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Commercial radio continues to gain over BBC

This morning’s RAJAR results show the continued importance of radio listening, with 88% of us tuning in every week.

However, the listening habits of those 49.5m adults are changing, both in how we listen and what we’re listening to.

The trend of commercial radio eating into the BBC’s audience has carried on. 

Weekly Reach (000s)

Q3 22Q3 23
All BBC Radio33,02131,687
All Commercial Radio33,18839,283

All BBC local/regional radio7,8247,341
All local commercial radio25,85625,856
Share of Hours (%)

Q3 22Q3 23
All BBC Radio46.743.8
All Commercial Radio50.954.1

All BBC local/regional radio5.45.1
All local commercial radio26.227.2

The national picture shows that digital platforms are also steadily increasing in popularity.

76% of weekly listening hours are via DAB, Online (website/apps), Smart Speakers and DTV. With AM/FM now accounting for 30% of listeners. DAB is the most popular with 42% share and Smart Speakers have a 14% share.

Overall BBC Radio reached 31.7m people every week, with a 44% share.

Its highlights this quarter were MediaCity-based BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Sports Extra.

5 Sports Extra’s coverage of The Ashes, Wimbledon and the Women’s World Cup saw its reach shoot up by 28.2%, with 2.2m listeners.

Its sister station, BBC Radio 5 Live, recorded year-on-year audience growth of 14.1% and Radio 5 Live Breakfast Show also saw listeners increase year on year from 1.36m (Q3 2022) to 1.45m (Q3 2023)

Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, also pointed out the “impressive start” Vernon Kay had made since joining Radio 2 – he has the biggest UK radio show, with 6.9m listeners, it’s still over a million fewer than his predecessor, Ken Bruce:

“Radio 2 continues to be the country’s most popular station and I’m delighted with the flying start Vernon Kay has made to mid-mornings as the UK’s biggest radio show, bringing his warmth, energy and charisma to listeners up and down the country.

“We’ve had an incredible summer of music and sport with record breaking figures at the Proms reflected by Radio 3 reaching over 2 million listeners with their unique commitment to live classical broadcasts.

“The Ashes, Wimbledon, the Women’s World Cup boosted 5 Sports Extra significantly as well as delivering for 5 Live and BBC Sounds.

“Speech radio continues to thrive with a strong linear showing. There were over 600 million plays on BBC Sounds for all content – a new record and an incredible achievement for a platform we launched only five years ago. Our digital offer for audiences continues to go from strength to strength, delivering standout live and on-demand content for listeners, wherever and whenever they need it.”

6 Music also had a rise of 11.7%, with 2.8m and remains the biggest digital-only network in the UK.

BBC Local Radio had an overall fall in reach of 6.2% year-on-year and its share was down from 5.4% to 5.1%. The combined reach of BBC Nations and local radio was 7.3m.


Of the two major commercial players, Global is the largest, with 26.4m listeners and the 2 biggest commercial radio brands in the country – Heart and Capital.

Across all its brands combined, it had a 25.4% share of radio listening and saw hours listened increase by 4% to 257m.

Heart’s audience rose 1.2m over the year, to 11.3m, while Capital has 8m weekly listeners, which is up 636k year-on-year.

Its Smooth Radio stations achieved 6.2m reach, adding 638k new listeners over the last 12 months.

“When we started Global in 2007, we wanted to reinvigorate the commercial radio market after many years of decline,” stated Ashley Tabor-King OBE, Global Founder & Executive President.

“It’s just brilliant to see it happening, and continuing to grow and grow, with record audiences for both the sector and some of our brands, bringing listeners more of what they love. We’re proud to have pioneered the growth of commercial radio and we continue to innovate. Thank you to all our incredible listeners, and to every globaller who make everyone’s day brighter, every day, every week, every year.”  

Following closely behind Global in the commercial stakes is Bauer Media Audio UK, the group which owns Greatest Hits and Absolute Radio. It now has a combined 23.5m weekly listeners this quarter.

This marks its 5th consecutive quarter of listener growth.

Its Greatest Hits Radio Network has grown its reach by 61.6% year on year, now having 6.7m weekly listeners. Simon Mayo’s Drivetime is the biggest commercial drive time show, with 2.5m listeners.

The Hits Radio Network has 6.5m listeners a week and the Absolute Radio Network has a 5.5m weekly listeners (+3.9% YoY). 

There’s also been growth (5.1% – year on year) for its KISS Network, with 4.5m weekly listeners and Magic Radio Network (4.1m, +10.7% YoY),

“Yet again, more and more people are choosing to listen to Bauer stations and for longer,” stated Simon Myciunka, CEO for Bauer Media Audio UK.

“This is the place to reach quality audiences, including Greatest Hits Radio which now has the biggest market share of any commercial radio station in the UK. Offering excellent value and deep commercial relationships; there’s never been a better time to advertise with Bauer.”

More reaction to follow.

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