Commercial radio continues to lose listeners while BBC audience grows

The commercial radio sector lost share to the BBC for the third successive quarter after a strong performance by Radio 1, Radio 5 Live and BBC7, according to the Rajar figures for the last quarter of 2007. The BBC increased its share to 55.4% as commercial saw its drop from 43.3% to 42.4%.

Radio 1 has added more than 400,000 listeners over the past year and has a reach of 10.69m. The Chris Moyles Breakfast Show has increased its audience from 6.82 million last year to 7.31 million this quarter and is now less than a million listeners behind Wake up to Wogan on Radio 2, currently the UK’s most popular breakfast show with 7.68 million listeners.

Meanwhile, Magic, now owned by Bauer Radio, and Global Radio-owned Heart continued to battle for leadership of the London market. Magic retained its crown as the biggest station in the Capital with 1.97m listeners but Heart nudged ahead in terms of share with 6.2% against Magic’s 6.1%. Kiss 100, also owned by Bauer, retains its fourth place in the London market with 1.4 million listeners and a 4.2% share of London listening.

GMG Radio-owned 102.2 Smooth Radio, which last year changed its format to target 40- to 59-year-olds, grew its share of the London market from 1.3% to 1.7% over the quarter and has increased its average hours by 1.9 to 7.9 per week.

The Heart Breakfast Show, presented by Jamie Theakston and Harriet Scott, has won back the top spot in London from Magic’s Neil Fox. Heart increased its listeners to 915,000 from 810,000 in the previous quarter while Magic shed 74,000 listeners to 811,000. Capital 95.8’s Johnny Vaughan took second place at breakfast with 864,000, down 16,000 on the previous quarter.

London talk station LBC 97.3, also owned by Global, has reported its highest ever audience share from 3.1% in the third quarter to 3.8%. It has an audience of 642,000 listeners, up by 56,000 on the quarter. Nick Ferrari, who presents the breakfast show reported his highest reach of 444,000, which is up by 25% on the year.

Nationally, TalkSport, owned by UTV, has put in its strong performance, in part attributed to the tail end of the Rugby World Cup. It has increased listeners from 2.2 million in the last quarter of 2006 to 2.5 million this quarter and has reported a record share of 2%. Virgin Radio has reported steady growth over the past year increasing by 0.7% nationally and adding 36,000 listeners in London over the last quarter.

Digital listening has increased by 10% over the quarter to 169 million hours per week with digital audio broadcasting (DAB) becoming the most popular format with listeners. Listening on DAB has grown by 16% to 14 million hours quarter on quarter. Commercial radio continues to lead the way in digital with 19.2% of adults listening to a commercial service on a digital platform each week. GCap Media-owned Planet Rock gave a strong performance increasing listeners from 424,000 in the same quarter in 2006 and to 563,000 this year.

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