So far, the British summer is true to form: horribly hot, reliably rainy and constantly changeable. But whether we’ve been reaching for sunglasses or umbrellas, one thing we’ve been doing all year is listening to radio. The inescapable conclusion this new RAJAR quarter is that the British public LOVES radio. Audiences love the diversity of content, the different devices and the various ways they can connect to audio. But most of all, audiences love Commercial Radio as the new RAJAR results for Q2 2019 clearly show.

Headline news is that Commercial Radio now has more listeners than ever with over 2 million more listeners than the BBC and in the ever-increasing digital arena, commercial radio brands continue to be popular! The commercial sector is now very much a mix of the old school and new school. There is literally something for every taste and genre of music, from speech on talkRADIO to Scala for the classical enthusiast or Country Hits for those who love a hoe down.

National Stations and Networks

There are some significant movers and shakers this quarter with most of the national networks adding listeners. Heart, Capital and Smooth Networks have all maintained reach, and Heart is still the number one network in the UK. However, Hits Radio Brand is creeping up to Heart in total hours (53 million vs 57 million), with the new addition of Country Hits Radio adding to an already strong performance for the Bauer Network.

All the youth brands are holding their own in the face of competition from digital audio platforms. Kiss is up 3% in both reach and hours across the network, with much of the growth coming from the main Kiss station, which now has a weekly reach of 4.2 million, up 8.5% on the quarter. Capital Xtra has gained 171,000 listeners, up 10% since last quarter, and is now reaching nearly 2 million. Another record for the hip-hop, grime & RnB station. Radio X is up 5.4% in weekly reach to 1.6 million.

It’s also another record performance for the LBC Network, as current affairs continue to be a hot topic; it has reported an increase of 4.5% in weekly reach to 2.4 million, up from a high of 2.3 million last quarter.

Commercial radio continues to offer options for targeting the sporting audience. talkSPORT (3.1million) and talkSPORT 2 now reach a combined 3.3million up 4% from last year and talkSPORT 2’s 439,000 reach is a record for the digital-only station.

Finally, Classic FM and Gold Network have both gained listeners. The highly ABC1 Classic FM is up 6.4% from 5.3 million to 5.6 million, whereas Gold is up 6% from 1.2 million to 1.3 million since the last survey.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

All digital listening has gone from 50.2% a year ago to 56% today (Q2 2019)

Taking the new-school a step further, 26% of adults now claim to own a voice-activated speaker, and 94% of those use the device to listen to live radio. This has boosted online listening in home, which is now the fastest growing platform and location, increasing by 27.7 million hours (or by 44%) year on year to account for 15% of all in home listening.

National Digital stations overall continue to perform well, with the newer stations achieving decent early audiences and the more established stations holding healthy numbers of listeners.

Scala’s first set of results saw a reach of 238,000 – with Simon Mayo’s show having 134,000 listeners – and average hours of 5.9 whilst Country Hits Radio first wave saw an audience of 208,000.

The second wave with Chris Evans saw Virgin Radio increase audience from 1.3 million to 1.5 million (19%) and hours by 30% too whilst Virgin Anthems had a stormer increasing reach by 96% to 145,000 and total hours by 76%. Virgin Chilled naturally remained calm and composed but also increased hours by 23%

Kisstory continues to prove popular to UK listeners and is now the most listened to digital only station (ahead of BBC 6 Music) increasing reach by 26% to 2.3 million and increasing hours by a whopping 52% as well. Absolute 80’s reach increased by 2% to 1.8 million.

Heart 80’s increased reach by 5% to 1.5 million and hours by 15%. Heart Extra increased reach by 7% to 503,000 and hours by 13%

Planet Rock was level in reach at 1.2 million whilst there were small audience drops for Heat to now be at 522,000, Jazz FM at 548,000 and Kerrang at 490,000.

Smooth Extra increased reach by 3% to 995,000 and hours by 11%

Magic Soul saw a 20% reach increase to 347,000 and hours too by 27% whilst Magic Chilled increased reach slightly to 355,000 and Mellow Magic lost some reach to now be 593,000.

talkRADIO increased reach by 14% to 386,000 and hours too by 38% whilst talkSPORT2 saw a 4% increase in reach to 439,000

Sunrise Radio increased reach by 10% to 372,000 whilst Panjab is now only measured in London only and its new audience is 92,000


Capital is still king in London in terms of reach with 1.8 million people tuning in each week and the station will be pleased in gaining nearly all of the listeners back that it lost in the last survey. Capital Xtra may have only increased reach by 5%, its hours went up by a massive 87%!

Radio X has had a strong wave after adding 17% more listeners each week and gaining an incredible 42% in total listening hours.

Mirroring the station’s success nationally, LBC continues to appeal in the current political climate with the flagship FM station gaining 5% in reach and a very solid 12% in hours. LBC London News was the real shining star though as it added a very impressive 38% to its listening hours.

Kiss will be pleased, if not jumping and dancing for joy with its 6% increase in reach and 5% in hours taking the station some of the way back to where it was in Q4 of 2018 after a disappointing set of results last time out.

Love Sport’s second wave saw a small increase in reach to 40,000 but hours went up a healthy 21%.

Weekly Reach – Top 5 London stations

Capital London   1,834,000

Kiss London       1,583,000

Magic London    1,456,000

Heart London     1,428,000

LBC 97.3            1,228,000

Total Listening Hours – Top 5 London stations 

LBC 97.3           12,925,000

Heart London      9,098,000

Capital London    8,875,000

Magic London      7,669,000

Kiss London         5,685,000

Brands by region – highlights


This quarter has been kind to Capital with results worth boasting about. The network as a whole has increased its total hours by 3% and now has 7,197,000 listeners tuning in each week.

Looking closer at how this plays out within the regions the north west is really embracing the brand; Capital Lancashire (re-branded from 2BR) has seen an impressive leap in total hours by 57% as well as a rise in weekly listeners by 23% to 97,000. Capital Manchester has also increased its total hours by 25% as well as a 4% rise in weekly listeners to 452,000.

After a slightly disappointing performance last quarter, Capital South Wales is hitting back showing an increase in reach and total hours by 6% and 8% respectively now reaching 231,000.


The Heart Network maintains the title of the largest reaching network with 8,536,000 listeners tuning in each week. Heart Kent, Heart Scotland and Heart North East deserve a mention for all adding to their weekly audiences – with a 15% increase in reach for Kent to 380,000, a 9% increase in Scotland to 404,000 and 8% for the North East transmitter to 299,000.

Listeners in the West Country are really engaging with the brand with Heart West Country upping its total hours by 12%; in part thanks to the Bristol/Weston & Bath transmitters showing 20% total hours increase.

There is a similar trend with Heart Four Counties seeing a rise in total hours by 4%, especially due to the Beds/Bucks/Herts split increasing its total hours by 36%. On top of this Heart North West has increased its total hours by 17% and Heart East Anglia by 11%, with both maintaining their weekly audiences.


It has been a tumultuous set of results for the Smooth brand this quarter. Whilst there has been little change to the Smooth Network (steady in reach and a 2% rise in hours), there has been a series of wild swings in both directions for a lot of the individual stations. 8 of the regional Smooth stations have shown double digit percentage growth in either reach or hours, whereas 7 reported a double digit drop in at least one of these measures.

Smooth Scotland managed to attract the most new listeners, growing its weekly reach by 63,000. It now has 420,000 weekly listeners which is an 18% growth on the quarter. That is a 6% growth year on year. In terms of percentage growth, Smooth Devon showed the highest jump in reach – up an impressive 38%.

The Smooth brand is going from strength to strength in the South West – not only did Smooth Devon report a 38% spike in reach and a 41% spike in hours, but Smooth West Country also showed extraordinary growth with reach up 27% and hours are up a staggering 46%. Smooth West Country listeners now tune in for an average of 11.4 hours per week and now reaches 112,000 listeners.

Special mention should go to Smooth East Midlands which is up 19% in hours, a 34% growth year on year, and whilst reach did drop slightly this quarter (2%) to 444,000; it added 53,000 more listeners compared to this time last year, a growth of 14%.

Hits Radio Brand – highlights


Clyde 1 is up 10% in reach to 593,000 and a whopping 27% in hours, having also increased average hours from 7.2 to 8.3. Clyde 2 didn’t have as much of a change in reach (+2%) but had a positive increase of 11% in hours.

Forth 1 also increased reach from 274,000 to 327,000 (+19%) and hours too (+24%)


Downtown increased reach by 21,000 listeners (+11%) to 215,000 and its hours by 14%


Radio Borders sure does have some loyal listeners, with their average hours further increasing from an impressive 11.4 to 11.8

CFM saw a 4% increase in reach per week and a 21% rise in total hours

Metro radio did slightly better this quarter by increasing its reach by 6% and its hours by 8%

TFM saw hours increase by 6%

Over in Hull, Viking FM had a good quarter with an increase in reach from 161,000 to 195,000 (+21%) as well as a 40% rise in total hours

Radio City increased their reach by 22,000 listeners (+6%) to 361,000 and impressively their hours by 30%.

Hallam FM didn’t increase its listeners by much (+2% increase in reach) but the ones who do listen were loving it with a 25% increase in hours and average hours up from 6.1 to 7.4.

Radio Aire increased on reach (+12%) to 73,000 and hours (+9%) this quarter.

It’s been a wavy affair this quarter but down at Wave 105 they have managed to stay above water with a 10% rise in reach (38,000 listeners) to 405,000 and an 11% increase in total hours

Over in the West Midlands, Free Radio also had a few ups and downs; the highlight being Wolverhampton & The Black Country being up 43% in reach (68,000 to 97,000) and 44% up in hours also! Although is taking some of its new Q/Q population (+289%) from Birmingham (formerly Birmingham & The Black Country).

Free Radio Coventry and Warwickshire saw an 18% increase in reach (16,000 listeners) to 103,000 and a 10% increase in hours

Greatest Hits Radio overall gained 159,000 weekly listeners (29%) to now have 715,000 listeners and gained 30% in hours

Greatest Hits Manchester was 20% up in reach from 30,000 to 36,000 and 9% up in hours.

Greatest Hits West Midlands had a strong survey with increases in reach (+13%) to 204,000, total hours (61%) and average hours up from 5.3 to 7.5.

Greatest Hits Coventry & Warwickshire certainly love their Hits and this quarter reach has grown from 7,000 to 18,000 (157%) and hours by 22%.

Kiss, Gold, XS & Radio X regional stations

The Kiss brand has performed well nationally and in London, Kiss East and Kiss West have both seen drops in reach and hours.

In Manchester, it’s been a mixed set of results for the rock stations. XS Manchester has lost 27,000 weekly listeners, which is 29% of its weekly reach now having 67,000 listeners. However, the listeners which did stick with the station are tuning in for longer – with its average hours up from 5.8 to 6.5. And Radio X Manchester has taken up some of the slack, with an 8% growth in reach to 170,000 and a 3% growth in hours.

The regional Gold stations have done very well this quarter. Gold Manchester has grown its hours by 22% and Gold East Midlands’ total hours are up 30%. The Gold East Midland audience is very loyal – they listen for an astounding 13.6 hours on average each week.

The Local Picture

All local commercial reach remains static compared to Q1, with 25.7 million (47% of the population) listeners tuning in each week in Q2. Local commercial radio now has a market share of 27.1%.

Here are the independent local radio highlights for Q2 2019:

Rother FM in South Yorkshire is up 46% in total hours (quarter on quarter) from 222,000 to 325,000. It has also seen a spike in reach in Q2, up a further 18% to 33,000 listeners.

Lincs FM 102.2 is up 33% in total hours quarter on quarter, hitting almost 4 million total hours (3,949,000). Reach has also increased by 16% from 280,000 to 326,000 and it maintains a strong market share of 19.4%.

Local Kent station – KMFM – has increased by a further 11% quarter on quarter, smashing through 1.5 million total hours. Reach has also increased by 11% from 210,000 to 233,000 listeners in Q2 2019. The station now has its highest ever audience, for the second quarter in a row!

In the North West, local station Revolution 96.2 (Oldham) is up 34% in total hours (from 115,000 to 154,000), whilst reach remains stable at 27,000 listeners (+4%) quarter on quarter.

Touch FM Coventry is up 39% in total hours to 75,000 and has also seen an increase in reach by 27% with 19,000 listeners tuning in every week.

North Norfolk Radio in East Anglia increased hours by 29% and reach by 7% quarter on quarter.

Fosse 107 serving Hinckley, Nuneaton and Loughborough (previously Oak FM) has increased its hours by 28% (from 129, 000 to 165,000).

Summer in the Isle of Wight is all about festival music, sunshine and the odd stinky portaloo but the local IOW radio station has something else to dance about. Quarter on quarter, IOW Radio has increase in hours and reach. Total hours up by 13% to 362,000 and it now has a weekly reach of 42,000 which is 35% of the population.

Radio Exe in Exeter is going from strength to strength with another great RAJAR result this quarter. Listeners are sticking with their FM frequency longer as its hours have increased by 29% (from 143,000 to 184,000). The DAB transmitter increased reach by 12% quarter on quarter to 19,000, however hours dropped to 101,000 (-9%).


With increases in the commercial radio audience for both the older established brands and the newer unique stations, and most of the station brands consolidating their place in the hearts of listeners, UK commercial radio remains in excellent health. If you have any questions about how the latest RAJAR results will affect your radio advertising, just get in touch with one of our experts   and they would be delighted to help. Old school or new school…why not both!?


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