With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, our experts have been swiping left and right on the RAJAR results for Q4 2017 – checking out which stations are hot and which are not.  There are no soppy sentiments here, just an honest assessment to find the commercial broadcasters  you’d be happy to take home to your Mother.

The good news is the UK’s love affair with radio is still in full bloom. Currently, 90% of the population listen to radio, getting up close and personal for an average of 21.3 hours per week.

Here’s the breakdown across the country:

Nationals and Networks

There’s plenty of love in the air for Heart, Capital and the Bauer City Networks as they remain the most listened to brands in the UK.

Classic FM has reported a 9% increase in total listening hours Q on Q and is now on a par with the Capital Network. Classic is also up by 6% in weekly reach Y on Y to 5.7 million listeners. Both Magic Network and Absolute networks have also reported gains of 4% in reach and 3% in total hours since last quarter.

There’s no getting shot of our X’s, as both Capital Xtra and Radio X are going from strength to strength and have reported their highest ever reach and highest ever total hours. Capital Xtra is now reaching 1.6 million listeners each week, up 7% Q on Q and up 20% Y on Y. Radio X has been steadily growing over the last few years, and while reach is up a modest 4% since last quarter, the station is up 26% in both reach and total hours year on year.

How about a Kiss? Well, here’s three for you – the Kiss Network overall has remained steady since Q3, however Y on Y it has grown reach by 6.3%. Within the network, Kiss Fresh has reported the strongest increases Q on Q (up 11% reach and 12% hours), but Kisstory is still up 22% in reach since this time last year.

Here’s our breakdown of some of the big radio brands…


There’s still a lot of love for the Capital Network, as this quarter it’s the second highest reaching network. They’ve seen marginal loses in reach and hours across the board, but this brand is still proving popular with a young and engaged audience.

In Liverpool, Capital has seen significant increases in both weekly reach and total hours, with a rise of 15% and 25% respectively. Moving over to the East Midlands, it’s the Nottinghamshire transmitter of Capital East Midlands which has done particularly well. Its listeners are tuning in for longer with a 19% rise in total hours.


Heart London is still having a great relationship with listeners this quarter, with an impressive increase in total hours by 24% and a rise in weekly listeners by 3%. The love for the brand is spreading outside the capital with Heart stations across the UK showing notable increases in total listening hours.

The Norfolk transmitter of Heart East Anglia has increased its total listening hours by over 21%. This trend continues with Heart Essex seeing an increase of 18% in total hours, and its Colchester transmitter up in total hours by 27%.

Heart Sussex and Heart Yorkshire are also following suit this RAJAR, with Sussex up in total hours by 16% and Yorkshire increasing by 8%.

Heart Hertfordshire has enjoyed an impressive rise in total listening hours by 38% and weekly reach by 8%. Moving down the country Heart South West has increased its weekly audience figure to 391,000 which is up by 6%.


The big love story in this RAJAR is Smooth Thames Valley, with an increase of total hours by 33% and weekly reach by 34%. Smooth is also spreading the love in London, increasing its total hours by 12%.

Smooth is especially being embraced in the East of the country: Smooth East Anglia and Smooth East Midlands has increased in both reach and hours. Smooth Solent is still holding its own along the south coast increasing its weekly reach by 8% to 56,000 listeners.


Digital continues to have its admirers, as its share of listening is now at 49.9% – up from 48.8%, compared with Q3 2017 and 45.2% for Q4 2016. Commercial radio’s digital share has also risen to an impressive 51.6% compared to the BBC’s 48.3%. This is possibly due to commercial radio’s higher DTV and online/app listening. 26% of adults listen to radio via a mobile phone or tablet at least once per month. This increases to 35% when you break out listening on these devices by those aged 15 to 24.

Radio has always had a strong relationship with drivers and digital is leading the way with In-car digital listening hours growing by 25% Y on Y to 32% of all in-car listening. Local digital listening in cars contributed to an impressive 50% of all DAB digital listening growth in Q4 2017.


Londoners are still being faithful to Capital FM, as it retains top spot again with a weekly reach of 2.1m, although they had no shortage of other suiters lining up. Kiss, for instance grew 8.2% Q on Q to post a reach of 2m a week. However, Kiss is beating Capital in share at 5% vs. Capital’s 4.2%.

In the battle for 3rd place, Magic has waved a wand and beaten Heart by a mere 5,000 listeners, posting a reach of 1,564,000 vs. Hearts 1,559,000, that’s a difference of just six full Jubilee line trains!

The “Perfect 10” in London is without doubt Capital XTRA. The station has grown an impressive 22.4% Q on Q and a whopping 53.9% Y on Y to 777,000 listeners a week. Also posting an impressive figure this quarter is Premier Christian Radio – up 11.8% to 142,000.

Elsewhere in London, Absolute has continued the upward trend growing 22.4% Y on Y and 5% Q on Q to 918,000 listeners. Over the road at Leicester Square, competitors Radio X have posted similar gains of 18.4% Y on Y and 6.5% Q on Q to 509,000 whilst growing share from 1.2% to 1.5%. Speech radio is still looking good, as LBC achieved strong numbers of 1,215,000 listeners a week, that’s a growth of 9.5% on the quarter.

Who’s waking up with who at Breakfast? Well Ronan Kemp’s Capital show and Ricky, Melvin and Charlie over at Kiss are both trying to woo London, but this time round it’s all about the Kiss. Both shows are listened to by over 1m listeners a week, but Kiss just beats Capital with a reach of 1,027,000 compared to Capital’s 1,011,000. Next up is Magic breakfast, led by Ronan Keating and Harriet Scott, which is showing strong signs of growth, up 18.3% on the quarter to 780,000. Magic will be doubly pleased given that for the 2nd quarter in a row they are beating Heart Breakfast led by Emma Bunton and Jamie Theakston – on the rebound from last quarter with a 28% growth to 680,000.

Being Smooth seems to get results at breakfast, with 304,000 tuning in each week to Smooth London. Meanwhile, Gold has posted commendable growth of 9.8% Y on Y to 280,000 listeners a week. Once again, though, Chris Moyles has demonstrated his worth, growing his show on Radio X to 270,000 – up 11.5%. And finally, for London, as Christian O’Connell announces he is leaving Absolute for sunny Australia, he can fly off with his head held high having posted a 6.8% increase in reach to 466,000.

Encouragingly for commercial radio, Absolute, Capital, Capital XTRA, Heart, Kiss, LBC, LBC London News, Magic and Smooth now all have larger breakfast shows than BBC London which brings up the rear at 272,000 listeners a week.

The Local Picture … in England

In the North West, Smooth North West continues to be the most loved station with 1,000,000 listeners tuning in each week. However, looking to the cities, Capital is clearly a good match with listeners in Liverpool and Manchester.

Although Capital Manchester is still number one in the city, Key 103 can be pleased with their results. Key 103 has smashed through the 2 million total hours mark, with a further 16% increase Q on Q. Its sister station Key 2 also deserves a mention with increases in both reach (+29%) and hours (+23% Q on Q).

In Preston, the rock star is Rock FM 2 which increased its hours by 52% to 309,000 total hours and is also up 12% in reach, quarter on quarter.

North East

Smooth in the North East is still the largest in terms of reach and total hours in the region, (3,651,000 hours and 564,000 listeners tuning in to the station every week). Capital is slightly behind with 2.5 million hours compared to Smooth but is ‘well-fit” in the minds of its loyal young lovers who tune in for the biggest hits and celebrity gossip.

In the big cities, Metro Radio 2 in Newcastle increases its hours by 52% this RAJAR, from 149,000 to 227,000. Its FM station, Metro Radio, still has a very strong presence within its transmission area and 1.5 million total hours. However, both TFM and TFM 2 lost hours this quarter, but it remains clear that the heritage brand is still very much a big part of life in Middlesbrough.


Being Free is a beautiful place to be – after a good result in Q3 its clear the Free 80s brand is continuing to gain support and listeners and are loving taking a trip back to this era. All three stations – Birmingham & Black Country, Coventry & Warwickshire and Herefordshire & Worcestershire increased their hours again this quarter, with only a slight fall in Shropshire.

Touch FM Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Cotswolds will be pleased with their pulling power, seeing one of the highest percentage jumps within the region – up 51% in hours and gaining 18% in reach.

Banbury Sound is punching above it weight, as this small station has seen impressive results this quarter – up 33% in total hours from 60,000 to 80,000 and up 27% in reach. Meanwhile, providing coverage across the national park, Peak 107 FM has increases its hours by 32% to 559,000, climbing high and pushing through the half a million point.

East of England

Things are hotting up in Great Yarmouth, as local station The Beach is up 16% in total hours from 499,000 to 581,000 and 13.2% market share. North Norfolk Radio can also boast an increase of 31% in total hours from 114,00 to 149,000 (Q on Q).

South of England

Meanwhile in the sultry south west, Heart is number one, but local radio is still very much a part of Cornish life. With the pasty championships on the horizon and lots happening across the region, listeners are tuning in to their local station for all the info. Another Cornish favourite, Pirate FM, has had a slight drop in hours but still holds a strong market share (11.7%) and boasts 1.2 million (1,286,000) in total hours In Exeter, Radio Exe is the current beau with increases in its hours by a significant 63%. The station will also be celebrating gaining 33% more listeners – now reaching 32,000 weekly.  Nearby, local independent station Radio Plymouth is up 20% in total hours and 14% in reach (Q on Q).

In the Garden of England, local radio is still on a high with the KMFM Group in Kent continuing to grow in hours and reach. Quarter on quarter the group has seen hours go by up 10% overall. Its East transmitter seeing the highest lift of 18% and combined reach is up by 19% to 206,000 listeners.

… in Northern Ireland

After a couple of solid quarters, things have cooled a little in Northern Ireland, with every station reporting a drop in listening hours. But there’s no need to pack a bag and move out – it comes on the back of several strong RAJAR quarters and significant gains have been made Year on Year. Downtown Country’s reach is up 16% and Q Radio’s is up 7%. Downtown Radio and Q Radio Belfast have both reported moderate Year on Year audience growth.

Ironically, the only station that hasn’t cooled is Cool FM – it’s posted a decent set of results, increasing its weekly reach by 2% to 503,000. It is the only station in Northern Ireland to grow its reach compared to Q3 2017. Year on Year it has had an impressive increase in reach of 27%.

… in Scotland

Commercial radio has found that loving feeling in Dundee with all three stations in the city reporting good results. Not only are more people listening, but they are tuning in for longer. Wave 102’s hours have increased by 17%, Tay FM’s by 3% and Tay 2’s by 8%.

It’s been a good RAJAR for the AM stations in Scotland: Forth 2, Clyde 2, Northsound 2 and Tay 2 have all reported impressive results with increases in total hours. Special mention goes to Forth 2 which has increased its total hours by 36%.

Heart Scotland’s pulse rate must have gone through the roof with the news that total hours have shot up by 25% with listeners tuning in for an average of 8.1 hours each week. This has helped narrow the gap between Heart and its Central Belt rival Capital, which saw a 7% dip in its hours. Capital Scotland’s total hours are now only 6% higher than Heart’s, despite a significantly larger reach of 495,000 (vs Heart’s 379,000).

… in Wales

There’s a North – South divide in Wales with a much better set of results for the North Wales stations than those in South Wales. Heart North Wales is up in both reach and hours, whereas its South Wales counterpart is down in both. Similarly, Smooth North West and Wales has increased its reach by 13% whereas Smooth South Wales has lost 38% of its audience and 33% of its hours. This is the reverse of the situation last quarter which saw the Smooth and Heart South Wales gaining reach and the North Wales stations losing listeners.

If you’re looking for a bit of fire in your relationship, then you can’t beat pairing up with Dragon Radio Wales. It’s their sixth set of RAJAR results, and whilst it’s still a relatively small player in the market, it’s shown a steady climb in reach up 50% Quarter on Quarter and 80% Year on Year. The station launched with just 4,000 listeners and now boasts 27,000.

Of all the independent stations in Wales, its Swansea Sound that has been loved the most this quarter. On average its listeners now tune in for 10.7 hours per week, which has helped grow its hours by a whopping 50%.


Overall, it’s been a steady RAJAR for commercial radio. Like any relationship, there are always up and downs, but it’s clear that the UK’s love affair with radio continues unabated. This is great news for advertisers looking for a medium that can be relied upon for consistent performance. Radio targets a diverse audience, delivers the numbers and, just as important these days, is one hundred per cent trusted

If you’ve 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 get in touch.

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