Rajar Q4 2017: Absolute Radio experiences biggest year-on-year growth

Rajars: commercial radio listening on the up
Rajars: commercial radio listening on the up

Global's Heart Network continued to dominate the UK airwaves in Q4 of 2017, attracting the biggest commercial audience during the quarter with a listenership of 8.2m despite an 8.3% year-on-year fall.

But Bauer Media's Absolute outperformed all other stations in terms of year on year growth, improving significantly on its Q3 performance, when it fell 6.9%.

Today's Rajar audience figures show that the brand grew 21.8% in Q4 to 2.61m compared to the same period in 2016, and was up 6% on the previous quarter.

Absolute stablemate Kiss Network grew 6.3% to 5.57m listeners in Q4 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, although its audience fell 2.1% on Q3.

Overall commercial radio was up 1.5% to 35.47m listeners in Q4 compared with the same period in 2016, while it was down 0.3% on the previous quarter.

After Heart, the next biggest network by audience was Global-owned Capital, which drew 7.44m listeners, but it also fell on Q4 2016, down 4.5%.

Global's LBC experienced impressive double-digit growth, up 19.7% to 2.02m listeners and Capital Xtra continues to go from strength to strength, growing 20% to 1.56m listeners.

"Capital Xtra has had a second successive quarter of brilliant results," said Mike Williamson, head of AV planning at Carat UK. "This shows a longer term trend rather than a one-off increase. The increases have mainly come from London listening outside of the peak breakfast slot. Attracting hard to reach 16-34s Londoners in non peak dayparts is a huge achievement for the station."

Bauer retains its top two spots on the breakfast airwaves, with Kiss's show starring Rickie, Melvin and Charlie bringing in a weekly reach of 2.24m listeners (up from 2.01m in Q3) and Absolute attracting 2.1m (up from 1.94m in Q3).

However, Absolute is facing a major challenge given the imminent departure of Christian O'Connell, who is moving to Australia following 12 years at the station (joining when it was known as Virgin Radio).

"Commercial breakfast shows as a whole have done well," Williamson said, adding that O’Connell is leaving "huge shoes to fill when he leaves the station this summer".

"Radio X’s Chris Moyles has increased his audience by 27% year-on-year – after a slow start to his time on Radio X, the station is now performing much closer to the expected listening figures."

Global's Classic FM's breakfast show came third, drawing an audience of 1.92m (up from 1.73 in Q3), a factor that helped fuel its overall 5.7% year-on-year listener boost.

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