As Halloween looms, our experts have been up since the witching hour digging through the RAJAR results for Q3 2017 to conjure up a scarily good analysis. Read on, if you dare, to make sure you don’t get a fright when planning your next campaign.

Radio currently casts it’s spell over 90.1% of the population, with commercial listeners receiving ethereal messages from beyond for an average of 13.3 hours per week. So let’s put these tortured puns out of their misery and take a closer look at the tricks and treats from the latest figures to see why commercial radio is a very long way from the grave.

Nationals and Networks

Bauer will be celebrating the performance of their national networks, with most of the main brands posting significant gains. Kiss UK is up 22% in total hours since last quarter. Kisstory built on an all-time high in weekly reach last quarter with a 5% increase to 1.8 million, as well as a 13% increase in total hours, this quarter. Younger sibling Kiss Fresh is also growing with total hours up 16% since the last survey. The Absolute network has also done well with a 5% gain in listeners overall, up to 4.5 million.  This is mainly from its flagship station (up 17% in reach and 19% in total hours q on q), although Absolute 90s has also pulled in an extra 105,000 listeners.

One year on since its sale, the new owners of talkSPORT will no doubt be pleased to see the station make some big wins after reporting significant losses last survey. A very impressive gain of 32% in hours q on q, which has come from both higher reach (up from 2.6 to 2.9 million) and longer average listening hours (up from 5.9 to 6.9).

Jazz FM had an excellent Q2 when it increased weekly reach significantly. This quarter it’s again up by a respectable 3%, but thanks to stronger average listening hours the station is now reporting 38% more hours in total.

The Global stations have been relatively steady, although Radio X has reported its highest ever reach at 1.5 million (up 9% since last quarter and 20% since last year) and its highest ever total hours (up 6% q on q and 15.5% y on y).  The Heart Network holds onto its title of highest reaching network with 8,644,000 listeners tuning in each week, showing love for the brand is still strong.


Almost inevitably, the digital share of overall listening is up yet again. In this RAJAR period 48.8% of all listening took place via digital platforms – up from 45.5% a year ago.

Commercial radio is leading the way with 49.5% of commercial radio listening via digital platforms compared to 48.1% share for the BBC. This is likely due to commercial’s higher DTV and online/app listening. 28% of adults listen to radio via a mobile phone or tablet at least once per month.

Interestingly, however, the gains have mostly come from DAB listening – perhaps due to greater penetration in the car market. The percentage of adults who own a DAB radio has grown from 57.0% in Q3 2016 to 61.6% in Q3 2017.


Once again, Capital retains top spot with 2.1million reach – a 5.5% increase on last year – and is London’s only station that tops the 2 million mark. Kiss has posted very healthy year on year growth to 1.87million reach, placing it as the capital’s second favourite station.

Elsewhere in the city, Capital Xtra posted a tidy 11.8% increase year on year, so it now reaches 635,000 of London’s younger listeners. Gold also scored an 11.5% increase from last quarter, so the older generation are loving radio too. Smooth is up 9.2% y on y to 775,000 listeners, and Radio X has seen an excellent 26.5% increase y on y. Magic just pipped Heart this time with 1.54m vs 1.51m listeners. The absolute star of the show, however, is Absolute which gained 237,000 listeners (four times the capacity of The Emirates stadium). Premier Christian Radio also deserves some praise for adding 53,000 listeners (69.3%) to achieve total reach of 127,000.

In the battle of the breakfast shows, Capital comes out top at 1.1m listeners but the main talking point is the old sparing partners of Magic and Heart. Magic Breakfast is up 6.6% q on q to 659,000, but this RAJAR only covered the first couple of weeks with new hosts Ronan Keating and Harriett Scott so we’ll have to see where this rollercoaster goes next. Emma Bunton and Jamie Theakston at Heart will certainly be hoping it’ll be upwards, having dropped 165,000 listeners this quarter. Absolute and Christian O’Connell will no doubt be ecstatic with a 97% increase this quarter. Rickie, Melvin and Charlie at Kiss will be happy with a 43,000 increase y on y to 900,000.  Chris Moyles over at Radio X can be proud to have driven some  impressive figures with his show up 46,000 q on q and 60,000 y on y.

The Local Picture … in England

In the North West, the Smooth brand remains number one in the region with weekly reach and hours, continuing to serenade its listeners and keep the support flowing with 1.1 million listeners (19%) a week and an impressive 7.3 million total hours.

In Manchester, Capital is still top of the table, reaching 555,000 listeners each week (19%) and boasting 3 million total hours. The big story in the city, however, is the brilliant results at Key 2. Mancunians are under the spell of the AM station as it’s flying high with a whopping increase of 260% in total hours from 97,000 to 349,000. Reach has also increased by 41%.

Rock 2 in Preston is another Big City 2 station that has performed very well in the North West – up 75% in total hours. Sister station Rock FM also increased hours by 17% (from 1,077,000 to 1,255,000).

Over in North East, Metro and TFM remain popular FM stations, but again Smooth is still the region’s favourite. Smooth North East is the highest reaching (536,000) and largest in terms of total hours (3.7 million). Capital is just behind with 485,000 weekly listeners and 2.8 million total hours for Q3.  Also, notable is Viking FM in Hull – up 32% in total hours, from 1.2 to 1.6 million, with reach up 20% as well as 217,000 listeners tune in.

Heading down the centre of the country, Rother FM in Rotherham is up 17% in total hours from 237,000 to 278,000;  Stray FM in Harrogate is up 34% in total hours from 286,000 to 384,000; and Radio Mansfield is up 21% from 211,000 to 255,000 total hours.

In the Midlands, listeners across the region are loving local radio. The Q3 RAJAR results in the Midlands has seen some small independent stations making a big noise.

Trax FM has followed up a fantastic Q2 result with more good news in Q3 – up a further 26% in hours, from 690,000 to 866,000. Total Connect in Nottingham sees both its FM and DAB platforms perform well. Its FM transmitter rose by 17% in hours on the back of a 40% rise last quarter, and on DAB it increased by 13%. Overall, the Total Connect station is just shy of half a million listening hours (472,000 for Q3 2017). In Coventry, great local programming has seen Touch FM increase its hours by a fantastic 53%. It’s a small yet mighty station, and now reaches 42% more listeners. Touch FM Staffs also had a good quarterly results with an uplift of 34% in hours.

Among the bigger brands in the Midlands, Absolute will be celebrating smashing the 2 million total hours mark this quarter. Up by 68%, Absolute West Midlands listeners certainly love their music mix and are tuning in for longer and longer. There are also notable gains at Capital. In particular, Capital Leicester increased weekly reach by 16%, which is even more impressive considering the significant  increase it enjoyed last quarter. Signal 107 in Shrewsbury increased its hours by 31% from 265,000 to 347,000.

As we reach further south, Jack Oxfordshire (made up of Jack Oxford and Jack 2) jumps 41% in total hours, with combined hours of 648,000. Together, reach has also increased by 17% to 104,000.

Over in the South West, there are positive results for The Breeze South Devon. Following on from an encouraging Q2 result, it’s seen a further rise of 19% in total hours (248,000 to 296,000) and reach also up by 6%.  Sam FM Bristol is also continuing an upward trend from last quarter – up 12% in total hours to 411,000 hours.  Wessex FM in Dorset reaches 12% more people, now with an impressive weekly reach of 44%. Hours are up by 21% as well to just over half a million (504,000 total hours). The Heart brand has also performed well with Heart Solent, Heart South West and Heart West Country all increasing in total hours; and Heart Solent and Heart West Country increasing their weekly reach as well.

On the coast, Wave 105 FM stormed it in hours with an increase of 15% q on q, bringing its total hours to a massive 4,612,000. In reach, 393,000 listeners tune in every week (up 8%). Sam FM South Coast is also up 12% in total hours crashing through the 1 million mark. (912,000 to 1,020,000). Capital South Coast is continuing its winning streak from last quarter with a 15% increase in weekly reach and up by 16% in total listening hours.

Our final nod goes to Radio Essex (previously Southend & Chelmsford) which, unlike TOWIE star Gemma Collins at the Radio 1 Teen Award, is on the up. On FM, it’s risen 18% in total hours q on q and gains 27% more listeners. Its sister DAB station also climbed in hours, up 6%.

… in Northern Ireland

It’s been a fantastic quarter for radio in Northern Ireland with every commercial station increasing its reach q on q. All stations have also managed to either increase their total hours or, at least, keep them steady. This is all the more impressive given these figures are on the back of a solid set of results last quarter.

Cool FM stands out as one of the biggest success stories having had an all-round great RAJAR. It’s up, up, up in all measures having made impressive gains in reach and hours both y on y and q on q.

The Q Radio Network also posted a great set of results, up 8% in reach and 15% in hours quarter on quarter. This growth was led by Q Radio Belfast which reported a spike in total hours of 27%.

… in Scotland

At first glance, Smooth Scotland’s modest listenership gains of 3% in reach and 1% in hours don’t seem too remarkable. However, if we take a longer view and look year on year the station has increased its total hours by a whopping 69%, with listeners  tuning in for an average of 11.7 hours per week (compared to 6.8 hours this time last year).

Edinburgh heritage brand Forth is still going strong. This quarter has seen an increase in listenership for its FM and AM stations. Forth 2 has upped its weekly reach by 22% and Forth One now has 14% more weekly listeners.

Aberdonians are tuning into more and more commercial radio with heritage station Northsound One and its rival Original 106 both increasing their reach quarter on quarter and year on year. Northsound One now reaches 37% of its potential audience each week, cementing its position as the market leader.

… in Wales

All credit should go to Smooth Radio South Wales which has managed to increase its total hours by a staggering 43%. Given this station upped it reach by 46% last quarter, 2017 has been a good year for the station.

Capital North West & Wales has seen 15% growth in total hours. Year on year its hours are up an impressive 39%. Capital South Wales made less impressive gains of 7% in hours and 2% in reach year on year, but did fantastically well last quarter and is still on an upward trend. Similarly, Heart North Wales’s 18% reduction in total hours should be seen in the context of the spectacular results it has been posting recently – year on year its hours are still up 14%.


Overall, it’s been another strong RAJAR for commercial radio.  Inevitably there are winners and losers, but it’s clear that with its massive reach and popularity there are many excellent opportunities. This is great news for advertisers looking for a medium with consistent and reliable performance that can target a diverse audience.

If you have any questions about how this RAJAR will affect your radio advertising, and to discuss how you can take advantage of the latest airtime and sponsorship opportunities, just drop us a line.

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