BBC Radio 2 draws record audience as Radio 1 sheds older listeners

Chris Evans and Graham Norton score successes – but Nick Grimshaw loses more than 500,000 over-25s in three months

Radio 2 has surged to its biggest-ever audience as sister station Radio 1's breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw lost more than a million of his older listeners since taking over from Chris Moyles.

Radio 2, which was named UK station of the year at the Radio Academy awards this week, attracted 15.6 million listeners in the first quarter of this year, according to Rajar audience figures published on Thursday.

It was a new high for the station, which has transformed itself over the last decade and a half, with record ratings for Chris Evans, Ken Bruce, Steve Wright and Graham Norton.

Radio 1, which is undergoing its own reinvention as it seeks a younger audience, had 10.5 million listeners, down 400,000 on the previous quarter but up 2.6% year on year.

Grimshaw had 5.85 million listeners, down from 6.3 million the previous quarter and his predecessor Moyles's final audience of 6.7 million.

But with the station under pressure from the BBC Trust and its commercial rivals to do more to appeal to younger listeners, the presenter was in the unusual position of being praised by his controller for losing listeners.

Radio 1 said the show had gained 130,000 listeners aged 24 and under and shed more than half a million over-25s during the three-month period.

Since taking over from Moyles in September 2012, Grimshaw has lost a total of 1.1 million listeners aged 25 and older, and gained 230,000 under-24s.

The Radio 1 controller, Ben Cooper, said: "I was asked to build a younger audience for Radio 1 and regenerate the brand, and these figures show we're doing exactly that.

"Grimmy and the breakfast show continue to gain young listeners … which is the challenge I set him."

Former late night DJ Grimshaw's switch to breakfast in place of the longstanding Moyles was a key part of Radio 1's new look and lineup, which also included Greg James's switch to drivetime in place of Scott Mills.

Radio 2's overhaul was begun by former controller Jim Moir in the late 1990s, hiring presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Mark Lamarr (both of whom have since left the station).

The revolution continued under Moir's successor Lesley Douglas and incumbent Bob Shennan, with a schedule of presenters that now includes Jeremy Vine, Simon Mayo, Mark Radcliffe and breakfast presenter Evans, who succeeded Sir Terry Wogan.

Radio 2's audience is now more than 50% up on the 9.9 million listeners it had at the end of 1999, when it was still more than 2 million listeners behind Radio 1, which 15 years ago had a weekly reach of more than 11 million.

Shennan singled out Evans, who attracted 9.83 million listeners in the first three months of this year, and Graham Norton, whose Saturday morning show drew 4.3 million listeners. Shennan said: "For a single show it is a phenomenal achievement."

Ken Bruce had a weekly reach of 8.4 million, with 8.1 million people tuning into Steve Wright's afternoon show.

Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live both lost listeners on the previous quarter, Radio 4 down 2.2% to 10.9 million while 5 Live slipped 1.8% to 6.2 million. Radio 4's Today programme had 7.06 million listeners.

Radio 3 was up on the previous quarter, but down year on year to 2.1 million.

Among the BBC's digital-only stations, the Asian Network took a tumble, down 28% on the previous quarter and nearly 14% year on year to 478,000.

Radio 1Xtra showed the biggest year-on-year gain, up just over 10% to 1.1 million, while Radio 6 Music, although down 1.8% on the previous quarter, was up 6.3% year on year to 1.9 million. Radio 4 Extra had nearly 1.7 million listeners.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook.


John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Radio 1 loses nearly 1m listeners as Nick Grimshaw hits 12-year breakfast low
BBC station’s audience at lowest for 10 years as star DJ’s ratings continue to suffer, while Radio 4 Extra passes 6 Music in popularity

John Plunkett

20, May, 2015 @11:02 PM

Article image
BBC Radio 6 Music hits biggest-ever weekly audience with nearly 2 million
Lauren Laverne presents most popular show with 868,000 listeners, but Nick Grimshaw continues to struggle on Radio 1. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

23, Oct, 2014 @6:09 AM

Article image
Chris Evans Radio 2 show surges ahead of Chris Moyles's
Breakfast DJ has biggest-ever lead with an average weekly reach of 9.23m listeners compared to Radio 1 rival's 7.1m. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

17, May, 2012 @8:31 AM

Article image
Radio 1 loses half a million listeners but Nick Grimshaw holds audience
Chris Moyles's departure from breakfast show did not result in huge drop in listeners as station targets younger listeners. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

31, Jan, 2013 @7:20 AM

Article image
Rajars: Talk radio attracts record listeners

England's Ashes victory, snow and Premier League football boost BBC 5 Live and TalkSport's audiences. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

03, Feb, 2011 @12:01 AM

Article image
Richard Keys and Andy Gray nominated for Sony radio award

TalkSport presenters win nod a year after Sky Sports sacking, while BBC Radio 4 scores most nominations. By Jason Deans

Jason Deans

30, Mar, 2012 @3:59 PM

Article image
Radio 1's Nick Grimshaw adds more than 700,000 listeners
BBC stations celebrate bumper final quarter of 2013, as record audience figures for Chris Evans push Radio 2 to new high. By Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

06, Feb, 2014 @7:39 AM

Article image
Nick Grimshaw's Radio 1 breakfast show loses 300,000 listeners
Controller Ben Cooper says listeners over 30 have moved on as Chris Evans also sheds 405,000 from BBC Radio 2 show. By Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

24, Oct, 2013 @9:27 AM

Article image
Chris Evans loses more than a million Radio 2 listeners

R2 breakfast show sheds audience it gained after Terry Wogan's departure, as R1's Chris Moyles is down 600,000 listeners on previous quarter. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

28, Oct, 2010 @9:46 AM

Article image
Fifty years after the radio revolution, are the BBC’s stations now irrelevant?
The Home Service, and the Light and Third Programmes became part of British life. But too much of their successors’ content is unfit for the digital age

Miranda Sawyer

23, Sep, 2017 @11:03 PM