Darkness falls across the land… the midnight hour is close at hand… creatures crawl in search of blood to terrorise your neighbourhood. Or it might just be a Radio Expert – staying up late to analyse the latest RAJAR results for Q3!

It might not be Halloween just yet, but radio is casting its spell over 88% of the population, with commercial radio reaching more listeners than ever – over 2.5 million more than the BBC. In the ever-increasing digital arena, commercial radio brands continue to be popular.

Let’s take a closer look at the tricks and treats…

National Stations and Networks

The top 3 highest reaching networks remain Heart, Capital and Hits Radio Brand, with 8.5 million, 7 million and 6.7 million respectively. Although strong average listening hours for Hits Radio at 8.2 per week, compared to 6.4 per week for Heart and 5.1 for Capital, means that the Bauer network is on a par with Heart for market share (5.5%, Capital has 3.6%).

Perhaps one of the biggest stories this quarter is the LBC Network. It has been growing almost every quarter and has yet again reported record reach and hours. Reach is now at nearly 2.6 million, up 9.4% on the quarter and 23% (from 2.1 million) year on year, whereas total hours are up 11% since last quarter.

Magic is also going strong, the rise is steadier than LBC’s but it has nevertheless posted its highest ever reach and total hours, up 4.5% to 3.5 million listeners each week and up 7% to 18.8 million hours in total. Radio X has also just beat its highest ever reach, which was this time last year when it had 1,717,000 listeners, it now has 1,737,000, an increase of 7% from Q2.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

Unsurprisingly, all digital listening has risen from 50.2% a year ago to 56% in Q3 2019. It’s smarter listening too – 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.

65% of the population now tune in to digital radio each week, drawn in by the huge variety on offer. It’s also worth noting that 27% of adults listen to live radio via a smartphone or tablet at least once a month.

Last quarter, Kisstory overtook 6 Music to become the largest national DAB station, and despite a spirited fightback from 6 Music this time around, Kisstory has grown even further to retain its crown. 2,554,000 people are now tuning in each week, impressive growth of 9.4% in the last quarter and an amazing 18.4% year on year.

talkRADIO looks to have taken advantage of the new agenda and has seen 19% growth in hours in the last quarter along with 56.7% year on year growth to a new record reach of 408,000. The talkSPORT stations were solid in defence with the main station flat year on year at 2.95million weekly listeners whilst talkSPORT2 saw a year on year growth of 16.8% to 326,000.

After the initial ‘Chris Evans effect’, Virgin Radio has dropped back a little losing 128,000 listeners (8.3%) this quarter. However, Virgin is over 1 million listeners up year on year. Sister stations, Virgin Anthems and Virgin Chilled have seen 43.4% and 78.3% growth respectively. Virgin Anthems now has 208,000 people tuning in a week whilst Virgin Chilled 148,000.

London

Despite a loss of 14% in weekly reach, Capital London remains the highest reaching station in the city with 1.5 million listeners tuning in to Ronan and the gang each week.

The team at Magic FM have pulled more rabbits out of the hat, as they recorded a very solid 8% growth in reach, quarter on quarter, with a 7% increase in total hours.

LBC 97.3 continues to be a very steady ship, recording single digit growth in both reach and hours. With everything that is going on in British politics right now, it seems LBC really is Leading Britain’s Conversation. LBC’s sister station, LBC London News also had a good quarter showing a steady 2% growth in reach but an impressive 21% gain in total listening hours.

There’s always one stand out performer and this quarter it’s Premier Christian Radio. Their listening hours have increased by a heavenly 179%.

Other notable winners in the battle for the ears of the Londoners were Sunrise, Smooth and Absolute Radio. Up 21%, 10% and 2% respectively in total hours.

The top 5 stations in London ranked by weekly reach (‘000)

Capital – 1,571
Magic – 1,567
Heart – 1,423
LBC – 1,341
Kiss – 1,272

The top 5 stations in London ranked by total listening hours (‘000)

LBC 97.3 – 13,292
Magic – 8,173
Heart – 7,962
Capital – 6,218
Kiss – 4,961

Brands by region

Capital

The Capital brand remains strong across the country with Capital Manchester increasing its total listening hours by 25% paired with a spike in weekly listeners (up 9% to 493,000). Capital East Midlands has increased its total listening hours to 3,089,000 per week (up 2%), which is mainly thanks to the Derbyshire transmitter increasing its total hours by an impressive 40%.

Heart

The Welsh are really embracing the Heart brand – Heart South Wales increasing total hours by 24% and Heart North Wales increased its weekly audience by 18% to 127,000. It’s a positive picture in the South West with Heart West Country extending total hours by 20%.

Smooth

This quarter has seen a lot of drastic changes across the various Smooth transmitters with hefty losses for several stations and impressive gains elsewhere. This balances out to a small increase in reach and a slightly larger drop in hours for the network. Whilst only 6 of the 19 regional Smooth stations managed to post growth in both reach and hours, the network is up in both measures year on year.

Several of the Smooth AM stations have reported impressive double digit growth in reach: Smooth Cambridgeshire (now Gold Cambridgeshire) is up 10%, Smooth Kent is up 43% to 57,000 weekly listeners, Smooth South Wales is up 20% to 97,000 and Smooth Sussex has grown its reach by 28% to 64,000. There’s a special mention for Smooth Solent – not only has the station’s weekly reach shot up by over 50% to 77,000 but its hours have grown by a staggering 73%. Listeners are now tuning in for an average of 7.9 hours per week.

Hits Network

Greatest Hits Radio has made its biggest hit – up by an impressive 103,000 weekly listeners to 818,000 – that’s 14% quarter on quarter and 11% in hours.

Unlike the last turbulent quarter, this one seems to be steadier across the regions. In East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire there was an impressive 38% increase in reach to 22,000 and 90% in hours, with listeners tuning in for longer with average hours up from 10.4 to 14.9.

Manchester was up 50% up in hours quarter on quarter whilst over on Teesside there was a stratospheric 217% increase in hours (+117,000 hours) quarter on quarter.

Over the border MFR was up 3% in reach (121,000 listeners) and 8% in hours with loyal listeners tuning in for 11.1 hours a week. Scotland’s stalwarts, Clyde and Forth, have remained steady.

Everything is cool at Cool FM as it won back the 8% in reach lost last quarter, now reaching 477,000 listeners.

Highlights in England’s green and pleasant land include Metro delivering an impressive increase of 31% in hours quarter on quarter. Its neighbour, TFM, also boasts a 21% increase in hours quarter on quarter.

Over in Leeds, Radio Aire is now walking on air, increasing its hours by 27% quarter on quarter.

Kiss, XS, Gold & Radio X regional stations

The Kiss brand is popular in the West Country this quarter, bucking the station’s downward trend to report an 8% increase in reach and a 10% increase in hours.

After a slightly wobbly set of results last quarter, XS Manchester is back with a vengeance. The station has grown its reach by 19% to 80,000 and its hours by a massive 24%. There is less cause for celebration at the other rock station in Manchester; Radio X Manchester has lost 5% of its weekly reach and 5% of its total hours.

Gold in Manchester has posted a slight drop in reach and a 5% growth in hours, but listeners are very loyal, tuning in for 10.2 hours per week. Meanwhile at Gold East Midlands the figure goes up to a phenomenal 14 hours.

The Local Picture

All Local Commercial radio remains stable with a small increase in reach for Q3 to 25,988,000 listeners and has a total of 26 million hours. Some of the independent local stations across the country have seen some positive results for Q3:

Local listeners in Hastings, Eastbourne and Worthing are screaming for MORE Radio! This quarter, More Radio increased its hours by a whopping 369% and added 81% to their weekly reach taking it to 49,000 in total – that’s 22,000 more listeners each week.

Meanwhile, it’s a dream quarter for Dream 100 in Colchester as it grows its total hours by 42% from 308,000 to 438,000 quarter on quarter.

The Welsh take on South Africa in the Semi-final of the Rugby World Cup this weekend, but the local radio team at Swansea Bay have something else to get excited about with the station increasing hours by 92% and reach by 24% quarter on quarter to 26,000.

The standout Breeze station this quarter is The Breeze Solent – up 63% in total hours quarter on quarter. And it seems that the only way is Essex with Radio Essex (Southend & Chelmsford) up 36% in total hours from 273,000 to 372,000.

Summary

Commercial Radio now has more listeners than ever and over 2.5 million more listeners than the BBC. The commercial sector is now very much a mix of the old school and new school. There’s literally something for every taste, from speech on talkRADIO to Scala for the classical enthusiast or Country Hits for those who love a hoe down. If you’d like to know more about how this quarter’s RAJAR results might affect radio advertising, just get in touch with one of our experts.

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