With the UK officially leaving the European Union, and Harry and Meghan stepping back as senior members of Britain’s royal family, Q1 2020 was already shaping up to be a fascinating start to the new year…  and then the Covid-19 lockdown began.

Only the last week of the 13 weeks of this survey covered this unprecedented time in our history – a time when we were all turning to radio for the latest news and information on the Pandemic.

However, this first week of lockdown was unlikely to have a big impact on the Q1 results. Any major increases in listening is expected to be shown in Q2 – so watch this space.

Our experts may be in lockdown eating chocolate hobnobs in their pyjamas, but they’re still able to bring you our pin-point analysis of the Q1 RAJAR results.

The big news is that Commercial Radio’s audience is the biggest ever, with a weekly reach of 36,267,000 listeners and a market share of 47.8%. That’s 2.7 million more listeners than BBC radio.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the headlines…

National Stations and Networks

The top 3 highest reaching networks remain Heart, Capital and the Hits Radio Brands.

The Heart Network currently reaches 7.7 million listeners, but if we include the new Heart digital stations in that figure, the brand now has a weekly reach of 9.4 million.

Of all the national stations and networks, the original Absolute Radio station has gained the most listeners compared to last quarter. It now has 107,000 more listeners, up 5% from 2.3 million to 2.4 million, and listening hours are up 10% in total.

Classic FM has retained the new listeners it gained last quarter with a weekly reach of nearly 5.5 million and has increased average listening hours to report a 3% rise in total listening hours.

LBC Network has made further gains on the record reach it reported last quarter, weekly reach is up 2% to 2.8 million from 2.7 million in Q4 2019, and up 24% from 2.2 million this time last year. Average listening hours are also higher quarter on quarter, so total hours have increased by 8%.

talkSPORT, Gold Network and Magic have all increased both reach and hours since last quarter.

Gold is up 2.5% in reach to 1.3 million, with a 4% rise in total hours.

Magic has made marginal gains in reach (1.5% to 3.3 million) and significant gains in hours, resulting in a 10.5% increase in total hours quarter on quarter.

Similarly, talkSPORT is up 2.5% in reach to almost 3 million listeners and has reported an 8.5% increase in total listening hours.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

Overall, digital listening share has increased to a new record of 58.6%. Digital reach is also breaking records with 36.9 million adults, or 67% of the population, tuning in via a digital platform – up from 36.3 million in Q1 2019.

KISSTORY remains the biggest digital commercial station with 2 million listeners, whilst Virgin’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show remains the UK’s most listened-to digital national breakfast show, based on listening hours.

Other highlights include talkSPORT 2 increasing weekly reach by a massive 51% to 489,000 listeners with hours up by an equally huge 99%, compared to the previous quarter.

Smooth Radio Country has delivered impressive numbers too, with weekly reach up 40% to 286,000 listeners.

Classical station, Scala Radio is hitting the right note too. Weekly reach is up by 25% to 310,000 and hours have increased by a solid 29%.

One of the newest Heart spin-offs, Heart 70s, has had a glittering quarter. Weekly reach is up by 19% to 294,000 listeners with hours also up by a 55% on the previous quarter.

Virgin Radio has seen a mixed bag of results, losing reach on the quarter, now with 1.5 million listeners, but reach was up 15% year on year, Virgin Chilled’s reach was level on the quarter but up 35% year on year whilst Virgin Anthems lost 29% reach on the quarter but it’s reach doubled year on year.

A final word on the digital landscape – The figures for listening in car remain at 44.5% of all in car listening – up 5.5% year on year. We expect this figure increasing over the coming year as people change their cars to newer models with DAB radios included as standard.

London

Capital London remains the station with the most listeners each week with 1.6 million people tuning into Roman Kemp and the gang. This is a reduction of 9% but because average listening hours went up, Capital only saw a 4% decline in total listening hours. It’s a completely different story for Kiss London though. Capital’s main rival lost 14% of its weekly reach, now at 1.3 million, and reported a substantial 32% drop in total listening hours.

The poor performance of Kiss in London has allowed Heart to jump into second place in terms of weekly listeners. Heart’s weekly reach remains stable at 1.4 million, but hours have jumped up by 22%.

Meanwhile over at LBC London, total listening hours have literally gone through the roof – up 34%, although there was a small drop in weekly reach. LBC now has 16.6 million total listening hours, the next highest, Magic, is nearly half of that figure.

Of the rest of the larger London stations it was all pretty much business as usual. Absolute and Smooth gained a little and Radio X lost a little but there were no real dramas here.

Around the edges, there were gains of over 50% in listening hours from both Lyca Radio and Fun Kids – impressive performances.

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

Capital London        1,617,000
Heart London          1,385,000
Magic London          1,351,000
LBC London            1,232,000
Kiss London            1,265,000

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

LBC London             16,655,000
Magic London           8,864,000
Heart London            8,788,000
Capital London          6,986,000
Absolute London       5,586,000

 Brands by region

Capital

The Capital brand now reaches 7.5 million listeners each week. Capital London is the star of the show as loyal listeners tune in for longer, it has increased its average listening hours by 5% compared to the previous quarter. It’s the same story at Capital North West and Wales with an increase in average listening hours of 14%, from 6.6 to 7.5.

Other regional highlights include Capital South Wales up 1% in reach to 181,000 and up an amazing 41% in total hours (from 855,000 to 1,204,000), having increased their average listening hours from 4.8 to 6.7 (up 40%). Share of listening is up by 44%.

Heart

The Heart Brand now has a weekly reach of 9,365,000 and it’s the biggest radio brand in the UK. Heart is also the number one network with a weekly reach of 7,737,000. Meanwhile, Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden have smashed their way into the hearts of the nation, becoming the number one network breakfast show with over 4 million listeners per week.

Locally, Heart London has increased its weekly reach to 1,385,000 and increased its total hours by 22.8%. In the East of England, Heart Cambridgeshire has increased its weekly reach by 12,000.

Smooth

The trend across the Smooth brand this quarter is a dip in reach but a growth in hours. Seven of the regional Smooth stations now have fewer weekly listeners but their total hours have grown compared to the last quarter. For example, Smooth Kent’s listeners now tune in for an average of 8.6 hours per week the longest average hours per listener across the network, giving its total hours a boost of 10.65%, despite losing a small number of listeners.

Looking at the larger Smooth FM stations, the one which stands out this quarter is Smooth East Midlands. This station has added 41,000 new weekly listeners (up 9.65%), with an increase of hours too, up an impressive 13.82%.

Smooth Radio Sussex had the biggest positive percentage change in hours, up 18.61% compared to Q4 2019. It is an even more impressive picture if we look at the year on year figure – up 21.78%.

Smooth North West & Wales has built on the strong set of figures it posted last quarter, growing both its reach and its hours for the second survey period in a row. This station’s reach is up 13.11% this quarter and its total hours are up 10.18%.

Hits Network

Overall, it was a pretty stable quarter for the Hits Network, reach fell by 38,000 but that’s just 0.5%. Hours have increase by 0.5%, so their share remains exactly as it was last time around at 5.4%.

In Scotland, Clyde 1 lost last quarter’s gains falling back by 6.9% to a reach of 585,000 but with a share of 30% in Glasgow, it’s still number one by far. In Edinburgh, Forth 1 is flat for the quarter in reach but has posted an extra 296,000 hours, so share has gone up by 7%. Elsewhere in Scotland, Northsound added 10,000 listeners (8.2%) and increased hours by 20%.

Last time around, Cool FM played a blinder in Northern Ireland. They’ve done the same again by adding 21,000 listeners, with a weekly reach of 527,000. They’ve also added 370,000 listening hours and now have a share just shy of 14%.

Not wanting to spoil the party, just down the corridor, Downtown FM has added 228,000 hours and increased their share by 10.8%.

The big story in England is in Sheffield where Hallam FM has put in a steely performance by adding a sensational 68,000 listeners to increase their reach by 21%. What’s more, Hallam has grown hours by 41% and how commands an 11.1% share.

Hits Radio Manchester has lost some listeners and now has a weekly reach of 231,000, but encouragingly average hours have grown by 22% to 5.5 per head. Despite the drop in reach Hits Manchester has increased its share of listening.

Greatest Hits Network

The Greatest Hits Network has had a solid quarter by posting a 47,000 increase in reach and added 700,000 hours. Average listening hours now are a very strong 8 per person.

Kiss, Gold, XS & Radio X regional stations

The big story for the regional Kiss stations is that their listeners are staying very loyal – Kiss East’s average hours per listeners have shot up an astounding 25%, bringing its total hours up 19.18%. It is a similar but less dramatic story for Kiss West which has seen a 5.7% increase in its total hours this quarter.

It has been a very good quarter for XS Manchester with reach up 14.78% and its hours up 12.48%. Its weekly reach is now up 40% year on year to 132,000 and its total hours are up 134%, compared to this time last year.

This is only the second RAJAR for Gold Cambridgeshire, but the station has shown phenomenal growth with a 40.54% increase in reach to 52,000 and a 55.02% increase in hours – this is one to watch for the future.

The Local Picture

In Q1 2020, reach for all local commercial radio (ILR) increased to 25,185,000 listeners (46% of the population), a 3.45% uplift in reach quarter on quarter. Total hours are up by 5.19%, from 239.5 million to 251.9 million.

Here are a few of the local highlights:

Sam FM Bristol is the biggest local winner with growth in both reach and hours versus the previous quarter. The station has increased weekly reach by a massive 56% to 102,000 and boasts an increase of 95.91% in total hours – from 342,000 to 670,000 hours.

Ridings FM is firmly in the saddle with an uplift of 47.03% in total hours – that’s an increase of 103,000 quarter on quarter and they’ve also added 33% to their weekly reach to 36,000.

In Fife, local station Kingdom FM increased hours by 32.03% from 256,000 to 338,000. Reach is also up slightly, adding 1,000 more listeners to 56,000.

Over in Wales, Nation Radio increased hours by 32.49% and has also seen reach go up by 10.32% to 171,000. 106.3 Bridge FM gained 28% more hours quarter on quarter and added 1,000 more listeners to its weekly reach to 23,000.

Summary

Q1 2020 has seen another rise in commercial radio listening. This combined with increases in listening via digital devices, and local stations also delivering strong performances, shows that radio is as popular today as it’s ever been.

We expect the Covid-19 effect in Q2’s survey to show even bigger increases in radio audiences, so now’s the time to plan and book radio campaigns, before trading starts on the lockdown listening data.

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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