Radio RAJAR Technology

Rajar: digital radio hits majority share as commercial stations reach record audiences


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

August 1, 2019 | 8 min read

The Rajar results for the second quarter of 2019 show that digital's share of radio listening is up to 56% of the UK population.

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RAJAR: Digital audio takes record share

The quarterly report from the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK found that 48.8 million adults, or 89% of the adult UK population, tune into a radio station each week, representing around 1.015bn listening hours.


The majority (69%) of digital listening was clocked on DAB devices, equating to 569 million hours a week, while DTV hit 9% and online 22%.

As brands increasingly inquire about creative solutions for smart devices (and more agencies set up to handle the work), Rajar found that 26% of adults claim to have a voice-activated speaker they use to tune in.

Smartphone listening was at an all-time high for adults (27.5%) but there's been a sharp decline in 15-24s listening from a peak of 39% in 2016 to 31.5%.

Giving a deeper view into habits, Rajar said 60% of people listened at home, 24% in a vehicle and 16% at 'work or elsewhere'.

Share of listening online and via apps was also up by over a third (34.4%) and commercial radio secured record audience of 36.1m, breaching the last record which was in the last quarter.

Siobhan Kenny, chief executive at the Radiocentre said: “It’s turning out to be a yet another good year for commercial radio, with consistently strong audience numbers. Nine out of 10 people in the UK are tuning into radio every week, a remarkably strong performance over the last 20 years. The wide variety of stations the sector offers are resonating with more and more people. Of course, this is also good news for advertisers, who will see the growth in online and in-app listening as opportunities to reach their audiences in newer, often more tailored ways.”

Bauer Media

Bauer Media boasted Kisstory was the UK's most listened to digital radio station. Bauer isn't hitting the highs of Global but is well placed to capitalise upon digital growth with its focus on the medium.

18.1.m weekly listeners

Digital up 16.2% to 14.2m listeners

Absolute 4.7m weekly listeners

Magic Radio 4.1m weekly listeners

Listening via a digital device reaches a record high of 72% - up 11%

Classic FM rival Scala radio debuted, as did Country Radio Hits which it expects to scale quickly due to the boom in the genre.

Dee Ford, group managing director radio at Bauer Media, said: “Our growth in digital listening has been fuelled by the launches of two brilliant new radio stations which perfectly reflect the fastest growing music genres in the UK. Scala Radio and Country Hits Radio are truly ground- breaking and thoroughly engaging.

"It’s also fantastic that our much loved Kisstory has become the number one digital radio station. Investment in the Hits Radio Brand has been stepped up with the newly launched breakfast show on Hits Radio hosted by Fleur East, Greg and James - we’ll see its first figures next quarter”.


Global, owner of Heart, Capital, Smooth and Classic FM retained the

25.6m weekly listeners

Radio brands reach 34m a week

Record hours at 238m

Record 23.4% market share

Heart nation's biggest commercial station: 9.7m weekly listeners

Capital (8.2m), Smooth (5.7m), Classic FM (5.6m)

top four commercial stations as it hit its best ever results in terms of reach, hours and share.

Ashley Tabor, founder and executive president of Global, said: “This is our strongest set of Rajar results ever... it is a true testament to the hard work of every Globaler.

"To now reach over 25.6 million weekly listeners and for Heart, Capital, Smooth and Classic FM to be the top four commercial radio brands in the UK again is very special indeed."


Wireless now reaches 4.9 million weekly listeners across its portfolio which includes

4.9m weekly listeners (up 38%)

Listening hours 31.65m (up 36%)

The Chris Evans Breakfast Show 1.1m weekly listeners

TalkSport record 3.3m audience

Virgin Radio and the TalkSport group.

Virgin Radio UK produced its second Rajar results since Chris Evans joined the schedule in January, and that ad-free gambit appears to have paid off with 1.1 million weekly listeners.

Scott Taunton, Wireless chief executive said: "This is a superlative set of results for Wireless, with records smashed across our national brands and for Wireless.

“Virgin Radio has delivered a second quarter of record reach and listening hours for both the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky and the station itself, which shows reach up 266% year-on-year. Chris and the team - including our partners at Sky - are continuing to set the pace in the breakfast slot.

“With the TalkSport network and TalkRadio posting their highest ever Rajar reach, our speech stations continue to deliver on our investment in sports rights and the best on-air talent. With a new tenant in No.10 and new Premier League packages which give us more live games than ever, we’re well set for the months ahead.”

'A significant moment for digital radio'

Responding to the resutly, Ford Ennals, chief executive of Digital Radio UK, said it was a significant moment for digital radio and the firm arrival of smart speakers into people's homes.

"These speakers are now in over 26% of all homes and are good news for the radio sector with most people using them to listen to live radio. Smart speakers also make it easy for people to listen to the increasing range of digital stations and have helped propel the growth of new innovative digital stations such as the new number one digital-only station, KissStory," Ennals said.

Martin Vinter, managing director for UK and International Media, Ebiquity, added that it was "striking" that 89% of the UK public tunes in to radio each week, each amassing nearly 21 hours each of live radio a week.

"Not surprisingly, we have seen that brand marketers are planning on increasing their programmatic audio spend, with many keen to generate targeting efficiencies and take advantage of data insights."

The four most important attributes for marketers in this medium are " targeting, return on investment, triggering a positive emotional response and building brand salience." Research from Ebiquity found that "radio is often undervalued on these and other key dimensions versus to other media lines".

He noted that the growth of digital radio is useful against AA/WARC ad expenditure predictions that online radio will see impressive ad spend growth.

Meanwhile, Aled Schell, senior planner, The Specialist Works, said the performance of commercial radio has not had enough credit, overshadowed by digital audio giants like Spotify.

"This week’s Rajar results for commercial radio, which showed a record 36.1m UK adults tune in every week, could not be better evidence of the channel’s rude health and that it’s here to stay. Strong numbers for established stations paired with their successful brand extensions from the likes of Heart 80s, Heart Extra, Magic Chilled, Magic Soul and Virgin Anthems shows the power of leveraging a successful format for a highly-engaged audience."

He noted that things are less rosy for the BBC.

"Commercial’s gains have been to the detriment of the Beeb, which saw a loss of 400,000 listeners quarter-on-quarter and particularly acute declines in the 45+ age demographic."

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