Radio 2 loses half a million listeners to ‘golden oldie’ stations

Ken Bruce - Mike Lawn/Shutterstock
Ken Bruce - Mike Lawn/Shutterstock

Radio 2 lost more than half a million listeners last year as “golden oldie” stations targeted its audience.

The audience fell from 14.87 million in the last quarter of 2021 to 14.29 million in the last quarter of 2022.

Shows in decline include Zoe Ball’s breakfast programme, which lost 350,000 listeners.

Greatest Hits Radio, a commercial station which recently announced that it had poached Radio 2’s Ken Bruce, put on more than a million listeners over the same period.

Its audience rose from 3.33 million to 4.36 million. The drivetime show hosted by Simon Mayo, the former BBC presenter, grew by 19 per cent to reach 1.5 million listeners.

Greatest Hits plays songs from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, at a time when Radio 2 is trying to attract a younger audience with a playlist of more recent tunes.

The quarterly figures were published by Rajar, the industry body. Another success story was Boom Radio, a station aimed at “baby boomers”. It launched in 2021 with a line-up that includes the veteran DJ David Hamilton, and over the past year, its audience more than doubled from 242,000 to 531,000.

Simon Mayo - Marco Vittur/Scala
Simon Mayo - Marco Vittur/Scala

Radio 2 bosses will have to wait until the next quarter to get a full set of results for Scott Mills, who replaced Steve Wright in the drivetime slot at the end of October.

Wright is one of several Radio 2 veterans to have left their show in recent times. Bruce announced last month that he would be joining Greatest Hits Radio in April, and urged his loyal listeners to follow him.

Almost all of the BBC’s national stations lost listeners over the past year, with Radio 3 registering the biggest fall of 6.3 per cent.

The audience for Radio 4’s Today programme fell from 6.4 million to 6.17 million.

BBC local radio listening saw a sharp decline from 9.04 million in the last quarter of 2021 to 7.78 million in the last quarter of 2022.

Commercial radio grew by 1.3 million listeners overall, while BBC radio fell by almost the same number. Commercial radio is now 4.9 million listeners ahead of the BBC.

The data also showed that listening to the radio via smart speakers, such as those with Amazon’s Alexa, continues to grow and now accounts for 14 per cent of listening.

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