RAJAR Q4 2023

RAJAR Q4 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.

The final RAJAR data from 2023 is out, covering the period from mid-September to mid-December. This obviously saw everything from the outbreak of war in Gaza to Premier League football getting properly underway. However, this is a year on from the Truss/Sunak “tussles” over leadership this time last year.

Sidenote: Deryck at DP Software pointed out that this is the 100th rolling release of data under the current broad methodology. RAJAR actually began in 1992 – prior to then, the BBC and commercial radio measured radio listening separately. Then in 1999, the methodology substantially changed. Although it should be said that RAJAR has continued to evolve over time with the introduction of digital diaries and some other changes over the pandemic period. I’ve only been publishing these summaries online since 2013 – although I used to write internal summaries for Virgin Radio and Absolute Radio prior to then!

Overall Trends

All Radio reach is down fractionally, down 0.1% on the quarter and down 0.4% on the year to 49.5m listeners, representing 88% of the adult population listening to at least some radio every week. Listening hours fell 0.3% on the quarter, and were also down 0.3% on the year to 1.013 billion a week.

BBC Radio fell 1.3% on the quarter and is down 5.9% on the year to 31.3m listeners. Hours fell 1.7% on the quarter and were down 8.0% on the year to 438m hours a week.

All Commercial Radio fell 0.4% on the quarter, but grew 2.8% on the year to 39.1m listeners. Hours rose 1.1% on the quarter and were up 9.5% on the year to 555m hours a week. Commercial Radio’s market share now stands at 54.8% which is an all-time record high share.

There has definitely been a shift of listening away from the BBC towards Commercial Radio over the last 12 months.

National Stations

Radio 1 has not had a great quarter, with reach down 5.7% on the quarter and down 6.0% on the year to 7.3m. Hours also fell, down 5.5% on the quarter and down 3.7% on the year to 45.9m. These are obviously record lows for the station.

Radio 2 is also still finding its feet following a number of changes over the last year, which have, when combined with some Radio 1 figures, probably impacted the BBC’s overall listening numbers. Reach fell 1.4% on the quarter and was down 7.0% on the year to 13.3m. Hours actually rose 1.6% on the quarter, but were down 13.4% on the year 136m hours a week. A small sign that the post-Ken Bruce changes have played out?

Radio 3 was in a post-Proms quarter, which saw reach fall 11.3% on the quarter, and decline 4.9% on the year to 1.8m. Hours were down 2.6% on the quarter and down 4.6% on the year to 13.2m hours a week.

I confess that I was surprised at Radio 4‘s numbers in this quarter, which was – again – quite news-y with conflict in Gaza. But then you remember that a year earlier, we were getting through Prime Ministers like they were going out of fashion. So Radio 4’s reach fell 2.2% on the quarter and was down 9.6% on the year to 9.1m. Hours rose 1.2% on the quarter but were down 3.0% on the year to 111m hours a week. That does mean that average hours per listener increased from 11.8 hours a week to 12.2 hours a week which is historically a very strong figure. You’d have to go back to 2013 for the last time it was that high.

Similarly BBC Radio 5 Live perhaps also suffered some speech falls coming from a high a year earlier, with reach down 5.7% on the quarter and down 5.8% on the year to 5.2m. Hours did rise 3.5% on the quarter, but were down 4.9% on the year to 31.3m.

BBC 6 Music saw reach fall 8.5% on the quarter, but rise 0.6% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were up 1.1% on the quarter and were also up 1.8% on the year to 26.1m.

The BBC World Service bucked the trend of the BBC’s domestic speech services and saw its reach climb 14.0% on the quarter, but fall 18.0% on the year to 1.1m. Hours were up 13.9% on the quarter, but were down 22.7% on the year to 5.0m. As might be obvious from those percentages, the station has had some “rollercoaster” numbers in recent reports.

BBC Local Radio (including Nations stations) is still under the spotlight having seen substantial changes made to much of its output, with shared programming with other nearby stations. This is now showing in the data, with reach down 4.8% on the quarter and down 10.2% on the year to 7.0m. Hours fell 5.5% on the quarter and were down 9.6% on the year to 49.4m.

Over in the commercial world, Classic FM saw its reach increase 5.0% on the quarter, although it was down 5.7% on the year, with 4.7m listeners a week. It’s still below the symbolic 5m it used to be above.

Another strong set of results for Greatest Hits Radio, which I will remind you is still gaining from the rebranding of other stations over the past few months. It also reports on a 6 month weighting period. Anyway, reach was up 2.6% on the quarter and up 69.8% on the year to 6.8m. Hours were up 2.8% on the quarter and 103% on the year to 57.4m. These are obviously record highs.

Earlier this month, Nick Ferrari celebrated 20 years as host of LBC‘s breakfast show. In Q4 2023, the station saw reach dip 0.1% on the quarter, and fall 3.0% on the year to 2.5m. Hours were down 1.3% on the quarter and fell 8.3% on the year to 25.6m.

talkSPORT had a good quarter, with reach up 2.4% on the quarter and up 4.6% on the year to 3.1m. Sister station talkSPORT 2 is more impacted by whichever commentary rights it has, which include a lot of English Football League games in this quarter. Reach grew 5.9% on the quarter and 15.7% on the year to 398,000. Hours were up 1.1% on the quarter, but down 1.8% on the year to 824,000.

Over at Talk Radio, there were some good results this time out with reach up 5.1% on the quarter and up 19.2% on the year to 725,000. Hours were up 7.8% on the quarter and up 18.2% on the year to 5.5m.

More mixed results at Times Radio where reach was down 1.2% on the quarter and down 12.6% on the year to 492,000. But hours were up 1.7% on the quarter and up 16.0% on the year to 4.0m. (That also means that those who are listening are listening longer, with average hours up to a healthy 8.0 a week).

Virgin Radio saw its reach fall 6.6% on the quarter, but rise 1.4% on the year to 1.4m. Hours were down 6.7% on the quarter, but up 3.1% on the year to 9.1m.

Boom Radio has launched a couple of digital siblings in recent months, but so far, neither Boom Light nor Boom Rock have been measured by RAJAR. The main station saw its reach dip back a bit this release, down 5.3% on the quarter but still 18.1% up on the year to 627,000. Hours fell 11.1% on the quarter, but were up 18.2% on the year to 6.9m. Overall, Boom Radio’s average hours are 11.0 hours per week which is astonishingly high for any radio station and the highest for a music station. Their listeners love the station!

Checking in on GB News Radio, and its reach was up 8.0% on the quarter, and up 40.5% on the year to 430,000. Hours were down 7.9% on the quarter but up 30.7% on the year to 2.8m. A reminder that the radio station is essentially a simulcast of the TV station’s audio.

Brands & Networks

The overall Capital Brand saw its reach dip 0.9% on the quarter but rise 3.2% on the year to 7.9m. Hours fell 4.6% on the quarter, and were down 2.2% on the year to 40.2m. The Capital Network (i.e. all the various “Capital Radios”) did slightly worse. Reach was down 4.0% on the quarter and down 0.7% on the year to 5.9m. Hours were down 9.8% on the quarter and down 9.0% on the year to 27.5m.

The Heart Brand did slightly better with reach up 1.7% on the quarter and up 6.1% on the year to 11.5m. Hours were up 4.1% on the quarter and up 4.3% on the year to 76.4m. Digging into the Heart Network of stations, reach was up 2.9% on the quarter and up 2.1% on the year to 8.8m. Hours were up 4.9% on the quarter and down 1.8% on the year to 56.8m.

Many of Heart’s digital stations have been performing strongly. Heart 00s was up 4.5% on the quarter to 797,000; Heart 70s was up 3.0% on the quarter to 659,000 reach; Heart 80s was up 1.3% on the quarter to 1.6m reach; and Heart 90s was up 9.6% on the quarter to 1.1m reach. Only Heart Dance saw a dip in its reach this quarter (down 9.4% on the quarter to 838,000).

The Smooth Brand saw reach dip 0.7% on the quarter, but rise 5.8% on the year to 6.2m. Hours were less good, down 8.1% on the quarter and down 4.4% on the year to 40.4m. The Smooth Radio Network was flat on the quarter (0.0% change) and up 6.4% on the year to 5.5m reach. Hours were down 7.5% on the quarter and down 3.0% on the year to 36.2m.

The Radio X Network was up 1.8% on the quarter and up 1.4% on the year to a reach of 2.0m. Hours were up 2.8% on the quarter and up 10.8% on the year to 18.7m. Radio X Classic Rock is still finding its feet with its reach down 9.0% on the quarter to 223,000 and down 3.6% on the year to 1.2m. The overall Radio X Brand was therefore up 0.3% on the quarter in reach to 2.2m and up 2.4% on the year in hours to 19.9m. (There are no YoY comparisons for the last couple).

That all means that Total Global Radio (not including stations it sells, but doesn’t own) was up 0.9% on the quarter and up 1.5% on the year to 25.2m reach. Hours were up 0.9% on the quarter and up 0.5% on the year to 237m.

Meanwhile over at Bauer’s stations, let’s start with Hits Radio, because the big news this quarter at Bauer is that they’re rebranding many of their remaining “heritage” brand stations. That means services like Hallam FM, Metro Radio, Radio City, Viking FM and many others. To be clear, that has not yet happened, and so isn’t reflected in this RAJAR.

Hits Radio only includes a few already rebranded stations. Reach was down 24.5% on the quarter and up 6.6% on the year to 1.4m. Hours were down 11.6% on the quarter and up 58.3% on the year to 7.0m. If we consider the Hits Radio Network (exc Partners) (that is, excluding stations like Nation Radio which are sold in the Hits Radio package by Bauer), this is the group that includes all the soon-to-be rebranded services alongside the existing Hits branded services. Hits Radio Network (exc Partners) was down 3.0% on the quarter and down 4.6% on the year to 6.3m. Hours were down 3.0% on the quarter and down 5.2% on the year to 49.9m.

Turning to Absolute Radio, reach was down 0.3% on the quarter, but up 11.0% on the year to 2.4m. Hours were down 13.8% on the quarter and down 4.2% on the year to 14.0m.

Absolute Radio Network was down 3.1%, but up 1.3% to a weekly reach of 5.3m. Hours were down 8.8% on the quarter and up 0.1% on the year to 36.3m. Going through some of those decades stations, Absolute 80s was up 2.5% on the quarter and up 4.3% on the year to 1.6m. Hours were up 8.7% on the quarter and up 20.3% on the year to 8.5m.

The other digital stations saw some dips. Looking at reach on the most recent quarter: Absolute Classic Rock down 4.1% to 796,000 reach; Absolute Radio 00s down 6.5% on the quarter to 289,000; Absolute Radio 60s was down 22.8% to 115,000; Absolute Radio 70s was down 6.3% to 299,000; Absolute Radio 90s was down 4.9% to 947,000; and Absolute Radio Country was down 5.3% to 407,000. But Absolute Radio 10s was up 1.4% to 149,000.

An excellent quarter for Magic saw its reach rise 8.5% on the quarter, and increase 18.2% on the year to 3.4m. Hours were up 28.5% on the quarter and up 27.1% on the year to 19.5m.

And that success means that the Magic Network was up 1.7% on the quarter, and up 10.0% on the year to 4.2m. Hours were up 9.4% on the quarter and up 9.1% on the year to 24.2m.

The Kiss vs KISSTORY battle continues. KISSTORY is still very slightly bigger. Reach fell 7.9% on the quarter, but up 4.5% on the year to 2.4m (2.368m to be precise). Hours fells 18.0% on the quarter, but rise 12.0% on the year to 10.5m. Kiss saw its reach fall 9.6% on the quarter and was down 3.7% on the year to 2.3m (2.349m). So that’s 19,000 difference between them. Kiss’s hours fell 6.7% on the quarter and they fell 22.3% on the year to 8.5m. So the difference is much wider in terms of hours between the two.

That all means that Bauer Media Audio UK (exc Partners) was down 1.0% on the quarter but up 8.8% on the year in reach to 21.8m. Hours were down 0.4% on the quarter, and up 13.2% on the year to 209m hours a week.

So Global maintains its lead over Bauer for the time being.

Podcasts, Headphones and Smart Speakers

RAJAR measures quite a few other things that can be useful to examine.

Podcast Listening continues to rise. Weekly podcast listening is up to 20.3% from 20.0% last quarter and 19.0% last year. I’ve also hada look at the demographics of those podcast listener:

Broadening that out to monthly podcast listening, it’s up to 27.0% from 26.7% last quarter and 25.9% last year.

Note: A reminder that different pieces of research use different methodologies, so while RAJAR data is internally comparable, it shouldn’t be compared with other figures from, say, Ofcom or Edison Research

Smart Speaker usage is also looked at, and its usage continues to rise. 33.6% of adults use a smart speaker, up from 32.7% last quarter and 32.8% last year.

21.5% of people use smart speakers to listen to the radio, up from 21.0% last quarter and 21.1% last year. But here’s a chart showing all smart speaker usage based on categories measured by RAJAR.

(Personally weather and sports scores would be right up there for me!)


I’ll be talking about the latest RAJAR numbers on this week’s Media Podcast with Matt Deegan. Listen wherever you get your podcasts! It’s also on YouTube.

Matt Deegan‘s blog is here.
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.

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 17 December 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.






3 responses to “RAJAR Q4 2023”

  1. katecanadian18585 avatar

    Maybe Bauer should make Hallam FM stand-alone like Wave 105 keeping the iconic Big John, and giving it “Best Variety of Hits” like in 2004, and replace networked mid-mornings with Amelia Slaughter from MKFM (who’s great), and, instead of networked Mike Toolan at drive – perhaps get someone like Gregor Runciman & Lynsey Gibson on local Hallam FM drive, and go to 4-hour shows with a 2-3pm automated hour like they did in 2004 and 2013-2017?
    Would this gamble work?

    Rebranding Hallam to Hits Radio may be too risky given Hallam got good Rajars!

  2. adambowie avatar

    Hi @katecanadian18585,

    I don’t know what Bauer will do precisely, but given they’ve already announced that heritage FM stations including Hallam are going to be rebranded as Hits Radio, I can’t see that changing now.

    Exactly which shows are carried through is perhaps still up for grabs, but given the enormous success they’ve had with Greatest Hits Radio, including rebranding many stations to Greatest Hits, I can’t see them changing course now. Global did this same exercise years ago, rebranding stations to Capital and Heart, and in many respects Bauer has been quite cautious in not following suit sooner.

    And this is about more than a single RAJAR result, it’s about longer-term trends for some of these stations. Having a single brand, for better or for worse, allows them to market them nationally more easily.

  3. lenahakg avatar

    Bauer should perhaps move Mike Toolan back to mid-mornings and on drive, instead of a duo, get someone like Mollie Green on networked drive; Mollie Green is suited to national Hits Radio drive.

    Also, Bauer could axe Ken Bruce on GHR and replace him with someone like Mike Nicholson formerly of Stray FM who’s a solid, competent presenter. It’d be risky, but so worth it.

    Perhaps now, Global could convert Heart Cambridgeshire to Capital, drop the networked shows and run it as a stand-alone with non-stop music 7pm-6am to compete with STAR Radio. This would be worth trying. Maybe they could move Hannah Clarkson from Heart drive to the new Capital Cambridgeshire mid-mornings 10am-2pm, and move Des Clarke & Jennifer from Heart Scotland to Capital Cambridgeshire, and for drivetime, perhaps give the show to someone like James Stewart from Heart, possibly?