National Stations and Networks

There have been some significant rises across the national stations and networks this quarter, with most increasing weekly reach. Much of these gains have come from listeners choosing music over news chat, with the big winners being Magic, Heart, Absolute, Radio X, Capital Xtra and Gold Network. These winners seem to have pillaged BBC audiences for their listener spoils with BBC 5 Live Breakfast and The Today Programme on Radio 4 seeing huge slumps in audience.

In more detail:

Magic has waved its wand to summon over 300,000 more listeners, so it now has a weekly reach of nearly 3.3 million listeners, an increase of over 11% since last quarter. Whereas across the Magic network, reach and total hours are both up 3% quarter on quarter.

The Heart Network, continues to grow as it acquires more stations and more listeners for the network, up 3% in reach and hours since Q1 2018 and reaching 8.7 million listeners each week across the UK. To put that rise in context, Heart is now just 6% behind BBC Radio 1’s weekly reach figure (9.236million) and Heart is managing to do this with only a patchwork of the UK covered by FM versus Radio 1’s total FM national coverage.

Smooth’s reach is consistent with last quarter, but listeners like what they hear and are tuning in for longer so total hours are up by nearly 3%. Dwell time is so important and this stat shows that Smooth’s music policy of a ‘relaxing music mix’ is working well.

Absolute has been the absolute boy, reporting a good set of results, the network has added both reach and average listening hours so is up 6% in total since last quarter, with the main station also increasing reach by a whopping 5% (126,000 listeners). Kiss’ weekly reach is up 3% on the main station and 2% across the network to well over 5.6 million. Solid results for Kiss.

Radio X has reported another record set of results for the network – more listeners are tuning in and for longer so both reach and total hours are the highest they’ve ever been. Reach is up 21% year on year and total hours are up an incredible 33% year on year. Capital Xtra is also continuing to grow, weekly reach is the highest it’s ever been at 1.76 million, which is 47% higher than this time last year. Finally, the Gold Network, while not a record reach, at 1.2 million it is the highest it has been since Q4 2013.

LBC stayed largely static which is good compared to the dips we’re seeing over at the BBC news stations but it was Talksport who suffered a poor quarter, down 7% in weekly reach and 3% in total hours. Expect Talksport to bounce back in the next RAJAR though as the next survey period will incorporate a summer of sport including the World Cup.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

Most of the UK now has access to over fifty DAB stations and some major cities have over seventy. According to Ofcom’s Technology Tracker, 45% of adults with a main vehicle have a digital radio in their vehicle. So Digital Listening should be on the rise…..and it is on the rise!

Digital listening share is now at 50.2% – up from 48.7% a year ago.

The most popular commercial digital only station remains Kisstory with 2.02 million listeners (up 16.7%) and this is the first time the audience has gone over 2 million.

Absolute 80s retains a large audience of 1.5 million listeners (up 1.6% on the year) but Absolute 90s – which recently went back to broadcast on the D1 national multiplex had a record reach of 822,000 (up 20% on the quarter and 26% on the year) whilst hours are also up 42% on the quarter and 34% on the year; is this a trend to keep an eye on?

Heart 80’s increased reach by 37% to 1.2 million whilst Smooth Extra grew by 42% to 1.1 million.

In car digital listening hours grew by 20% year on year reaching a new record share of 34.5%; Q2 2018 saw over 500,000 new cars hitting the roads in the UK fitted with DAB digital radio.

Recently launched DAB stations in Scotland – Scottish Sun Greatest Hits, Scottish Sun Hits have had their first ever RAJAR and (drum roll please) the results are in. Scottish Sun Greatest Hits has 2,000 weekly listeners and 7,000 total hours, whereas sister station Scottish Sun Hits has 6,000 weekly listeners and 40,000 total hours.


Like an inner city adventure playground in the summer holidays, there’s been plenty of shouting and giggling as the radio kids have queued up for some big London RAJAR swings.

The Brexiteers and the Remainers can put their differences aside for RAJAR and celebrate because after a slight dip in total hours in the last set of audience figures, LBC in London has seesawed to show great bouncebackability, producing an 18% increase. Reach has grown slightly too.

The fierce tug of war between Kiss and Capital is being won by Kiss after it pulled in a 7% increase in weekly reach to overtake the world famous London station. it is very tight though with both stations being listened to by just shy of 2.1 million listeners each week.

Here at Radio Experts Towers we’re always interested to see how the emerging brands are performing so when we see the 89% increase in listening hours from Mi-Soul its smiles all round. The key now is to hold on firm in the next set of results in 3 months time. Watch this space!

Magic and Heart will be feeling very different about the new data release, Magic have pulled in a whopping 22% increase in reach, subsequently up 11% in hours whereas Heart have dropped a little in reach but has had a significant 24% drop in hours. Swings and roundabouts guys, with Heart going for an ice-cream on this occasion.

So, of the top 5 stations in London (below) the top 2 are both youth focused brands. These are promising stats from an interesting quarter in London:

Kiss – 2,087,000
Capital – 2,063,000
Magic – 1,667,000
Heart London – 1,404,000
LBC – 1,280,000
Brands by region


The Heart brand has reason to celebrate outside of London this RAJAR due to stations across the country increasing in weekly reach and total hours.

The top performing Heart station in terms of weekly reach is Heart Sussex which has increased its reach by 17% from the previous quarter, closely followed by Heart West Midlands (+15%). The station which has seen the largest increase in total hours is Heart East Anglia up 42% and then Heart Cambridgeshire (+41%).

Listeners in Wales are really engaging with the Heart brand with Heart North Wales and Heart South Wales increasing in weekly reach and total hours. Heart South Wales is now reaching 45,000 more weekly listeners, whereas Heart North Wales has upped its total listening figures by 30%.

It is also worth mentioning Heart Solent which has seen a rise in total hours of 28% paired with a 5% increase in weekly reach. This station has strong competition along the south coast with a number of different stations broadcasting in this area, making Heart’s performance all the more impressive.


The Capital Network has remained steady this quarter by retaining its weekly reach figure (up slightly from previous quarter) whilst marginally reducing its total listening hours. Looking at the network as a whole the picture doesn’t look too dramatic, however it is a different story within the regions – with significant increases particularly in total listening hours.

Capital Liverpool is going from strength to strength with a further 19% increase in weekly reach and 15% increase in total listening hours. This is the more impressive when taking into consideration the notable gains it made in Q1 2018. Staying in the north Capital stations are holding their listeners attention with Capital Manchester increasing its listening hours by 24% and Capital North East by 23%. This is also the case in the south of the country with Capital South Wales showing a rise of 52% in total listening hours and Capital South Coast a rise of 15%.


The picture is pretty varied across the country for Smooth, with some pretty big drops and some pretty big gains. Overall it balances out though, with the network’s reach staying fairly steady and its hours increasing by 3%.

Special mention should go to Smooth Radio Sussex which has increased its reach by 22% and its total hours by a staggering 115% (yup). Smooth Sussex’s average hours per listener have shot up from 4.4 last quarter to 7.8. This station has also shown substantial year on year growth with its reach up 36% and its hours up 103%

Building on a strong set of results last quarter, the market leading Smooth station, Smooth North West, has had another good survey. This station has grown its audience by 9% and has added a further 20% on to its total listening hours.

The Smooth brand is really resonating with its Welsh audience this quarter; Smooth South Wales and Smooth Radio North West & Wales both posted very positive results. The brand has grown its hours by 33% South Wales and by 18% in North Wales.

The Smooth station with the longest listening hours is Smooth Radio Cambridgeshire, with its audience tuning in for a staggering 11.1 hours per week. This has helped grow the station’s total hours by 19% quarter on quarter and 14% year on year.

Kiss, Absolute, Gold, XS & Radio X regional stations

Gold has had a storming quarter in Manchester; its reach is up 39% and its hours are up 49%. This station had a little blip last quarter, but its reach is now pretty much back in line with Q2 2017.

Gold has got some very loyal listeners in the East Midlands – its average hours per head have now hit 15.5! This has helped grow its total hours by 12% quarter on quarter and by a staggering 73% year on year.

At first glance, Radio X Manchester’s solid set of results aren’t much to get excited about. But if we compared the figures with this time last year, Radio X Manchester’s total hours have grown by an impressive 18%. Its reach has grown slightly but its listenership is also tuning in for longer with its average hours per head rising from 5.5 in Q2 2017 to 6.3 this quarter.

After a not particularly positive set of results in Q1 2018, Absolute Radio West Midlands has shown decent growth in hours and reach this quarter. In fact, its total hours are up 31% year on year.

Big City Network / Hits Radio Network

Overall, Bauer have had a solid quarter in the UK market with reach and hours up 1%. And although much of this performance is driven by Bauer’s big name national services, there’s also a powerful army of local stations, with Big City Network stations and the Free Radio Network in the Midlands all contributing to the overall picture.

In Scotland, Heritage Glasgow station Clyde One is cementing its position as the market leader, up 10% in reach and 17% in hours. Sister station Clyde 2 has posted a good set of results as well with a 15% spike in reach.

Over in Edinburgh, it’s not quite such a rosy picture with Forth One and Forth Two both losing reach and hours. However, if we take a longer view, Forth Two has actually increased its total hours year on year by 16%.

It’s been a good quarter for the Big City stations in Dundee. Tay FM has increased its reach by 6%, now hitting 34% of the population within its survey area each week. Tay 2 meanwhile has reported a 13% growth in hours with listeners tuning in on average for 11.4 hours per week.

Taking a look at Northsound One in Aberdeenshire we see a slight increase in hours compensating for its 3% drop in reach. However, its AM counterpart Northsound Two has had a great RAJAR with a 24% increase in reach and a 14% increase in hours.

Northern Ireland: pop across the Irish Sea and it hasn’t been a fantastic quarter for Bauer in this neck of the woods. All 3 of its stations have dropped hours and reach. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom when you break out of the quarter on quarter mindset and look at year on year, you see that Downtown Radio’s total hours are up 24%.

In England, we see a mixed set of results for Bauer stations, The Aire brand has done very well this quarter – its FM station is up 13% in reach and 12% in hours whilst its AM station has grown 20% in reach and 32% in hours!

Heritage radio is still going strong in Newcastle. Metro Radio 2 has posted an amazing 33% spike in reach with 21,000 new weekly listeners. Metro Radio has also grown its audience and its total hours are up 16% quarter on quarter

Its been a pretty shocking quarter for Liverpool’s speech station City Talk which lost 42% of its weekly audience. However, fellow Liverpool Bauer stations Radio City and Radio City 2 have picked up the slack, growing in reach by 3% and 9% respectively. A score draw in this football and pools mad city.

It’s a mixed set of results for the Free Radio brand, but its Birmingham transmitters come out on top with Free Radio FM Birmingham and Black Country growing its reach by 7% and Free Radio 80s Birmingham and Black Country growing its reach by 17%.

Rock 2 has reported a fantastic increase in reach this quarter, adding 42% to its weekly audience (44% year on year!). However, listeners aren’t tuning in for long – its total hours have dropped by 17% and people now only listen for an average of 2.9 hours per week. So it’s been a case of Rock on but not Rock Long. Work to do but the audience is there.

The Local picture

Local radio is still very much loved across the country. Overall All Local Commercial Radio (ILR) has remained relatively static – Q2 2018 has seen an increase of 1,181 total hours versa Q1 2018 and now reaches 26,568,000 listeners every week (49%).

Here are some of the highlights for your delectation as we criss-cross the nation (warning, may contain traces of nuts, references to Love Island and some really stretchy puns):

1)    Chesterfield: After a bit of a disappointing Q1, Peak FM have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and are powering up the craggy road to greater heights. In Q2, this local station has seen a terrific jump of 57% in total hours quarter on quarter (from 403,000 to 632,000 hours). Peak has also increased its weekly reach increase by +21% – now 70,000 locals every week.

2)    The Breeze Solent/East Hants and West Surrey is up an astonishing +705% year on year. Yes, 705%!!! Growing from a modest 80,000 hours in Q2 2017 to 644,000 in Q2 2018. The Breeze South West has also seen a +25% uplift in total hours (year on year). Leading the pack is The Breeze Yeovil who is the biggest Breeze winner in Q2 as it is up +22% in total hours quarter on quarter.

3)    Time FM 107.5 in Romford is not only celebrating their very own Essex girl Dani Dyer winning Love Island 2018 but also a massive +128% increase in their total hours quarter on quarter. Reach is also up +9% to 25,000 listeners tuning in each week.

4)    KMFM Group and it’s East and West transmitters experienced varied results. Although market share slightly dipped the area itself saw a rise in population meaning the actual listening inventory for advertisers stays robust. KMFM is still a local radio powerhouse for Kent.

5)    Jack is continuing to climb the RAJAR beanstalk with the local Oxford station up another +11% in Q2 2018 after a fantastic Q1. Looking year on year, this station is up +85% from 262,000 to 484,000 in total hours. It has also increased its weekly reach a little and now has 85,000 listeners tuning in each week (+2% qonq).

6)    Ridings FM is another station which is’ riding’ the survey waves and making a big splash! Quarter on quarter it has increased its hours by 11% and is up 58% year on year. It’s smiles all round as 15% more listeners are tuning in each week to the local station in Yorkshire.

7)    We ‘touched’ on the local station for Coventry in our last Radio Experts RAJAR blog, but we must give it another shout out! Touch FM Coventry has had another positive round of results following last quarter and is up a further 9% in total hours Q1 vs Q2, but more impressively the station has seen a +119% increase year on year.

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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