Ken Bruce makes RAJARs bow with Greatest Hits Radio as Radio 2 loses a million listeners

Ken Bruce makes RAJARs bow with Greatest Hits Radio as Radio 2 loses a million listeners

Following the recruitment of Radio 2’s Ken Bruce to Greatest Hits Radio, the hugely popular broadcaster has now inspired a brand extension.

Bauer Media Audio has launched Ken Bruce’s Secret 60s. And to maximise the publicity for the announcement, it’s been unveiled on the day that RAJAR issued the first results for Ken Bruce on Greatest Hits Radio following his surprise move from BBC Radio 2 earlier this year.

In his first RAJAR quarter (Q2 2023) for radio listening, Ken Bruce has pulled in three million listeners to his Greatest Hits Radio show, an increase of 93% year-on-year for that time slot. Overall, the Greatest Hits Radio Network now reaches 5.93m listeners every week - its highest ever and up 47.6% from last year.

Greatest Hits Radio London saw an increased reach of 47.7% year on year to a record 1.14m.

Ken Bruce said: “I’ve always said that it’s not really about the numbers and it’s not, for me at least, but I’m delighted to hear today’s news for the team here at my new home, Greatest Hits Radio. My first four months have flown by and I’ve loved every minute of it – and there’s much more to come. We’ve got the launch of my new radio station, Ken Bruce’s Secret 60s, tomorrow [August 4] and other exciting projects towards the end of the year – they’re certainly keeping me busy! So thank you for listening, playing along to PopMaster and taking the time to write, email and message in to the show. It wouldn’t be what it is without its listeners so your company is always much appreciated.”

Ben Cooper, chief content & music officer, Bauer Media Audio UK, said: “The arrival of Ken Bruce and PopMaster means Greatest Hits Radio now has nearly six million listeners - with success shared across the station as Simon Mayo’s Drivetime is now the UK’s biggest commercial drivetime show with 2.3m listeners. Along with big gains for Absolute Radio’s Dave Berry at Breakfast, who has increased his audience to a record 2.3m, Bauer Media Audio has achieved incredible success this RAJAR, posting its fourth increase of record-breaking audiences in a row.”

Ken Bruce’s Secret 60s will only be available to Greatest Hits Radio premium subscribers. As a taster, Bruce’s regular Greatest Hits Radio show will be shaking up its usual playlist and adding some 1960s songs tomorrow (August 4) as he kicks off a 60s Summer Weekend on the network.

Elsewhere, Bauer Media Audio stations reported strong results in Q2. Absolute was up 6.1% year-on-year to 2.36m (though down on the quarter); Hits Radio Network was up 5% year-on-year to 6.56m; and Magic was up 12.1% to 3.03m.

Absolute Radio Country soared by 30.7% year-on-year to 358,000, though Scala was down 16.4% to 245,000.

Kiss and Kiss Fresh were stable (2.49m and 298,000, respectively), while Kisstory was up 20.6% to 2.54m – making it the biggest commercial digital network.

I’ve always said that it’s not really about the numbers… but I’m delighted to hear today’s news for the team here at my new home

Ken Bruce

Simon Myciunka, CEO of Bauer Media Audio UK, said: “What a time to join the Bauer UK team. It’s incredible to see such strong performances across the board, not only for Bauer and each of its networks but commercial radio overall. Radio is thriving, delivering excellent value and return on investment, while growth in digital listening presents even more opportunities for the future… there’s never been a better time to partner with us.”

BBC Radio

While the Ken Bruce result may put some pressure on BBC Radio 2, his replacement Vernon Kay actually started six weeks later so he’s yet to have a full quarter (and it remains to be seen if his ratings are made public for Q3 later this year). Under the previous RAJAR measurement system, Bruce pulled in audiences of around 8.5m and could claim to be the nation’s most popular broadcaster. The Guardian today reported that Kay has an audience of 6.9m in the same time slot.

Following the departure of Bruce, Radio 2 was down 7.4% year-on-year to 13.46m. While it remains comfortably the most popular radio station in the country, that’s a loss of 1.074m listeners compared to a year ago. The loss of Bruce and surrounding media coverage appears to have negatively impacted the network, with exactly one million listeners switching off since the beginning of April to the end of June.

Zoe Ball’s Breakfast Show on Radio 2 was down to 6.72m, a loss of more than half a million (549,000 in a year; 533,000 on the quarter). 

A difficult quarter, then. But Radio 2 does have a live extravaganza to look forward to in Q3 in the form of Radio 2 In The Park featuring Kylie Minogue and Tears For Fears.

Radio 2 remains the UK’s most popular radio station with 13.5m loyal listeners

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas, head of Radio 2, said: "Radio 2 remains the UK’s most popular radio station with 13.5m loyal listeners who tune in each week to the best music from the past seven decades, presented by some of the country's most loved presenters.  Congratulations to the brilliant Zoe Ball who continues to host the most listened to Breakfast Show in the country." 

There was better news in the RAJAR numbers for BBC Radio 1, with ratings up 2.9% year-on-year to 7.69m (and up 1.6% on the prior quarter). 

Aled Haydn Jones, head of BBC Radio 1, said: “Radio 1 adding well over half a million listeners [aged 10-plus] in a year to the station is a fantastic moment, as we are laser-focused on young audiences across radio, mobile and socials. Along with the success of Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Dundee this year, Greg and the Breakfast Team continue to be the Number 1 youth show in the UK.”

BBC 1Xtra continues to grow in terms of the year-on-year comparison (up 1.7% to 762,000) but it was down 30,000 on the quarter. Asian Network was up 6.8% to 505,000. 

Meanwhile, Music Week Award winners 6 Music were down 6.4% year-on-year to 2.67m (still comfortably the No.1 digital station) but only showing slight decline compared to the prior quarter. Schedule changes in June, including evening show New Music Fix Daily, are not represented in the latest RAJAR figures.


There was good news for Capital Dance, which passed a million listeners for the first time. The station was up 32.3% year-on-year to 1.04m.

Heart Network increased by 9.7% year-on-year – it now stands at 8.52m (although that was down on the prior quarter). Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston & Amanda Holden remains the biggest commercial radio show in the UK and commercial breakfast show with 3.9m weekly listeners. 

Capital Breakfast with Roman Kemp has 2.5m listeners, adding 50,000 since the prior quarter. Overall, Capital Network was up 6.1% to 6.01m.

Capital XTRA was up 5.9% year-on-year to 1.45m, with Capital XTRA Breakfast with Robert Bruce and Shayna Marie on 558,000 listeners. Capital XTRA Reloaded reached a new high of 450,000 (up 10.6% year-on-year). 

Meanwhile, new station Capital Chill opened its RAJAR account with 178,000 listeners.

Radio X was up 4.1% year-on-year to 1.97m, with breakfast presenter Chris Moyles up 33,000 to 1.12m.

Brand new station Radio X Classic Rock launched with 275,000 weekly listeners.  

James Rea, Global’s director of broadcasting & content, said: “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. 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.” 

Ashley Tabor-King, Global’s founder & executive president, said:? “Commercial radio is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and it’s therefore fitting that commercial radio has its highest ever listening figures today, underlining the strength and resilience of the sector, and the medium. It’s a phenomenal achievement and brilliant news for listeners, advertisers and the thousands of extraordinarily talented people working in the magnificent UK radio industry today.”

Meanwhile, another former Radio 2 presenter, Chris Evans, now has 863,000 listeners on Virgin Radio, unchanged from a year ago but down almost 40,000 on the prior quarter. Overall, Virgin is on 1.44m, also the same as 12 months earlier.


author twitter FOLLOW Andre Paine

For more stories like this, and to keep up to date with all our market leading news, features and analysis, sign up to receive our daily Morning Briefing newsletter

subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...