Latest RAJAR results (Q4 2018) show commercial radio is outperforming BBC by 1.6m, with a reach of 35.58m compared to the BBC’s  33.97m. The commercial sector has also reduced BBC’s lead in share of listening (which it has historically dominated due to its speech based station of Radio 4 & 5), with a share of 46.5% up from 45.7% in Q3. Combined reach for commercial radio and the BBC continues above the 48m mark, an impressive 88% of all adults.

Most of this gain has been built on the performance of the national stations and networks with older average listener stations such as Smooth, Classic, Magic and LBC leading the way:-

  • Smooth Network is up 6% in total hours Q4 over Q3
  • LBC Network has shown a YOY 9.3% growth in reach

As digital radio has increased its output and the capacity to receive – most new cars now are equipped with digital radios – commercial radio has seen its listening increase by 13.9m hours. This is a 10.3% growth YOY;  digital radio provides 52.6% of all national commercial listening.

It also seems the performance of commercial radio’s speech based stations have provided the competition to BBC Radio 4 & 5 to increase commercial radio’s listening hours. Alongside LBC and TalkSPORT, new speech based initiatives such as talkSPORT2 and talkRadio will add pressure from the commercial side.

We now wait for the Q1 2019 RAJAR results. Given its increased momentum, how far ahead of the beeb will commercial radio’s figures be? With Chris Evans’ return to Virgin, and the further development and establishment of more speech based initiatives, the future continues to look rosy for commercial radio.

John Alligan

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