Radio Advertisers – you need to need to know this…

It’s not quite Halloween yet, but our experts have been up since the witching hour, dissecting the RAJAR results for Q3 2018 to summon up our analysis. Will it be a thriller for the radio groups, or will they be scared of the grizzly ghouls that await?

There are great opportunities to save money by booking now on the stations that have increased coverage and holding off on those that have fallen away before the end of the 2 week “amnesty” period when these results are uploaded to the booking systems on Nov 7th.

Here are just some of the highlights…

Overall, Commercial Radio is putting the frighteners on the BBC with an amazing reach of 35.8 million listeners – that’s 1.5 million ahead of the BBC’s 34.3 million. What’s interesting, is that the BBC’s audience appears to be getting older, whilst Commercial Radio’s share of 15-44’s is now up 2% to 61%.

In addition, all Digital Radio share of listening is now at 52.4% with Commercial Radio’s share of digital listening up to 53.5% compared with the BBC’s 51.4%.

National Stations and Networks

Many of the smaller national stations and networks this quarter have conjured up some whopping rises with most of the larger brands, such as Capital, Classic and Hits Radio remaining steady.

Global has seen the most growth on their more niche brands this quarter, Gold, Capital Xtra and Radio X are all up significantly on their Q2 results. Gold has increased weekly reach by 11% to 1.3 million and total listening hours by 9%. Capital Xtra has the “X factor” and has achieved its highest ever reach, up by 5% to 1.8 million with hours up 15% quarter on quarter. Radio X are rocking it with another set of record results – up 9% in total listening hours.

Meanwhile, Bauer’s brands have done particularly well. Kiss Network has grown its reach and total hours, mainly through its digital stations. The original Absolute Radio delivered an absolutely thrilling 10% increase in hours. However, the star of the show for Bauer is Magic, which has managed to pull an amazing 11% rise in hours out of the hat since Q2 on the main station, rising to over 4 million listeners across the network and up 12% in total hours.

Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations

Digital does it again with a whopping 34.4m people listening each week, that’s 71% of the population. And there’s more good news as the digital listening share for National stations has exceeded 60% for the first time at 60.9%.

Getting up close and personal is KISSTORY – the most popular commercial digital station with 2.16 million listeners with reach up 7% and hours up 17%, whilst sister station Kiss Fresh increased reach by 10% to an audience of 570,000.

Jazz FM, now owned by Bauer, lost a small amount of reach on the quarter but didn’t miss a beat on reach as it was up 15% on the year with an audience of 660,000.

Over at the Wireless Group, Virgin Radio looks like they may need the pull of Chris Evans, as reach remained level, but hours were down 13%. TalkSPORT2 saw a 2% increase in reach to 280,000 but hours were up a significant 56% on the quarter.

Absolute’s digital stations also had a good quarter with Absolute 80’s gaining 15% in reach – up to 1.76 million, Absolute 90’s gaining 11% up to 910,000 listeners as well as Absolute Classic Rock gaining 4% in reach to 720,000.

The Magic national digital stations have successfully waved their wand, with all three of their stations increasing reach by at least 10% respectively with Mellow Magic at 540,000, Magic Soul at 360,000 and Magic Chilled at 340,000 listeners.

In-car digital listening across all radio has put its pedal to the metal and reached a new record share of 36.5%, a growth of 11.7 million hours or 15.5% year on year. This has been helped by an additional 600,000 new vehicles fitted with DAB as standard, registered in Q3 2018 (CAP/SMMT).

Wrapping up the digital analysis, nationally, Sunrise Radio held on to their crown and are still shining bright as the most listened to commercial Asian radio station in the UK, with 315,000 listeners. Meanwhile, Panjab Radio’s second round of results, on a national basis, saw a small drop with the station now delivering 191,000 listeners.


This month, 45 years ago, LBC was the first legal commercial station to air and today, it’s still way ahead of the opposition, showing increases in both weekly listeners and hours this quarter. LBC now reaches over 1.3 million listeners each week in London and has 13.8 million total listening hours, up 5% quarter on quarter.

Overall in London, it was a steady survey period for the big brands, all having marginal increases. Magic is up 9%, Capital up 8%, Heart is up 2%, Absolute up 5% and best of all is Smooth, achieving an increase of 11%. However, there’s a bit of a shocker with Londoners falling out of love with Kiss, having lost 19% of its hours.

There are no skeletons in the cupboard for Mi-Soul. This quarter it has increased listening hours from 847,000 in Q2, to 1,160,000 in Q3. Q1 reported 449,000 hours, so this is a huge increase across 2018 – an amazing achievement.

Weekly Reach – Top 10 London Stations

Capital 2,073,00

Kiss 1,958,00

Magic 1,561,00

Heart 1,419,00

LBC 1,301,00

Brands by region


The love is strong for Heart this quarter with increases in weekly reach and total hours across the country. The overall Heart Network is marginally down quarter on quarter, however there are notable gains within the regions, which has meant Heart is still firmly in the top spot as the highest reaching network.

The most dramatic performance this quarter is from Heart Solent, building on last quarter’s success with a further 25% increase in total hours. And it was a hot summer in the city for London, Manchester and Birmingham, all showing an uplift in total listening hours.

Heart Four Counties has found a lucky four-leaf clover and increased its weekly reach by an impressive 22%, partly due to the Beds/Buck/Herts performance, which is up. This is also the case in Sussex where the northern transmitter for Crawley has increased its weekly reach by a solid 21%.


The Capital Network has conjured up another consistent RAJAR showing an increase of 18,000 weekly listeners as well as an increase in total hours. Capital Brighton enjoys its first RAJAR since it was rebranded from Brighton’s Juice, squeezing out a 9% increase in weekly reach. Listeners in Brighton are clearly enjoying the new flavour.

It may have been a steady RAJAR for the network, however Capital Scotland has got on its broom stick and is flying with a 32% increase in total hours topped with a 16% increase in weekly reach. This is swiftly followed by Capital South Wales showing a rise of 18% in reach and 22% in total hours. Capital is also being enjoyed in North Wales, with Capital North West & Wales increasing its total listening hours by 22%.

This increase in total listening hours can also be seen as a trend in most of the major cities, with audiences in London and Manchester tuning in for 8% and 14% longer respectively.


There are no tricks, just treats for the Smooth network which has had a very positive survey for Q3. The network as a whole has grown its total hours by 5% and its reach is up quarter on quarter as well.

11 of the 19 regional Smooth stations have either gained or maintained both their reach and their hours this quarter.

Smooth Radio Four Counties, Smooth Radio East Anglia, Smooth Radio London, Smooth Radio South Wales and Smooth Radio West Country have all had a stellar set of results, achieving double digital percentage growth in reach and hours.

The market leading Smooth station, Smooth North West, has held on to its dominant position with a minor dip in reach (3%) and an 8% increase in total hours. Year on year its reach is up 2% and it has added 14% to its total hours.

Building on its growth from last quarter, Smooth Radio South Wales has had a fantastic reaction in the valleys for the second survey in a row. Its reach has grown by 18% and its hours are up by a tidy 64%.

Kiss, Absolute, Gold, XS & Radio X regional stations

Regionally, commercial radio has been a real rock for listeners, with an excellent set of results. Absolute West Midlands has grown its reach by 18% and Radio X Manchester’s total hours are up 36%. Whilst at first glance XS Manchester’s 19% dip in reach and 23% drop in hours doesn’t seem too positive, this is on the back of major growth two quarters ago and a solid performance last time. Furthermore, its reach is up 6% year on year.

Radio X is marking the spot in Manchester. Not only has it made impressive gains in reach and hours this quarter, but it’s a similar story if we take a longer view and compare to this time last year. Year on year, Radio X Manchester’s reach is up 16% and its hours are up a phenomenal 47%.

It’s a lip-smacking set of results for the regional Kiss stations. The brand is doing particularly well over in the West Country with a 10% growth in reach and a 7% growth in hours.

The Gold audience has glittered this quarter in Manchester with a 26% increase in reach and an even more impressive 35% increase in hours. Its figures are up by a sizable margin both quarter on quarter and year on year. Whilst Gold East Midlands has lost 8% of its total hours this quarter, its listeners are still staying loyal, tuning in on average for a staggering 15 hours per week. Gold East Midlands total hours are also up by 49% year on year.

Big City Network / Hits Radio Network

The first set of results for the new Hits Network can be best described as ‘stable’. The network is down 1% in listeners to 6.4m with share increasing 0.1% to 5.3%.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the regions…


Glasgow is go go go! Both the Clyde stations have posted gains with Clyde up to 553,000 listeners and Clyde 2 now at 135,000, but the most impressive gains are in their hours, up 15% and 27% respectively. A short drive across the M8, the fine folk of Radio Forth will also be celebrating with a wee dram due to an amazing gain in hours with Forth 1 and 2 up 22% and 15% respectively.

Elsewhere in Scotland, Northsound had a bit of a mixed bag of trick or treat goodies with Northbound 1 and 2 both posting small gains in reach, between them adding 6,000, but at the same time Northsound 1 lost 9% of its hours and Northsound 2 15%. A little further south, the two Tay stations between them held their own. Meanwhile in Inverness, MFR posted marginal declines in both reach and hours but with a 25% share there’s no ghosts here. Likewise, Westsound posted flat numbers but still command a huge share in Dumfries and Galloway at 26%.


Meanwhile, across the water, it’s the luck of the Irish, as Cool FM has added 23,000 listeners to take the station reach to just shy of 500,000, whilst the Downtown Network has added 9% reach, 16% to its hours and increased share 1.4% points. Huge credit to these two strong brands.


Starting in the north, TFM and TFM 2 have put the T in tremendous, adding 14% and 22% reach respectively (25,000 listeners between them) and 262,000 hours combined.

Moving south towards Yorkshire, Radio Aire and Aire 2 produced some mixed results in Leeds, with Aire 2 up 33% in hours and Aire remaining stable. Over in South Yorkshire, Hallam FM posted some steely numbers with Hallam 2 now reaching 133,000 people each week whilst increasing hours by 12%.

In years gone by, Manchester was famous for its textiles but Hits Radio, formerly Key 103, has just cottoned on to how listeners have responded to the new brand. Hits Radio now fronted by Gethin Jones has lost 13% of its reach and 25% of its hours, but to compound matters its nearest neighbour, Key Radio, has seen reach fall by 35% and hours by 66%. Its share in the last 3 months has fallen to 0.4%. It’s not the start that Bauer’s new flagship station would have hoped for.

Up the M6 in Preston, people love Rock, not just Rock ’n Roll and rock from the nearby seaside, but also Rock FM. This station has posted a stunning 42% increase in hours whilst Rock 2 has increased by 26%. Overall, Rock FM’s share has increased 20% in the last 3 months, that makes it a real rock star!

Gem had a little wobble last quarter but it’s back on form this time around and shining brightly again with reach increasing 22,000 and hours up 11%. Share now sits at 7.4% in a very competitive market.

Over in the West Midlands, Free Radio posted some magical numbers, the highlight being a monumental 188% increase in hours for Free Herefordshire and Worcestershire 80’s.

The Local Picture

Radio’s strength is in the local communities. All local commercial radio (ILR) reaches 26,427,000 listeners every week (49%). Here are some of the local independent highlights of Q3 2018.

We can’t say if Nessie is a real monster living in the bonnie banks of loch Lomond, but we can say that the Scots love local radio! Last quarter, the Scottish Sun branded stations (Scottish Sun Greatest Hits, Scottish Sun Hits and Scottish Sun 80s) had their first ever RAJAR and it’s good news that the results for Q3 2018 show growth. All three sister DAB stations have seen the sun shine and increased both reach and hours quarter on quarter. Scottish Sun 80s seems to be the most popular with an uplift of an astronomical 397% in total hours and the highest reach (23,000 weekly listeners).

Staying in Scotland, Original 106 (Aberdeen) has seen an increase of 24% in total hours Q2 vs Q3 (from 539,000 to 666,000) and Central FM serving Stirling, is up 8% in hours quarter on quarter.

Moving southwards, KMFM in Kent will be very pleased with their Q3 2018 survey as the group picks up 26% more listeners quarter on quarter and they are also tuning in for longer – total hours are up 11% which smashes through the 1 million mark.

In other news, whilst ‘A Star is Born’ is absolutely smashing the box office, Star Radio (Cambridge and Ely) has seen strong gains in its total hours figures this quarter (+66%).

Over in Aylesbury, Mix 96 is up 65% in hours, year on year and 31% quarter on quarter, whilst in Yorkshire, Ridings FM is up 15% in total hours quarter on quarter and up 116% year on year.

With its increase in overall reach and listening hours, plus continued increases in digital listening, the Q3 RAJAR results have demonstrated that commercial radio is a solid choice for advertisers.

At Goodman – the response agency, we love radio so to find out how we can make it work for you give us a call on 0845 225 5555 or visit

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