Evans: Virgin Radio's first set of Rajars
Evans: Virgin Radio's first set of Rajars
A view from Thomas Balaam

All eyes on Virgin Radio

A digital-only station surpassing one million listeners is usually deemed a strong result.

The last few months have seen a drastic change to local radio output, with deregulation allowing Global to launch national breakfast and drivetime shows across its networks and Bauer purchasing several local radio groups (subject to approval from the Competition & Markets Authority).

Commercial radio has also attracted some huge talent of late. Simon Mayo joined Bauer’s new classical music station Scala Radio and Global announced that Amanda Holden will present Heart breakfast.

However, for this Rajar release, all eyes (or ears) are on Virgin Radio as it publishes its first set of results since launching The Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

Virgin Radio’s total weekly reach increased by 191% quarter on quarter to 1.3 million and the show itself achieved a weekly reach of just over one million listeners (the show also goes out on digital sister stations Virgin Chilled and Virgin Anthems).

So it appears that Chris Evans has had an immediate impact on listening and a digital-only station surpassing one million listeners is usually deemed a strong result. To put these figures into perspective, he has more listeners than Chris Moyles on Radio X (928,000 weekly reach), but the station itself still has a little way to go to fulfil its vision of becoming the number one commercial digital station in the UK. Kisstory still holds that spot with weekly reach of about 1.8 million.

Incidentally the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show presented by Zoe Ball (replacing Evans) saw a very minimal decrease in listenership quarter on quarter. They will be very happy that the show is still pulling in more than nine million listeners each week.

The last quarter also saw another big breakfast show change. Ricky, Melvin and Charlie left Kiss at the end of last year to join Radio 1 and were replaced by the new breakfast team of Tom Green and Daisy Maskell.

Listenership to the show has dropped 15% year on year to around 1.8 million, which is perhaps not an ideal start, but it will take time for the new team to bed in. It is important that Kiss continues to find young talented presenters if it is to stay relevant to youth audiences.

Overall, commercial radio’s weekly reach has gone beyond 36 million. A very strong result that means 66% of UK adults tune in to commercial radio each week. Beyond the big networks, Global continues to have success with LBC (LBC’s listenership figures seem to have massively benefited from the station being at the forefront of the Brexit debate) and, although Kiss figures have suffered a little, Bauer will be celebrating a good set of results for Absolute Radio and Magic in terms of year-on-year gains.

Looking forward to the next Rajar, it will be interesting to see how the new networked national Capital Radio breakfast show has performed and if there has been any impact on local listenership.

Thomas Balaam is business director for radio at Mindshare