these listeners may be misattributed from Absolute Radio, which used to be Virgin, The Wireless Group (who own the station) will be pleased with these numbers which were significantly above original expectations.

talkSPORT2 reaches 285k listeners for 913k hours per week. To be honest, I feel that this is a station which may go up and down in terms of listening due to the changing content. It’s almost talkSPORT’s equivalent to the BBC’s red button service on TV – people go to hear more on a topic that interests them.  It covers a collection of bits and pieces that don’t quite fit on the main station and is unlikely to be anyone’s first choice.

talkRADIO is the smallest of The Wireless Group’s stations with 224k listeners and 840k hours. However, this is early days for a speech station which probably struggles to grab listeners more than a traditional music station. The small number of existing speech stations attract and hold their loyal listeners for long hours. The station’s listenership will undoubtedly grow but it may require more time as listeners find the station and the programming strands/presenters that interest them.

The other important thing to bear in mind with the three stations mentioned above, as well as talkSPORT, is that they’ve recently been bought by Newscorp which will give them significant clout in terms of finance and resources to help them push on in future.

The other new stations producing their first RAJAR results on the Q2 service are Bauer’s sister stations Mellow Magic (380k listeners/1.6m hours) and Magic Chilled (233k listeners/601k hours). These are both good starts and help to  further build the Magic brand after the main stations move to the national digital multiplex last year.

Top 10 London Commercial stations – Reach (000s) and YoY performance (%):

  1. Capital London; 2.266m (+3%)
  2. Kiss 100; 2.127m (+0.3%)
  3. Heart 106.2; 1.724m (-13.1%)
  4. Magic 105.4; 1.632m (-18-4%)
  5. Classic FM; 1.426m (-1.2%)
  6. LBC 97.3; 1.292m (+13.6%)
  7. TalkSPORT; 0.805 (+13.1%)
  8. Smooth Radio London; 0.782m (+14.3%)
  9. Absolute Radio London; 0.765m (-9.7%)
  10. Capital XTRA London; 0.639m (+33.7%)
  11. Radio X London; 0.442m (+1.8%)

There was a continued pattern of growth from Capital London which saw an increase of 27.5% versus the number of listeners it saw during the same time last year. It remains as the most popular station with 2.26m listeners.

Heart has overtaken Magic into third place whilst LBC has done particularly well, jumping up to fifth place with 1.2m listeners tuning in.

The fantastic success of Capital London has ensured that the gap between them and their closest rival, Kiss, has been further increased with Kiss only up a conservative 6.8% YoY. This is a significant win for Global, as Kiss London was ahead of Capital by almost 100k listeners at the same time last year.

London Breakfast Shows

Top 5 London Commercial Breakfast stations – Reach (000s) and YoY performance (%):

  1. Capital FM; 1.133m (+5%)
  2. Kiss 100; 0.921m (+20.2%)
  3. LBC 97.3; 0.741m (+3.1%)
  4. Heart 106.2; 0.694m (-21.8%)
  5. Magic 105.4; 0.691m (-25.1%)

In spite of the departure of the long-standing host, Lisa Snowdon just before Christmas, the Capital breakfast show boasts great results as they continue to draw a massive audience of 1.13m listeners, with the show currently up 33.5% YoY.

Despite having launched a seven-month long partnership with Three and extending their show by an hour, Kiss 100’s breakfast show with Ricky, Melvin and Charlie has seen a 4% decline YoY. However, KISS is still the second most listened to breakfast show with just over 850,000 listeners tuning in each week.

Surprisingly, LBC’s breakfast show is now the 3rd most popular London breakfast show seeing an increase of 12.6% YoY. Considering a QoQ decline in listeners across a number of London breakfast shows, the stations still report huge YoY increases in their listenership.


radio rajars analysis
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