The excitement’s been building… Everyone’s been looking forward to this week’s big event with its pomp and ceremony… and now the waiting is finally over… today is RAJAR day!

Here are the highlights from RAJAR for Q1 2018, expertly summarised by the Radio Experts team.

The big headline is that the union between radio and its listeners is as solid as a rock, with 90.2% of the UK population listening – up from 89.7% on the quarter and 89.3% on the year.

Commercial radio now has more listeners tuning in than ever before at close to 36 million whilst the BBC has 35 million.

Prepare yourself, here come the numbers…

National Stations and Networks

The Heart Network continues to be a real catch – adding well over 200,000 listeners since Q4 2017 increasing market share to 5.7% and retaining the top spot for the largest UK commercial radio brand. What’s more, Heart is now the first commercial radio brand ever (if you include 80’s and Extra) to have more listeners than BBC Radio 1, in terms of weekly reach.

Classic FM hasn’t made gains quarter on quarter but is still hitting the high notes – up 10% in total hours since this time last year.

talkSPORT has hit the back of the net this quarter – up 9% in reach compared to the previous quarter and up 14% year on year to 3.1 million listeners. Total listening hours have also increased by an incredible 25% quarter on quarter. This is a good result and well before the usual peak around the World Cup schedule, so bodes well for the Summer.

Talking of speech radio – LBC Network has increased its weekly reach by 143,000 to 2.16 million, an increase of 7% since last quarter and of 21.5% since last year.

Stations with an X in their name seem to extra popular. Capital Xtra has that Xtra factor and further increased its reach by 6%, whereas Radio X has kept reach steady and has had a respectable 3% increase in total hours compared to Q4 2017.

All that glitters is Gold – with the Gold Network reach up 3% since last quarter and total hours also up by 5% quarter on quarter and by 8% year on year to 9.4 million.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

One of the most interesting set of figures is always around digital listening. This quarter they certainly don’t disappoint. Digital share of listening across all radio is now at 50.9% – that’s up from 49.9% on the quarter and 47.2% on the year. DAB is at 36.8%, DTV at 4.8% and Online/Apps at 9.3%.

The other fascinating insight is that 63.7% of adults claim to own a DAB set at home, this is up from 57.9% a year ago. Plus, with greater access to digital stations via digital home assistants (Google Home and Amazon Alexa, for example) we would expect to see further increases in digital listening in the next 12 months.

All Digital Reach is at 62.8% but here is the exciting trend for commercial… Whilst BBC’s AM/FM and digital platform share is split 50/50, for commercial stations it’s 48% for AM/FM and 52% for digital.

The best performing digital only national stations were Kisstory, Heart 80’s and talkRADIO.

Kisstory is hitting the beat reaching 1.9 million listeners – up 8% on the quarter and 19% year on year. If you like big hair, you’ll remember the 80’s – Heart 80’s is now reaching 1.5 million listeners – up 20% on the previous quarter. But it’s not all about music, with talkRADIO’s reach up an impressive 31% compared to the quarter and 33% year on year.


In the capital city, it’s been a real mix of results this quarter with much of the larger movements coming from the smaller stations.

Chris Country has Dosey Doe’d itself a whopping 58% increase in total listening hours with a small increase in reach too. There are now 34,000 people tuning in each week across the capital.

The biggest mover though is Premier Christian Radio, total hours have increased from 1,147,000 to 2,850,000 quarter on quarter. That’s 148%! Their listeners have certainly been keeping the faith for longer each day.

Capital FM London is the station with the most people tuning in each week. The station is reaching in excess of 2.1 million each week. Kiss is close behind with just shy of 2 million, Heart and Magic are a fair way behind in 3rd and 4th place with 1.5 million and 1.4 million respectively.

A battle that we always keep a close eye on is between Sunrise and Lyca in London. This quarter, Sunrise has had the brighter set of results, reach is slightly down but they’ll be more than happy to have the 22% increase in total hours.

Of the big brand London stations Heart & Absolute Radio are the real winners in terms of quarter on quarter performance. Heart dropped a smidge in terms of reach but did increase hours by 12%. Absolute was one of only a few stations to increase both reach and hours which are up 4% and 28% respectively.

Top 3 London Stations in terms of Weekly Reach

Service name   Weekly Reach 
Capital London 2,138,000
Kiss London 1,949,000
Heart London 1,493,000


Brands by region


Heart Scotland has taken the high road, with a solid 11% increase. Heart North East and Heart West Midlands have also performed well – both increasing their total listening hours by 36% and 17% respectively.

Heart East Anglia is up by 3% in reach and hours, particularly the Norfolk transmitter, which is capitalising on last quarter’s success with a 13% rise in total hours and 6% increase in weekly reach.

Looking further south, Heart South West (Cornwall) has gained 5% more weekly listeners but has also increased their overall listening hours to 762,000, that’s up 11%.

The people of Kent are all Heart, helping it increase its weekly reach by 4% and total hours by 7%. This must come with a sigh of relief after some disappointing results in the previous quarter.


Another of the big, well known radio brands, the Capital Network has retained its weekly audience this quarter but with a marginal decrease in overall listening hours.

Highlights include Capital Liverpool – up a staggering 36% in total hours and 17% in weekly reach, further building on its success from the previous quarter. Meanwhile, in the Welsh valley’s Capital South Wales has increased in total listening hours of 23%.

The Capital audience in Yorkshire is growing steadily, showing a 5% increase in weekly reach and 2% in total hours.

Moving down the country to the East Midlands, the Leicestershire transmitter has delivered the highest increase in total hours at 16%.


Is it smooth sailing at Smooth? Well, there have been some hefty swings for a couple of the Smooth Radio regional stations, but these changes have balanced themselves out with the network growing 1% in reach this quarter and dropping 1% in hours.

The biggest regional Smooth station, Smooth Radio North West, has grown its audience even further this quarter with an additional 66,000 weekly listeners. This is a 7% increase quarter on quarter.

After a slightly disappointing survey last quarter, Smooth Radio Cambridgeshire’s total hours have shot up a staggering 69%, plus a growth in weekly reach of 8%.

Special mention goes to Smooth Radio Solent which has grown both its hours and its reach by 29% compared to Q4 2017.

Over in the Garden of England, Smooth Radio Kent posted an impressive set of results; up 29% in reach and 16% in hours. This time last year it had 39,000 weekly listeners and its audience has grown 38% year on year.

Other Regional Brands

XS Manchester has had a standout RAJAR this quarter, growing its total hours by a staggering 44%. Its average hours have shot up from 5.9 to 7.2 and it now has 19% more weekly listeners compared to Q4 2017. Year on year its hours have grown by 16%.

Whilst the Gold brand has suffered a significant loss of audience in Manchester, listeners in the East Midlands still feel the love. On average Gold East Midlands listeners tune in for 11.7 hours each week and its total reach has grown by 37% quarter on quarter. It now has 44% more weekly listeners than this time last year.

At first glance it’s not been a great survey for Kiss West, which lost both hours and reach. However, the year on year picture tells a different story. Kiss West has 31,000 more listeners compared to Q1 2017, up 8%.

Absolute Radio West Midlands’ 32% drop in hours might look a little disheartening. However, year on year the station has increased its hours and weekly reach. Despite the quarterly dip in hours, listeners still tune in for an average of 9.2 hours per week.

 Big City Network

The results for Bauer’s Big City network produced a strong set of results. Overall, the network is down 1% in reach on the quarter, to 6.59m, but up 2% in hours to 55.6m. It’s also gained in share this quarter and now sits at 5%.

In Scotland, Clyde 2 are celebrating with a wee dram after posting an impressive 61% increase in hours year on year. Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea… although Cool FM’s audience slid marginally to 482,000 listeners, it still holds a strong 13.6% share. The Downtown Network is down 3% in share quarter on quarter but in this survey has added 5.5% more hours.

Moving back to the mainland, it’s high fives all round in the North East for Metro Radio –  up 9% on the quarter to 298,000 with its sister station Metro 2 up 21% in reach with a massive 80% increase in hours too.

Over in Yorkshire, the Vikings have landed! Viking 2 posted a 24% increase in reach this quarter up to 83,000 and Viking 1 is up a solid 18% in reach, year on year.

In Manchester, the biggest story is about Key 2, which has added 48% more listeners this quarter to reach 105,000 whilst boosting hours by 35%. Just as Bauer announce they are to rebrand Key 103, the station has had a flat quarter for reach whilst adding 8% more hours and boosting share to 5%. Bauer will be hoping that the re-branding of Key 103 as The Hits will breathe new life into the station.

 The Local picture

The Touch brand is feeling a lot of local love this quarter, as all three of their stations have performed well. In Coventry, Touch is up a total of 19% in hours, Touch FM Staffs also increased hours by 23% and Touch FM Warks, Worcs, Cotswolds is up 12% in total hours, keeping momentum going from its 51% increase last quarter.

The bright lights of the Blackpool Illuminations are shining bright, as is the local Blackpool station Radio Wave 96.5 – up 39% in total hours from 365,000 to 506,000, which is an impressive 21.9% year on year.

Cheshire’s Silk is looking good, taking the prize for the largest percentage jump of all the local stations. Quarter on quarter it has increased its total hours by 113% (from 38,000 to 81,000).

Over in South Wales, the beautiful county of Ceredigion has seen local station, Radio Ceredigion, increase its hours by a massive 82% in total hours from 39,000 to 71,000.

Meanwhile, going north, Wakefield’s Ridings FM has increased its total hours by 44% when compared to Q4 2017, (from 199,000 to 287,000 hours) and is up 16% year on year. The station also boasts 14% more listeners tuning in each week than last quarter.

Sam’s the man in Bristol, with Sam FM up 37% in total hours, from 268,000 to 368,000 quarter on quarter. Whilst over in Oxford, Jack FM have jacked up their total hours by 39% from 315,000 to 438,000 quarter on quarter, impressively up 64% year on year.

All in all, Q1 2018 has been a solid quarter for commercial radio, making gains on its BBC rivals, and in most cases, increasing its audiences in terms of weekly reach and hours listened.

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 is more trusted than any other medium.

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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