Q4 2022 was another fascinating quarter in the UK.
Politically, things took another turn as Rishi Sunak became the UK’s new Prime Minister. Other events included Cristiano Ronaldo doing “that” interview with Piers Morgan and Just Stop Oil campaigners hitting central London.
The one piece of stability was the weekly audience for all of UK radio remaining strong at 50 million people, 89% of the population, tuning in.
The good news for advertisers is that commercial radio continues to attract more listeners than the BBC, reaching 38.1 million people compared with 33 million listeners hearing live BBC Radio each week.
Global remains the biggest commercial radio operator, with a record 26.3 million listeners, whilst Bauer also achieved its own record 21.6 million listeners during Q4.
Wireless Group, now officially using the name of News Broadcasting, reports 6 million listeners tuning in weekly – up 6% in reach, quarter-on-quarter.
The latest figures were released at midnight and armed with barrels of coffee and matchsticks for the eyelids, the Radio Experts team has been pouring over the data to bring you the highlights.
National Stations and Networks
Across the UK, the big radio networks delivered an excellent set of results all round with most reporting significant increases in reach or hours or both.
The Heart Network has cemented its position as the highest reaching UK radio brand with 10.86 million listeners per week, including the decades stations, and 8.65 million per week for the main network. That’s 711,000 more than last quarter – an increase of 9%.
The Capital Network gained 3% more listeners during Q4 and is now commanding the ears of 5.9 million people every week. Average listening hours are also marginally higher, giving the network 5% more hours in total this quarter. Meanwhile, sister station Capital Xtra, is now reaching nearly 1.5 million listeners, up 4% from Q3, with total listening hours also up by 14%.
Classic FM and LBC are both up in weekly reach – Classic by 7% to nearly 5 million and LBC Brand by 4% to 3.1 million. The Smooth Network is also up 6% in reach to 5.1 million and 9% in total listening hours.
talkSPORT were expecting a good set of results for Q4 with the World Cup dominating the December schedule, and their 10% increase in weekly reach certainly reflects a great performance as they’ve scored an audience of over 3.1 million.
Of the Bauer brands, Greatest Hits Network has gained the most listeners with 246,000 more than last quarter, up 6% to 4.4 million. Magic Network has also sprinkled some magic of its own increasing reach slightly to nearly 3.8 million, up from 3.7 million, with 5% more total listening hours. With the recent recruitment of BBC Radio 2’s Ken Bruce, it’ll be fascinating to see whether numbers increase significantly in future quarters.
X marks the spot for the Radio X Network, as it has strengthened its reach in Q4 2022 – up by 16,000 listeners from last quarter.
Smooth is reporting an increase of 5% in reach, quarter on quarter. The Smooth brand now has 5.8 million listeners per week.
Meanwhile, the Gold Network has remained solid with a slight increase in reach of 13,000 compared to Q3 and maintaining its share of market.
Digital Listening and Digital Only Stations
The big news here is that home of old skool and anthems, KISSTORY, remains the highest reaching commercial digital station with 2.2million listeners every week. This is a highly popular and consistently well performing station.
The national DAB feed of Hits Radio has again shown growth, adding 9% reach over Q4, compared to the previous quarter.
Boom Radio is going booming crazy, increasing its share of listening by 50% with growth in both reach and hours, quarter on quarter. Boom now reaches 531,000 listeners each week – a 20% uplift quarter on quarter and it also increased total hours by a boomtastic 47% compared to Q3. With BBC Radio 2 shifting its focus to younger listeners, through changes of both presenters and music policy, these figures could well increase next quarter too.
For those that love nostalgia, Absolute and Heart are taking us back to the noughties. Absolute 00s and Heart 00s have both added hours and reach this quarter. Heart 00s is up 54% in reach, to 326,000, and grew hours by 58% quarter on quarter, increasing their share of listening by 100%. Absolute 00s increased hours by 29% and reach by 25%, to 305,000, quarter on quarter.
Both of Capital’s digital sister stations saw wins in Q4 – Capital XTRA Reloaded was up 62% in hours and 27% in reach, now reaching 412,000 listeners each week, whilst Capital Dance upped the tempo and grew in hours by 29% and reach 11%, to 912,000, quarter on quarter.
Waving their magic wand on Q4, Magic Chilled and Mellow Magic both increased their hours and reach during this latest RAJAR. Magic Chilled grew 34% in total hours and now reaches 448,000 listeners every week. Meanwhile, Mellow Magic was up 14% in total hours and now reaches 556,000 listeners.
Something we’ve been keeping our eye on in particular, is the volume of radio listening on smart speakers. We can report that listening via these devices continues to grow in Q4, up to 14% of total share. This means that smart speakers now account for the majority of total online radio listening for the first time.
In London it’s “steady as she goes” with no major upsets.
Heart London remains number one in terms of weekly reach with just over 1.8 million people tuning in each week. It’s owner, Global, now owns the top 3 stations when you look at reach with Capital and LBC in 2nd and 3rd place with 1.6 and 1.4 million listeners respectively.
In terms of total listening hours, LBC London is still way out in front with nearly 16 million hours. Next best is Heart London with 9.6 million hours.
Of the major London stations, Greatest Hits London had the largest increase in total listening hours, up 17.8%. Greatest Hits London is now bigger than Smooth London in terms of reach and not far behind Smooth’s total hours.
The top 5 London stations are as follows:
|Greatest Hits London
Total Listening Hours
|Smooth Radio London
Focussing on a few highlights from the regions…
In the centre of the country, Capital Mid Counties performed well with both the North and the South transmitter increasing weekly reach by 25% compared to Q3, the total station now reaches 149,000 listeners each week.
Down in the Southwest, Smooth Radio West Country had a magnificent Q4 in 2022 with a 38% increase in reach, to 113,000, and 76% in hours quarter on quarter. Meanwhile, Radio Exe increased its reach by 35% to 31,000 and at the same time increased hours by 20%, compared to the last quarter.
Moving to the south east, Radio Essex increased its reach by 22% to 39,000 and also increased hours by 87%.
With UK Commercial Radio reaching 38.1 million people, it’s maintaining its position in the hearts and minds of listeners and at the same time attracting big name talent.
Ken Bruce is the latest high profile BBC presenter to leave the corporation and join commercial radio. This is just one example of experienced radio talent recognising the professionalism and popularity of the biggest brands in radio.
Big names, a variety of music genres and new ways to listen and interact, such as smart speakers, provides advertisers with exciting opportunities to communicate with potential customers.
If you’d like to know more about all aspects of radio and digital audio advertising, please get in touch.