RAJAR Q3 2023

RAJAR Q3 2023

This post is brought to you in association with RALF from DP Software and Services. I’ve used RALF for the many years, and it’s my favourite RAJAR analysis tool. So I am delighted that I continue to be able to bring you this RAJAR analysis in association with RALF. For more details on the product, contact Deryck Pritchard via this link or phone 07545 42567.

Overall Trends

There are new RAJARs out today, representing the quarter that ended in late September this year. For the bigger national stations, that means the data covers just the summer months when people’s routines can vary from normal, meaning that their listening patterns tend to change more than in other quarters. However, for many commercial stations and groups that have six month weighting of their listening data, this set of results represents listening between April and September.

But it is still sometimes worth stepping back and seeing where radio currently sits, because in overall terms, listening continues to hold up well.

Across all adults, overall radio listening is currently at 88% of the population, with 49.5m weekly listeners (up 0.1% on the quarter, down 0.3% on the year), with hours still over 1bn a week with 1.016bn (flat on the quarter, down 0.6% on the year).

And much of that listening by mid-2023 is digital – whether it’s DAB, streaming or through digital TV. 76% of the adult population listen via a digital platform each week (representing 86% of all radio listeners), and they represent 70% of all listening (714m hours a week).

In other words, only less than one third of radio listening is to FM or AM radio.

With a consistent 61% of all adults using it each week, DAB maintains its position as the most popular way that audiences listen to radio, but internet listening is just behind with 41% of all adults using it. In particular, 23% of adults (13m people) use smart speakers to listen to the radio.

Having suffered a disappointing quarter in Q2, BBC listening has stabilised to an extent this quarter. All BBC reach was flat on the quarter, but down 4.0% on the year to 31.7m (in large part due to Q2 declines). Hours were up 1.4% on the quarter and down 6.6% on the year to 445m.

Commercial Radio on the other hand had another great quarter, up 0.2% on the quarter and up 2.9% on the year to 39.3m. Hours fell 0.7% on the quarter, but were up 5.6% on the year to 39.3m. These figures represent Commercial Radio’s biggest ever reach (and second biggest ever listening hours following last quarter’s record) – quite some achievement coming during the period that Commercial Radio has been celebrating its 50th anniversary in the UK.

National Stations

Radio 1 had mixed results, up 1.0% in reach on the quarter, but down 4.6% on the year to 7.8m. Hours were slightly better, up 2.1% on the quarter and down 0.4% on the year to 48.6m.

The big story last time out was Radio 2 following the departure of Ken Bruce, and they have stabilised this time around, although year on year numbers still reflect the previous Q2 falls. Reach is up 0.1% on the quarter, but down 6.8% on the year to 13.5m. Hours were up 1.6% on the quarter, but down 18.8% on the year to 133m. It’s always worth remembering that Radio 2 remains the country’s biggest radio station by quite some margin, and it accounts for 13% of all radio listening hours.

Radio 3 had a very strong quarter, perhaps bolstered by The Proms which fell into this period. Reach was back up over 2m, up 17.6% on the quarter and up 17.2% on the year. Hours were up 5.6% on the quarter and up 1.3% on the year. Quite the contrast to other classical music services as we shall see.

Radio 4 also had a decent quarter, up 3.9% on the quarter, but still down 4.9% on the year in reach, with 9.3m, so still short of the 10m it might hope to sit at. Hours were up 5.3% on the quarter and down 1.9% on the year to 110m.

Radio 5 Live had a very decent quarter, with reach up 10.2% on the quarter and up 14.1% on the year to 5.6m. Hours were up 1.4% on the quarter and up 10.5% on the year to 30.3m. While there wasn’t an Olympics or major men’s football tournament over the summer, there was the women’s football World Cup which might have helped, alongside all the regular summer sports like Wimbledon and cricket.

And The Ashes seems very likely to have helped Five Live Sports Extra which had a massive bump, up 61% on the quarter and up 28% on the year to 2.2m. Hours were up 115% on the quarter and up 88% on the year to 11.2m.

6 Music had a fairly decent set of numbers too, with reach up 3.1% on the quarter and up 11.7% on the year to 2.8m, only about 100,000 listeners off their record best. Hours were down 8.0% on the quarter and up 6.7% on the year to 25.8m.

The BBC World Service had a disappointing quarter with reach down 12.8% on the quarter and down 21.9% on the year to 940,000. Hours were down 13.1% on the quarter and down 22.5% on the year to 4.4m.

BBC Local Radio has been making a lot of headlines recently with some significant changes in schedules and programme sharing being rolled out. It should be noted that some of the biggest changes only just creep into this period, and therefore aren’t fully included in this data. Overall, across all BBC Local Radio (including nations’ stations), reach was down 4.1% on the quarter and down 6.2% on the year to 7.3m. Hours were down 9.0% on the quarter and down 5.2% on the year to 52.3m.

I said last quarter that Greatest Hits Radio would take a little time to fully filter through given the fact that it records over a six month period. Therefore, it’s not unexpected that their numbers continue to climb very strongly. Reach was up 13.8% on the quarter and 77% on the year to 6.6m. Hours were up 18.4% on the quarter and up 99% on the year to 55.9m!

That makes Greatest Hits Radio very slightly bigger in listening hours than the Heart Network (although the Heart Brand remains bigger, including Heart’s decade stations). And obviously, these are new all-time records for Greatest Hits.

And the station will continue to grow as a few other stations get swallowed up and rebranded. For example, next Monday Jack FM in Oxfordshire will become Greatest Hits Radio. It’s all additive to the overall brand.

Ken Bruce saw his 10am-1pm slot grow 24% this quarter to 3.7m. For those interested, this compares with Vernon Kay’s 9.30am-12.30pm show which has 6.9m (flat on the previous quarter).

Classic FM had a poor quarter, with reach down 0.2% on the quarter and down 3.8% on the year to 4.5m. Hours were down 7.7% on the quarter and down 8.5% on the year to 35m. Classic FM has been experiencing something of a slow decline over recent years. It’s hours are now the lowest it’s had since 2016, while it’s reach is the lowest it’s ever had under the current methodology.

talkSPORT had mixed results. Its reach was down 6.6% on the quarter but up 11.2% on the year to 3.0m. Hours were down 1.2% on the quarter but up 15.5% on the year to 20.4m. Of course, this was a period with little men’s football, the bedrock of the station.

LBC suffered a bit this quarter, down 3.1% on the quarter, although up 0.7% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were down 5.8% on the quarter and down 4.9% on the year to 25.9m.

Times Radio had generally poor results, with reach down 4.8% on the quarter and down 8.1% on the year to 498,000. That represents the station’s lowest reach since it launched in Q3 2021 (with 637,000 listeners at the time). Hours were down 1.8% on the quarter, but up 21.8% on the year to 3.9m.

Virgin Radio was better, with reach up 4.2% on the quarter and up 12.6% on the year to 1.5m. Hours were up 7.7% on the quarter and up 17.5% on the year to 9.8m. Across the Virgin Radio Network everything was up, giving it 2.0m reach and 12.4m hours.

TalkRadio had mixed results with reach down 5.1% on the quarter, but up 8.3% on the year to 690,000. Hours were up 12.9% on the quarter and up 17.6% on the year to 5.1m.

Of course it’s another record for Boom Radio with 662,000 reach (up 3.3% on the quarter and up 49.4% on the year) and a very healthy 7.7m hours (up 17.7% on the quarter and up 95.9% on the year). The other thing to note about Boom’s listeners is that they’re very loyal. They listen for an average of 11.7 hours per week. That’s more than Radio 2 (9.9 hours), 5 Live (5.4 hours) and nearly the same as Radio 4 (11.8 hours).

Brands and Networks

Absolute Radio saw its reach up 0.8% on the quarter, but down 4.5% on the year to 2.4m. Hours were down 1.5% on the quarter and down 10.0% on the year to 16.3m.

Across the whole Absolute Radio Network, there was a positive story with reach up 0.5% on the quarter and up 3.9% on the year to 5.5m. Hours were up 3.4% on the quarter and 8.5% on the year to 39.8m.

All Absolute Radio’s decades stations saw at least a quarter on quarter reach increase, but the two biggest of their digital stations are Absolute Radio 90s (996,000 reach – up 0.2% on the quarter and up 3.6% on the year), and Absolute 80s (1.55m reach – down 9.9% on the quarter and up 0.3% on the year).

The 80s station battle is tightening up with Heart 80s being the biggest of the Heart decade stations. It’s reach was up 5.8% on the quarter and up 19.3% on the year to 1.679m. Hours were down 7.4% on the quarter and up 1.9% on the year to 5.7m.

That means, that Heart 80s has overtaken Absolute 80s for the second time (it briefly overtook Absolute 80s back in Q1 2023, but I missed that at the time, then Absolute 80s regained its #1 position last quarter). I would note that these days, both stations broadcast in stereo using DAB+.

The Heart Network had a good quarter with reach up 0.8% on the quarter and up 8.1% on the year to 8.6m. Hours were down 2.2% on the quarter but up 1.9% on the year to 54.2m.

Over the entire Heart Brand, the reach was up 1.8% on the quarter and up 12.1% on the year to 11.3m. Hours fell 2.8% on the quarter but were up 9.6% on the year to 73.4m. The aforementioned Heart 80s contributed most to this, although Heart 70s does decently (702,000 reach and 2.8m hours).

The Capital Network saw growth this quarter as well, with reach up 1.7% on the quarter and 6.9% on the year to 6.1m. Hours were similarly up 0.3% on the quarter and 6.2% on the year to 30.4m. With growth across both Capital XTRA and Capital XTRA Reloaded, the overall Capital Brand was up 2.6% on the quarter and 8.6% on the year to 8.0m. And hours were up 2.3% on the quarter and up 10.5% on the year to 42.1m.

A good quarter for the Smooth Network with reach up 6.5% on the quarter and up 13.2% on the year to 5.5m. Hours were up 8.4% on the quarter and up 14.2% on the year to 39.1m. Across the whole Smooth Brand everything was up too. Reach is at 6.2m (5.7% up on the quarter, 11.4% up on the year), and hours are at 44.0m (6.5% up on the quarter, 12.0% up on the year).

Radio X saw some modest gains with reach up 0.1% on the quarter and up 0.4% on the year to 2.0m. That’s an incredibly consistent audience! Hours were up 10.7% on the quarter and up 1.1% on the year to 18.2m. Radio X Classic Rock saw its reach fall back 37% on the quarter to 174,000. Hours were down 7.4% on the quarter to 1.3m.

Having seen Kisstory overtake Kiss for the first time last quarter, the digital sibling has been usurped by its older brother/sister this quarter – at least. Kiss was up 4.5% on the quarter and up 6.6% on the year to 2.599m. Hours were down 6.8% on the quarter and down 16.7% on the year to 9.1m. But those reach figures just beat Kisstory’s 2.572m (up 1.1% on the quarter; up 13.6% on the year). I’ve not rounded the figures to show how tight it is between these two! Kisstory’s hours are bigger however, with 12.8m (up 16.1% on the quarter; up 38% on the year).

Mixed results at Magic, with reach up 4.0% on the quarter and up 8.9% on the year to 3.2m. But hours fell 1.5% on the quarter and were down 1.1% on the year to 15.2m. But if you add in some of Magic’s digital services, the Magic Network had a good quarter with reach up 5.9% on the quarter and up 10.7% on the year to 4.1m. Hours were up 3.8% on the quarter and up 4.6% on the year to 22.1m.

Scala, Bauer’s classical music station is struggling right now. Reach is at 201,000 (down 18% on the quarter and down 24% on the year, while hours are just 1.6m (up 0.8% on the quarter, but down 32% on the year). As with Classic FM, that’s the lowest reach in the station’s much shorter history.

Global vs Bauer

The Global vs Bauer story is an interesting one, because Bauer is edging ever closer towards Global. It gets a little complicated here, because both Bauer and Global use multiple sets of figures. Bauer has a numbers that include partners – that is, third party stations that they represent from a sales perspective (e.g. They sell advertising on behalf of Boom Radio). I’m going to use the number that excludes partners – that is, the stations that Bauer owns itself. However, from an advertising perspective the overall sales offering is very important.

Global has three sets of numbers: Total Global Radio Sales which includes all the stations they sell, their own as well as others; Total Global Radio Brands which includes some services that are branded with Global owned brands, but are actually owned by others; Total Global Radio (UK) which represents those stations that Global owns. As with Bauer I’ll use Total Global Radio (UK) for this comparison.

Bauer Media Audio UK (exc Partners) reaches 22.0m with 210m listening hours. Total Global Radio (UK) reaches 25.0m with 235m listening hours. So Global still has the lead, but it has been tightening up. More to the point, this quarter was Bauer’s biggest ever in both reach and hours. They’ll be very happy in Golden Square (they’ve yet to properly move into their new base in Euston, although I believe it’s due soon).


RAJAR also asks about podcast listening, and it’s worth noting here that they report that 20.0% of adults 15+ listen to podcasts in the last week. That’s up slightly from 19.7% last quarter, and 19.0% last year. (As an aside I would note that these numbers are at odds with other figures for the UK, but methodologies will vary, so I’ll stick with RAJAR numbers here).

Extending that out to people who’ve listened to a podcast in the last month, and the latest figure is 26.7% (compared with 26.1% last quarter and 25.9% last year).

So everything shows podcast listening continuing to climb.

I thought it might be interesting to look at how listeners to a basket of different radio stations listen to podcasts. Note that this is just listening to any podcast – not necessarily podcasts from that station.

So this shows that of the random selection of stations I’ve considered here, Times Radio and BBC Radio 4 listeners are most likely to be regular podcast consumers overall, whilst Greatest Hits Radio and Heart Network listeners are least likely to listen to podcasts (although they’re only just below the national average).

This chart does slightly beg the question of whether Times Radio would be better off solely as a podcast network? Food for thought.

I’ve not really looked at programmes here, but others will, so follow the links to read more on RAJAR.

Matt Deegan himself will also be writing about RAJAR on his blog and email newsletter. You should sign up if you haven’t already.
The official RAJAR site has all the topline figures
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
The Media Leader will have analysis
BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site
Radiocentre’s website

All my previous RAJAR analyses are here.

Updated to correct some digital figures in the first paragraph.

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 17 September 2023, Adults 15+.

Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else, including my employer. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Drop me a note if you want clarifications on anything. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.






2 responses to “RAJAR Q3 2023”

  1. Polly Middlehurst avatar
    Polly Middlehurst

    I was wondering if you could tell us how GBNews radio is doing in your summary. Thanks for the forensic insights.

  2. […] AM/FM losing listeners in U.K. RAJAR Q3 2023 […]