Sam Munton
Sam Munton
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Latest RAJAR figures – Chris Evans boost for Virgin Radio

The radio industry has gone through a sea change these last few months, so RAJAR’s (Radio Joint Audience Research) latest audience figures were much anticipated. RAJAR are the official body for measuring the radio audience in the UK and release a quarterly report that details which stations have gained audience and those which have dropped.  

The spotlight has been thrown particularly on Chris Evans – who switched from BBC Radio 2 to Virgin in JanuaryIt’s a move that has paid off big for Wireless, the media group that owns Virgin. Chris has achieved over a million listeners in his first couple of months at the station, increasing Virgin’s reach by a massive 700% year on year. That’s arguably money well spent by them.    

That said, his old BBC Radio 2 show, now hosted by Zoe Ball, maintained its grip as the nations most listened to breakfast show, holding steady with 9 million listeners – so Virgin will be hoping he’ll continue to pull more listeners in.  

Other research findings
  • BBC 5 Live breakfast saw a rise in their audience with 214,000 more listeners tuning in over the last 3 months.   
  • BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme gained 364,000 listeners, but BBC Radio 4 as a whole dropped 750,000 listeners year on year. 
  • LBC has hit a record audience at 2.25 million, with more people tuning in for coverage of the ever-changing news agenda and opinion shows hosted by the likes of Nigel Farage and James O’Brien. 
  • Interestingly, the top four commercial brands (Heart, Capital, Smooth and Classic) are all owned by the same company… Global.  
  • Bauer meanwhile saw a small rise in their audience of 1.1% year on year.   The company has recently invested in new brands and stations, including Scala and Country Hits; they’ll be hoping these stations will help to boost their overall reach up from the current 17.7 million.  
  • Digital Radio has also hit a new high with the Government announcing its plans to review Digital Radio which accounts for 52% of radio listeners. 

Digital has become the most popular means of listening. Credit: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB

BBC vs Commercial 

Significantly, the quarterly report shows commercial stations, such as Heart, LBC and Virgin, have their largest ever lead on the BBC, with 36.1 million commercial listeners compared to the BBC’s 34.4 million. This quarter has also seen some of the BBC’s biggest and best talent move from the corporation to commercial stations. Alongside Chris Evans, Simon Mayo has also left BBC Radio 2 for Bauer’s Scala Radio (so new it wasn’t measured in this first quarter).   

What to look for in the next quarter

The radio industry is anticipating more changes for the commercial sector in the next quarter. Global are expected to roll out their new networked national breakfast shows; Capital has already done this and Heart is due to launch its new national show with Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden starting on the 3rd June. Global’s aim is to compete with BBC Radio 2 and Radio 1 at Breakfast. 

The question is: will Zoe Ball gain listeners or will they switch over to one of the new commercial shows? Many expected Chris to take a large amount of his 9 million listeners with him to his new show on Virgin Radio UK but if he has, then Zoe Ball has found new audiences. Will she continue to keep above the 9 million mark? How many more listeners will Evans get with digital radio becoming more and more popular.  

89% of the population listen to radio each week. Credit: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB

So, what do all the changes mean for us in the world of Broadcast PR and your campaign?

89% of people still listen to radio each week, so the medium of radio is as popular as ever. Millions still tune in every week to hear news, views and opinions and we will continue to work with our clients to get their stories to air on some of the UK’s most listened to stations.  There is more choice than ever before regarding what to listen to – and how – and the rise in the popularity of podcasts only serves to boost this.     

If you want to know more about the new radio changes and how RAJAR work listen to our podcast on the changing landscape of radio

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