The RAJAR results for Q1 2017 are in and it’s a happy new year for Commercial Radio.

Now commanding 34.5 million listeners, the commercial sector has seen a year on year rise that means it’s once again overtaken the BBC in reach.  National commercial share continues to grow too, while holding steady locally against a declining BBC.  Industry predictions of digital listening are proving correct as well, with a significant 9% increase year on year.

Radio experts have analysed the figures and released detailed analysis of how the Commercial Radio results breakdown by platform and area.

Nationals and Networks

The big brands have had a steady quarter in general.  Heart and Capital have made small gains in hours, and Smooth has 3% more listeners than last quarter.  The big headline for Global, however, is LBC which has been riding the crest of the political waves to see reach up 6% and hours up 9% since last quarter. More impressively, that’s a 15.5% rise in reach and 27% in hours year on year. Radio X has also reported strong growth in both reach and hours.

At Bauer, Absolute has made a significant 12% QonQ increase in hours due to listeners tuning in for longer. The Magic network has also increased in total hours, most likely due to the inclusion of Magic Soul for this survey. Digital forms an ever larger part of the Bauer strategy with Kisstory  increasing 11% in reach to overtake stable mate Absolute 80’s as the highest reaching digital only station.


The new listening platforms continue to boast and expand existing brands – as illustrated by stories of the previous section. Overall growth is steady with the digital share of listening up 2% to 47.2% QonQ, but it’s interesting to note that this quarter saw the highest ever recorded proportion of in-car listening via DAB (23.5%) – growth supported by an 87% of new cars now being fitted with DAB as standard.

The digital listening share now breaks down as 33.8% via DAB, 8% via desktop and apps and 5.5% via DTV.


The battle for the big city has seen two of the smaller stations punching well above their weight.  Premier Christian Radio has gained a whopping 137% in listening hours, but even more impressive is Dilse Radio on AM. Not only has Dilse increased weekly reach from 39,000 to 61,000 but also pushed hours up an incredible 405%.

In the heavyweight division, Global has more to celebrate than Bauer with the majority of their brands performing well.  Capital, with a 29% gain, has nabbed the top spot from Kiss in terms of reach. It also gained 41% in hours, but still sits behind LBC. With Heart proving steady, Global now have the  top 3 London stations in listening hours. Bauer certainly hasn’t been knocked out, but Magic and Kiss took a few knocks. Absolute though stood firm with a respectable 3% increase in reach and 27% in hours.

The Local Picture … in England

In Manchester, it’s not only United and City fighting it out for the local top spot –  rivalry is strong on the airwaves too.  Top of the leader board is Capital with an 11% Quarter on Quarter increase in total hours, setting the bar high at 3,408,000 in total hours. Key 103 had a good result with a 10% uplift in hours; however, Radio X Manchester is creeping up behind with 14% more listening hours QonQ and a 12% increase in weekly reach. Gold Manchester seem to have struck gold with a tremendous 40% increase in hours, so it’s now just shy of the 1 million hours mark.

It was a win for the independents (Tower FM, Wire FM and Revolution) across the rest of the North West. All increased their hours in Q1. Wire up 43% in total hours and up 6% in reach. Tower FM had a great survey last quarter (up 49% in total hours) and continued to build on that with an uplift of 21% for Q1. Revolution in Oldham is up 26% in total hours too.

In Yorkshire, Minster FM increased its hours by a massive 40% and now reaches 74,000 weekly listeners (12% more QonQ).  A small but mighty roar from Rother FM who kicked off the year with a massive jump in listening hours (+ 96%), and a 30% gain in weekly reach. Average hours rise from 4.6 to 7.1 (QonQ).  Top dog Capital Yorkshire lost some of its bite with a drop of  almost 1 million in total hours (-12%).  It is still the number 1 reaching station in the region, but Heart Yorkshire and Radio Aire are snapping at its tail with 3% increases in total hours.

Over in the North East, Sun FM has seen a rise of 20% in total hours for Q1 2017 from 409,000 to 491,000. Metro Radio had another positive survey result up a further 12% in total hours and up 4% in reach. In Middlesbrough, both TFM and TFM 2 lost hours, although digital sister station TFM 3 is up by 167% in hours – albeit with very small numbers.

In the Midlands, it seems the residents of Birmingham and Shropshire love taking a trip down memory lane to the decade of big hair and bigger shoulder pads. Free Radio 80s has built listenership in both areas, with Free 80s Birmingham & Black Country boasting a 54% increase in hours and Free 80s Shropshire up by 47%. Free FM in Coventry shot over the 1 million total hours mark with a 28% uplift in hours and 10% in reach. Over in the East Midlands, Gem 106 holds on to the top spot in listening hours, but Smooth is just behind after an increase of 21%. Capital, however, is still the highest reaching station with 547,000 weekly listeners.

Head south and Jack FM Berkshire has shown steady growth with 28% more listening hours this quarter, on the back of a 50% increase in Q4.  Spirit FM in Chichester has conjured up a 23% increase in hours to push it over the half million mark for Q1.  Kent’s KMFM is maintaining momentum from its last results and continues upward with another great survey and a 15% increase in hours.

At the seaside, Capital South Coast certainly isn’t coasting with an 18% increase in total hours.  The Breeze Solent might be feeling a little deflated as it’s lost half of its listening hours, but it’s sisters stations are blowing up. Both The Breeze Yeovil and The Breeze Basingstoke are up in hours and reach – Breeze Yeovil/Shaftsbury and Bridgwater up 18% in total hours and up 14% in weekly reach; Breeze Basingstoke/Newbury/Andover up 14% in total hours and up 11% in reach.
Other notable mentions from around the country:

·         Signal One up 10% total hours, Signal Two up 20% in total hours

·         Yorkshire Coast Radio up 11% total hours

·         Metro 2 up 14% in total hours

·         KCFM up 15% in total hours (from 525,000 to 605,000)

·         Radio Mansfield up 10% in total hours

·         Norwich 99.9FM up 18% in reach

·         Ridings FM up 5% in total hours, up 9% in reach

·         Radio Exe up 9% in total hours

… in Northern Ireland

There have been some big changes this quarter for hit music station Cool FM as its survey area has been extended to cover an additional 483,000 people. This no doubt helps explain its 19% hike in reach. Cool FM’s total hours have risen by 18%, despite its average hours per listener going down.

Both Q network brand stations have done well, reporting decent uplifts in reach and hours.  This gives the network as a whole a solid boost with a 6% rise in both measures. Q Radio Belfast’s 11% growth in total listening hours stands out as the major success story for this brand.

Overall, it’s a solid set of figures for Northern Ireland, especially considering how strong results were last quarter.

… in Scotland

This quarter it’s all about the big brands. Heart and Capital made big gains in hours and are virtually neck and neck in the central belt with 3,323,000 and 3,353,000 total hours respectively.

Whilst Forth and Clyde have struggled a bit with their FM stations, it’s not all bad news. Clyde 2 saw an impressive 21% hike in total hours, and Forth 2 made an even more impressive gain of 32%. That is an astounding 81% increase year on year.

Other success stories include Wave 102 and Kingdom FM both reporting double digit growth in reach. Kingdom FM’s 15% increase in reach and 4% increase in hours comes on the back of a decent set of results last quarter which saw the station make gains in both measures.

… in Wales

It has been a smashing quarter for commercial radio in North Wales. Capital North West and Wales has gone from strength to strength with an 18% increase in reach, and Heart North Wales has managed to up its hours by an incredible 53%. Its listeners are now tuning in each week for a phenomenal 10.1 hours per listeners.

Whilst Capital South Wales hasn’t quite matched the successes of its North Wales partner, it’s still been a good quarter for this station. It has managed to increase its total hours by 9%, which is a 31% increase year on year.

Swansea loves local radio this quarter with 96.4 The Wave, Swansea Bay and Swansea Sound all reporting strong increases in reach and hours. 96.4 The Wave has managed to increase its hours by 22%, and Swansea Bay has seen its total hours grow by a whopping 78%.


As ever, there are ups and downs across the commercial sector, but the overall trends are very positive for the future. More people are listening for longer, across a more diverse range of platforms, which means more opportunities for advertisers.

James Thompson, Media Director of Mostly Media says “With listening figures up year-on-year across a more diverse range of stations we now have more opportunities for our clients both on a regional and national level.”  Call today on 01225 302 270 to discuss how we can help you with your radio campaign.

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