Chris Evans listenership climbs as Zoe Ball's falls in breakfast radio ratings

Commercial radio attracted two million more people a week than BBC in second quarter of 2019.

Evans: breakfast show attracted 1.11m listeners in Q2
Evans: breakfast show attracted 1.11m listeners in Q2

Chris Evans drew an audience of 1.11 million listeners a week to his Virgin Radio breakfast show in the three months ending 23 June, building his audience by 63,000 from the first three months of the year.

While The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 – which succeeded Evans' eponymous show after he made the move to Virgin – still significantly outstripped Evans' programme with 8.27 million listeners, it lost 781,000 compared with the previous quarter.

Also in the breakfast slot, The Chris Moyles Show on Radio X grew its audience marginally, from 928,000 in the first quarter to 931,000 in the next quarter. TalkSPORT boosted its listeners from 1.39 million to 1.43 million, while Magic was up from 1.3 million to 1.35 million.

However, on the commercial side, Global-owned Capital's newly consolidated breakfast radio ruled the early-morning airwaves, with Capital Breakfast with Roman Kemp drawing an audience of 3.8 million in the second quarter. The new syndicated show, with hosts Kemp, Vick Hope and Sonny Jay, has replaced 14 local breakfast programmes. Those shows collectively drew an audience of 3.73 million in the first quarter.

Record audience for commercial radio

Commercial radio pulled in its biggest-ever audience of 36.2 million in the second quarter, up on the previous quarter's 36.1 million, and grabbing more than two million more listeners than the BBC (at 34.1 million).

The BBC continued to command a greater share of listening hours (at 49.3%) than commercial stations (48%). But this figure is in decline as commercial radio's share is on the up; in the second quarter of 2018, the BBC's share was 51.7%, while commercial's was 45.7%.

Digital radio's influence also continued to grow, with 56% of listeners now using digital devices to tune in, compared with 50.2% a year earlier.

BBC stations had a 53.6% share of all digital listening over the quarter, down slightly from 53.9% in Q1, and up from 49% in Q2 2018. Commercial is still winning the share battle, with a 58.5% share for the latest Rajar data, down from 59.7% in Q1 and up from 51.5% in Q2 2018.

In terms of digital-only reach, BBC 6 Music was knocked from its number one spot, overtaken by Bauer Media's Kisstory, which grew 25.9% on last quarter to 2.32 million listeners. BBC 6 Music fell 9.1% to 2.29 million.

Global's Heart retained its crown as the UK's biggest commercial radio brand by reach, with an average of 9.66 million listeners each week, although the figure marked a 0.4% year-on-year decline.

Siobhan Kenny, Radiocentre's chief executive, 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 in to 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."

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