RAJAR Q1/2020

This RAJAR period covers the first three months of the year, so as people started to change their routines for the last two weeks of March, it will include a little of this change – but with a RAJAR week averaged across 13 weeks of data, it’s unlikely to have much of an impact.

A common theme on these blog posts over the past few years has been about change. The radio, and broader media sector, have changed as consumer behaviours have altered. For me, radio’s luck was to develop a digital broadcast platform, doing the heavy lifting of launching a sector-specific device – a DAB radio! – and new stations before broad digital choice became an essential part of consumers’ media lives.

The result of this early work, was that in the digital future we all live in now, the sector has a broad range of channels from new and existing brands, that it can deliver on the modernised version of it’s heritage platform – a radio box – but also now has the material to distribute on any device that has an internet connection and speaker.

Indeed, radio (a curated linear feed with plenty of human involvement) has ended up dominating new devices like smart speakers – even if it shares them with new shouty upstarts like music streaming services. Oh, and asking what the temperature is, before your government mandated exercise.

Looking at the splits – are ‘owned’ platforms of AM/FM and DAB now account for 41% and 40% respectively of total radio listening. Our piggy-backed platforms of DTV and Internet account for 4% and 14% of radio listening.

Collectively the digital listening of DAB, DTV and Online now represent 58.6% of radio listening, up from 56.4% a year ago – with DAB providing the lion’s share – accounting for nearly 70% of the digital listening total.

A lot of this digital growth has come from the commercial radio sector’s aggressive expansion of stations. It’s working audience-wise, the sector’s average listening is up year-on-year, to 13 hours per week, and its share of listening is up too, from 45.7% in Q1 2019 to 47.8%. It’s also got its highest ever total reach – 36.3m (vs the BBC’s 33.5m).

Perhaps someone can tell the Radio Times of this commercial radio strength. In a feature this week they got ten celebs to pick their lockdown listening. They only managed to pick Radio 3, 4, 4 Extra and the World Service (plus an embarrassed mention of Classic FM). Looking at the contributors, perhaps a more representative bunch of people may have given them a more representative range of stations.


The battle for the London airwaves has always driven a lot of discussion, much to the chagrin of the successful local stations in the rest of the country. It’s also a good way to describe what changes and what stays the same in consumer behaviour.

If we look at the market share of the top 25 stations in the capital, it looks like the left column today, and the right column 10 years ago.

BBC Radio 414.6
BBC Radio 213.7
BBC Radio 210.6
BBC Radio 413.7
Capital London6
Magic (London)4.5
Magic (London)5.9
Classic FM4.4
LBC London5.1
Heart London4.4
BBC Radio 15
BBC Radio 5 live3.6
BBC Radio 5 live4.8
Capital London3.5
Classic FM4.7
BBC Radio 13.3
Heart London4.7
Absolute Radio2.8
Kiss (London)4.1
BBC 6 Music2.7
Absolute Radio2.6
Kiss (London)2.7
BBC Radio 32.6
BBC Radio 31.9
Smooth Radio London2.4
BBC Radio London1.5
Radio X London1.3
BBC Radio 4 Extra1.5
Smooth Radio London1.3
Radio X London1.5
BBC 6 Music1.1
Capital XTRA (London)1.4
Capital XTRA (London)1.1
LBC News (London)1.2
Gold London1
LBC News (London)0.7
BBC Radio London1.1
Planet Rock0.7
Gold London1
Premier Christian Radio0.7
Virgin Radio0.8
BBC Radio 4 Extra0.5
Absolute 80s0.7
Jazz FM0.5
Magic Soul0.7
1Xtra from the BBC0.3

On the right, the digital stations were just starting to appear – Planet Rock (already on air for 11 years by this point) hits a 0.7 share, and today has, checks notes, a 0.7% share. Jazz FM, a couple of years into a digital rebirth gets a 0.5% share, compared to a 0.4% share now. Easy to sniff at, of course, but these stations have kept steady whilst competition has tripled.

Other stations though have flourished. 6Music now number 11 in London, just above Kiss and their FM licence. Kisstory, Virgin Radio, Absolute 80s and Magic Soul now make their mark too.

As the number of stations has exploded, its music that’s been the differentiator. There haven’t been many new speech stations on the block, and for the one that has appeared, Talk Radio, it’s been a bumpy ride. R4 has managed to grow, whilst LBC has moved up the chart, steadily growing and maintaining its share. 5Live occupies the same chart position, but not the same market share.

Magic, Heart and Capital are still top 10 but are finding their audiences salami sliced, not just by competition, but by their own spin-offs too.

Year on Year Reach Changes

Looking nationally, stations that have done well over the last year, reach-wise, including Virgin Anthems (more than doubling) and talkRADIO up 25%. Virgin Radio’s seen a 15% increase year on year (to a smidge under 1.5m) – good, but I’m sure they’d hoped for something a little larger.

Free Radio in the Black Country has doubled and its sister station in Coventry is up over 40%, the Birmingham branch – down 30%. That’s RAJAR for you! Radio Essex, having pocketed the old Heart Essex breakfast team have been growing, up 50% year on year.

What was Touch and is now Capital is up 76%, albeit from a low base. Digital station Dragon Radio in Wales has seen steady growth now with 60k listeners and nearly doubling over the past year, whilst our own Fun Kids has seen a 50% reach bump.

XS Manchester which was going to be closed due to poor audience figures has seen its year on year figures now increase 40% to 131k. Now saved (by the regulator), lets see if they keep it! In fact it’s good rock news in Manchester generally, with Radio X Manchester up to 191k – a 20% year on year increase.

At the other end of the spectrum, Capital Brighton hasn’t really chimed with its audience, seeing a 70% drop from 52k to 15.7k. Town 102’s regulatory-imposed analogue switch-off has seen it now just at 10k reach. It’s replacement Ipswich 102 has had its worst book of its first three – at 30k – but doing better than Town had done for the past few years.

Not a great result for Hits Radio Manchester down 23.4% year on year from 301k to 230k.

I’ve touched on the problems of heritage ILRs many times over the years. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the programming on Hits Manchester – I think the new Breakfast show has been good, the music is fine and the line-up are solid. It’s problem, like many new launches in super-competitive markets, is market fit. Can a station find a gap in the market, can it push that gap and make it bigger?

When listeners are spoilt for choice, a traditional mainstream offer has a lot of work to do to establish itself. It’s hard to drive passion when you’re playing pop songs and you don’t have heritage on your side. The challenge is to build talkability – with talent, stunts and marketing – on top of solid, well-tuned and researched programming.

Hits Manchester currently has a 3% market share. As the Hits TSA market share table below shows, older stations dominate, whilst many local stations are in a knife-fight around the 3% share mark. It’s easy to give Hits a kick-in but look at BBC Radio Manchester, it’s doing all the things people say Hits should do – play the local card – but it doesn’t seem to be doing it much good.

Fundamentally Hits faces too much competition in its format from R1, R2, Capital and Heart with specialist sport, dance and indie stations also getting in the way of any other hours growth. To break out it’s going to need to do something special.

BBC Radio 215.1
Smooth Radio North West9.4
BBC Radio 49
Classic FM5.9
BBC Radio 15.3
Capital Manchester4.6
Heart North West3.5
BBC Radio 5 live3.5
Hits Radio (Manchester)3.1
BBC Radio Manchester2.9
Radio X Manchester2.9
XS Manchester2.9
BBC 6 Music1.9
Gold Manchester1.4
Absolute Radio0.7
Greatest Hits Radio (Manchester)0.6
Planet Rock0.2

A slightly different table below, this is 10+ Reach in London. Usually 15+ is what’s generally published, but it’s actually people over 10 that are measured by busy RAJAR diarists. It’s always the one that I look at, as it makes comparing my station, Fun Kids, with our peers easier to do. Of course our core audience is under 10, which RAJAR doesn’t measure, so just think where we’d be on the list if they were measured too!

Still though, it’s good to be above all the Virgin and Smooth spin-offs, Hits, Greatest Hits and Country Hits, Heart Dance and Heart 90s, Scala, talkRADIO, some of the Absolute stations and many more too. However, just like all the data up to here, nothing stays the same – new competition in your format, your demographic or a talent change can make all the difference – good and bad. So enjoy it whilst you’ve got it, whatever it is!

Q1 2020
BBC Radio 42921.1
BBC Radio 22278.6
Heart Network (UK)2077.6
Capital Network (UK)2051.9
BBC Radio 11483.6
LBC (UK)1403.7
Classic FM1362.3
BBC Radio 5 live1186.8
Smooth Radio Network (UK)886.6
BBC 6 Music859.6
Capital XTRA (UK)808.3
Absolute Radio807
BBC Radio 3649
LBC News (UK)505.6
BBC Radio 4 Extra487.2
Radio X Network (UK)419.9
BBC World Service398.2
Virgin Radio367.7
Gold Network (UK)306.5
Absolute 80s285.7
Jazz FM268.3
1Xtra from the BBC258.9
Heart 80s247.5
Mellow Magic221.1
Kiss Fresh205.8
Sunrise Radio National194.9
Planet Rock194.7
Magic Soul187.9
Absolute Radio 90s160.3
Absolute Classic Rock150.9
Premier Christian Radio122.8
BBC Radio 5 live sports extra113.4
Fun Kids (London)108.3
Smooth Radio Chill106.7
Hits Radio98.6
Smooth Extra98.6
BBC Asian Network UK97.4
1458 Lyca Radio93.4
Magic Chilled83.8
Heart 90s80.3
Greatest Hits Radio79.5
Capital XTRA Reloaded77.2
Panjab Radio75.1
Absolute Radio 70s68.8
Heart Extra64.1
Scala Radio56.9
Heart Dance53.1
Absolute Radio 00s42.2
1035 Dilse Radio42.1
Smooth Radio Country39.2
Chris Country Radio38.7
Asian FX36
JACK Radio33.4
Heart 70s30.8
Country Hits Radio23.4
Absolute Radio 60s21.8
Virgin Anthems21.4
Union JACK17.1
Virgin Chilled17.1
Virgin Radio Groove7.3
Nation Radio London3.4

Me and my RAJAR blogging colleague, Adam Bowie, are going to do a live stream later today, Thursday 14th March at 1pm. Keep an eye on Twitter for the link. If you have any questions, send them over and we’ll have a go at answering them!

edit: here it is

Want more? Radio Today generally has pretty comprehensive RAJAR coverage.