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BBC Radio 2’s loss is Greatest Hits Radio’s gain

If BBC Radio needed a demonstration of the importance of presenters to keeping loyal listeners, then today is probably a good example, with BBC Radio 2 losing around 1m of them.

There have been a raft of departures at BBC Local Radio as a result of cost-cutting, but it’s been most felt at BBC Radio 2, where veteran broadcaster Ken Bruce left in March after 31 years.

It seems many of his listeners joined him on his new Greatest Hits Radio mid-morning show, where he had a reach of almost 3m – that’s almost double that of the previous host, Mark Goodier.

However, to put the BBC Radio 2 figures into context, Bruce’s replacement, Vernon Kay took over half-way through the Rajar reporting quarter, which means the true impact of his arrival won’t be felt until the next results. 

Another Radio 2-based Lancastrian, Zoe Ball, continues to host the country’s most listened-to Breakfast Show, despite losing almost half a million listeners compared to the previous quarter (6.7m).

Even with the 7% drop in audience, BBC Radio 2 does remain the most popular station in the UK, with 13.5m listeners.

On first glance, it has been a good quarter for BBC Local Radio, in spite of the aforementioned cost-cutting and strikes. Its share of listening rose from 5.5% in Q1 2023 to 5.7% (Q2 2022 5.6%).

The stations  saw a slight gain in total audience from 7.38m to 7.66m. However, that’s still less than the same period in 2022 (7.67m).

The growth has been led by 13 stations which improved their reach, including BBC Radio Tees (111,000 listeners, 14%). BBC Radio Merseyside was among the 24 stations losing listeners. 

MediaCity-based station, BBC Radio 5 Live held steady with 5m listeners, while 6 Music is the UK’s biggest digital-only network, despite a slight dip in listeners. 5 Sports Extra, with help from the Ashes, recorded a 26% increase in listeners.

BBC Sounds was up 33% over the quarter and almost 50% year-on-year, with 582m plays.

Bauer

So to Bauer and what today it’s calling “The Ken Effect.”

The owner of the Hits, Greatest Hits, Absolute, Magic and Kiss brands achieved a record 22.8m reach across all its stations.

That was aided by Bruce and another former BBC Radio 2 presenter, Simon Mayo, who now has the UK’s biggest commercial drive time show (2.3m).

“The arrival of Ken Bruce and PopMaster means Greatest Hits Radio now has nearly 6 million listeners – with success shared across the station as Simon Mayo now has the UK’s biggest commercial drivetime show with 2.3million listeners,” said Ben Cooper, Chief Content & Music Officer, Bauer Media Audio UK.

“Along with big gains for Absolute Radio’s Dave Berry at Breakfast, who has increased his audience to a record 2.3 million, Bauer Media Audio has achieved amazing success this RAJAR, posting its fourth increase of record-breaking audiences in a row.”

Regionally Greatest Hits Radio Lancashire achieved some of the biggest growth, with 69k weekly reach and a 2.7% share.

Global

Despite Bauer’s growth, Global remains the country’s biggest commercial radio group. 

It had 26.3m weekly listeners across its Heart, Capital and Smooth stations.

Heart is the UK’s biggest commercial radio brand with 11.1m listeners, while Capital achieved 7.8m.

The Manchester-based Smooth Radio operation has added 428k listeners year-on-year (5.9m)

“I’m delighted that we have delivered another very strong set of results for Global – it’s fantastic to see huge increases for Heart and Capital across the year, which is testament to our talented teams,” said James Rea, Global’s Director of Broadcasting & Content.

“The massive growth in listening hours shows that we have a highly-engaged, loyal audience who love our brands. I’d like to thank every single listener and everyone involved for their hard work and dedication.” 

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