Commercial radio buoyed by gains as BBC loses out

RAJAR: The number of listeners tuning into commercial radio stations continued to grow in the third quarter, boosted by strong performances by TalkSport and Absolute Radio.

The commercial sector registered 33.4 million listeners in the three months to 30 September, up 1.5% on the previous quarter and 6.9% on the same period last year, according to RAJAR data.

Ad-funded stations also stole share from their BBC rivals nationally.

Market share increased to 43.4% of all radio listening, from 43.2% in the previous quarter and 42.4% in the same period last year.

Importantly for the commercial radio industry, the number of ad-friendly younger listeners aged 15-44 listening increased to 18.5 million, up 1.9% on the previous quarter and 6.4% on last year. 

The gains are a further fillip to commercial radio chiefs after the listener and share gains registered in the second quarter.

Andrew Harrison, chief executive of the RadioCentre, says: “The fact that commercial radio continues to grow listeners and gain market share against the backdrop of relentless competition for listeners’ time is a reflection of the sector’s ongoing momentum.”

Numbers were lifted by big gains at talk station TalkSport, which registered a 19.6% increase in listeners year on year to 2.9 million.

Absolute, which rebranded two years ago from Virgin Radio, saw audiences across all platforms increase 4.2% to 1.6 million. 

Overall, the numbers listening to BBC stations dropped 1% on the previous quarter to 34.2 million listeners but increased 2.0% on the same period last year.

The BBC’s share of the radio market dropped to 54.3%, down on the second quarter and last year.

The Corporation’s losses meant overall radio listening did not budge from the record 46.7 million people that listened to radio in the second quarter. However, the number of Britons listening to radio in the third quarter was up 2.3% on the same period last year.

BBC Radio 2’s audience dropped 0.3% quarter on quarter to 13.7 million but was up 0.4% on last year.

The station’s fortunes were hit by the performance of Chris Evans’ breakfast offering.

The show continues to be nation’s most listened to with 8.1 million tuning in, but lost 341,000 listeners in the quarter.

The presenter’s show has lost more than 1.3 million listeners since the first quarter of the year, Evans’ first full quarter after taking over breakfast duties from Sir Terry Wogan in January.

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