“War of the Worlds”
This is simultaneously the most famous and most infamous radio broadcast of all time. Broadcast on October 30th 1938, it produced widespread outrage and panic as many took the events being described as real.
Over the course of 60 riveting minutes, listeners were presented with mock new bulletins relaying that a Martian invasion was currently in progress. Based on the H.G. Well’s’ novel, this broadcast also launched Orson Welles’ career.
But what other programs are there which have achieved huge audiences and scores of listeners over the years?
A lot depends on what areas of radio you look into. Syndicated radio programs can reach millions of listeners on a regular basis. Take the country music Back Porch Show for example, which reaches 6 million listeners every single week.
But the American Top 40 can do even better than that. This weekly show gets around 20 million listeners, not all of them in the US either.
In the realm of talk radio, The Rush Limbaugh Show brings in 22 million listeners a week.
You can find plenty of huge shows back in the early days of radio too. If you head back into the 1930s before the Second World War broke out, you’ll find a show called Maxwell House Show Boat. This was the top broadcasted show to hit the airwaves between 1933 and 1935.
Fast forward some 20 years and you’ll find another program regularly getting the biggest audiences for radio shows – The Jack Benny Show. Jack may have gone on to achieve success on television as well, but he is arguably best remembered for those golden years on the radio.
A lot depends on the scope of the program to go beyond the country it’s produced in. For instance Armin van Buuren gets a massive 30 million listeners every single week right across the world. His show A State of Trance is broadcast over several dozen channels worldwide and focuses on trance music.
If you’re looking for the biggest number of listeners, look no further than the BBC World Service, with approximately 188 million listeners around the globe.