The most successful radio stations on YouTube

I’ve been spending a lot of this year looking at YouTube, and with Fun Kids we’ve been putting a significant effort into growing views and revenue.

As part of this work, I’ve been looking at how UK radio has been doing and I thought it made sense to share some of the data. Here’s a link to a Google Sheet with the stats for all UK radio stations on YouTube (that I could find).

Firstly though, why should radio stations bother with YouTube?

I think it’s easy to forget that, for many, YouTube is itself a social network. Audiences, particularly younger audiences, subscribe to channels so they see new videos in their feed. For these groups delivering regular, consistent content is essential. And it can pay dividends too.

Growing a subscription base means that new videos grow views faster. Having a direct relationship with the people who like your content means that you’re more likely to get ‘thumbs up’ and comments. Creating engagement around your videos also means that YouTube’s algorithm is more likely to show your video to other users too.

Creating quality content is also an important measure. It will help your videos be promoted around the site if you have decent viewing times for your content. That’s people watch through your videos rather than abandoning them part way along. If you have high view times, then YouTube regards it as a ‘good’ video. The result? More viral distribution around the site.

The other way to make sure your videos are discoverable is to ensure that the metadata is good. Titles, descriptions and tags are the tools that YouTube uses to power its search engine (the second most popular search engine on the internet after Google). Are you maximising the chance of your content being found?

Building audience on YouTube is good for radio too. Great video can reinforce the connection with your existing audience, and it can show non-listeners the kind of station you are. But it can work against you too. Badly filmed content without purpose or respecting potential listeners time can damage your brand values as well.

It’s also something that can be profitable. 1 million views generates around £1,000 in Google Adsense money. Strong audiences to all videos (aided by a good subscription base) can also provide a revenue source from direct clients too.

In my stats below I’ve grouped together multiple channels from brands. For example Radio 1 has its regular channel and a Vevo channel, Capital has a profile for each station and at Fun Kids we have a number of channels doing different jobs. The data is also showing all consumption, including non UK. However, what I’ve tried to do to compare stations more honestly, is to look at data from the last 30 days. So all this is mainly what happened in November.

The chart is sorted on total views in the last 30 days.


Last 30 Days: Views

Last 30 Days: Subs

Total Subs
(not deduped)

1 BBC BBC Radio 1 (All) 42,483,624 58,407 3,951,607
2 Global Capital FM (All) 13,604,269 19,909 1,301,502
3 Wireless talkSPORT 5,599,242 7,786 596,352
4 BBC BBC 1Xtra 4,062,933 7,640 374,773
5 Folder Fun Kids (All) 3,318,413 15,691 40,396
6 Bauer Magic 1,358,325 922 7,287
7 BBC Kermode & Mayo 895,949 1,159 109,805
8 BBC BBC Asian Network 759,866 2,342 33,360
9 Bauer Absolute Radio 692,216 582 38,945
10 BBC BBC Radio 2 625,311 998 39,571
11 Global Capital Xtra 604,447 1,907 31,895
12 UKRD Pirate FM 362,416 180 866
13 Premier Premier (All) 309,171 739 16,893
14 Bauer In Demand 299,234 187 63,321
15 Bauer Heat Radio 218,711 109 75,570
16 BBC BBC Radio 6Music 208,425 662 21,158
17 Global Classic FM 163,187 256 8,258
18 Global LBC 158,704 994 17,125
19 BBC BBC 5 Live 157,401 189 6,653
20 BBC BBC Radio 3 155,841 415 18,390

Radio 1 and 1xtra, Capital and talkSPORT are doing really well. If you have a look at their channels, the reason is obvious – high quality content, regularly updated and focused.

Whilst there’s now a load of Jingle Bell Ball videos on the Capital channel, if you scroll backwards a little bit you can see the regular content they put online. Yes, there’s good video of studio guests, like the Shawn Mendes video below, but it’s highlighting a specific part of the interview, with a good thumbnail image too (if you look in the grid view). It’s designed to be appealing for Shawn fans and be clickable, rather than just be ‘Shawn Mendes radio interview’ dumped onto YouTube.

Much of Capital’s other video content is bespoke material, again with a view to it being consumed by those who live on YouTube. But often these are off the back of people coming in for a radio interview. Here’s a piece about How To Be A YouTuber – taking guests and doing more with it.

Radio 1’s main channel takes a different approach. Looking across their grid it shows a whole variety of different material. It’s part of the problem they have because of the nature of their radio station which comprises specialist music, silly games, celebrity interviews, massive live lounge guests, stunts etc. Whilst an accurate reflection of the nature of what they do, it does not help them benefit from how YouTube is used.

This may sound a little harsh when their channels is by far the world’s most popular radio station channel, delivering 40m views a month! However, much of their video consumption is to the content with superstars. Whoever does a Taylor Swift cover is going to generate millions of views for that video. I think what tells more of a story is when you look at the smaller videos – things that are the more regular content.

Radio 1 talks a lot about their 3m YouTube subscribers – an amazing success. But their YouTube strategy isn’t turning those subscribers into regular viewers of the content. For non-superstar content the videos average 5k to 20k views. Usually on YouTube each video should be generating 10% of the subscriber base, they’re clearly not.

Generally having lots of subscribers is good, as more people then see each new piece of content in their feeds and so are more likely to watch it. But with such diverse content and lots of different reasons that people are subscribing, are they actually prompting feed blindness, with people automatically ignoring the material?

Of course, all of this is a lovely problem to have!

I think talkSPORT’s channel is a great example of not needing the budgets and access of Radio 1 and Capital to do well.

They upload a new video daily, but they’re usually based on graphics rather than bespoke filmed video. The content is focused, usually funny and with good clickable hooks. Sport is also a passion centre for many and can prompt lots of discussion (good for YouTube’s audience-driving algorithms).

This video is a great example of something most stations with a copy of Adobe Premier could, if they wanted, for their station.

At Fun Kids we’re operating six different channels that are all doing different jobs. Our aim is to build a variety of distinct platforms on YouTube that captures young audiences’ imaginations. We’re making a concerted effort at creating channel brands around topics driven by particular presenters. Our first major effort is around video games, with N60Sean.

The recent success that channel has had, has come from combining different elements that are popular with younger audiences alongside good production and personality. In these videos we’re less about promoting Fun Kids as a radio station and more about getting viewers to love Sean and the videos he make. As he’s the breakfast presenter of the radio station, we hope doing it this way round builds him up as a celebrity people also want to listen to as well as growing the channel for us in its own right.

The video below shows Sean using the WWE 2k17 game to create a narrative with other videogame YouTubers.

If you’re committed to growing a channel on YouTube for your radio station, the best thing I can recommend is reading YouTube’s Playbook for Brands. It’s a brilliant insight into growing a channel and will really help.

There’s a lot more to say on YouTube – both from good and bad radio practice, to what other people can teach us, so I’ll try and do some more posts.



4 thoughts on “The most successful radio stations on YouTube”

  1. Great vlog and really insightful and interesting for all radio stations big and small.

    Whilst slightly off topic I pose the following question, with video content on facebool, do you share YouTube video there or upload straight?

    Pros/cons to both as we know facebook prioritises their own video over YouTube. Yet they don’t currently provide monetisation.

    Would be interested in your take.

    Personally I recommend (currently) upload to both, but make sure there is a call to action to head to YouTube to subscribe.

  2. A native upload to Facebook will see more viral distribution, so it will reach more people. However, it’s not also a terrible idea to use Facebook to inject people into your YouTube and encourage them to subscribe etc.

    On Facebook, there isn’t a lot of ways, today, of deriving value – there’s no revenue share, you’re a the whim of there distribution choices – so you need to be careful not just to feed their beast by pouring all your content in there.

  3. Great piece!

    Although it’s interesting to see that for the most part, radio numbers are low enough that a single viral success can dramatically skew the picture.

    For example, I was curious as to why Heart was so low, but Magic so high in your stats. Part of the answer is that Heart doesn’t seem to have uploaded a new video in the past 8 months. On the other hand, Magic has a Fantastic Beasts interview that has nearly 1m views on its own. The underlying success is probably more in subscriber numbers, where Bauer’s Heat and Absolute brands do substantially better. Yet they’re blown out of the water because of that single video.

    You gently scold Radio 1 a little for the fact that much of its viewing comes from its superstar access; viewership gained from people coming in to see a single video and then leaving. That’s fair, but it’s probably true for many radio videos (e.g. Magic, as noted above). There’s not really a lot you can do about that, and it means that you’re going to be viewed in a very different way to, say, a Youtuber’s vlogs, where they are the focus of the videos.

    The other issue is of course the volume of videos a large provider like Radio 1 produces. Yes, on YouTube, they’re neatly organised into Playlists so you can just watch Grimmy vids, or Greg James vids. But you can only really subscribe to “Radio 1” as a whole, delivering a firehose of videos. (And if you think this is bad, try the overall BBC channel. This posts ~8 videos a day, that can seem range from Planet Earth 2, to Sherlock trailers, to excerpts from Graham Norton right through to clips from Citizen Khan.)

    I’m sure someone with a better understanding of YouTube can explain why you can’t subscribe to individual users’ Playlists rather than the whole channel – especially if they’re a prolific publisher. But it would seem that might give users a better experience.

  4. My opinion on YouTube, and online content as a whole, for a lot of radio stations is that most are doing it the wrong way round. Particularly the smaller stations.

    Right now stations are creating content based on their radio shows. When in fact they should be creating non radio content that appeals to a wider social media audience, who then might as as a result, listen to their radio show if they build up a following.

    Imagine if Casey Neistat suddenly had a radio show. It could become one of the most popular radio shows around, listened to by a generation who otherwise don’t listen to the radio.

    An up and coming presenter working at a local station somewhere should put all their effort into becoming a ‘local’ YouTube personality, and drive people to their show THAT way.

    My personal bug bear is radio stations seem to think that people are interested in the fact they are a radio station. That some how a DJ doing a link in a radio studio will appeal to the wider public. I often think this is fueled by a people working in radio being ‘geeks’. Somehow they think the shot of the studio, because it appeals to them will appeal to everyone. And it rarely does.

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