talkSport defies sceptics to hit highest listening figure

By Caitlin Pike

The UK’s only national commercial speech station, talkSport, has recorded the highest number of total listening hours in the station’s history, as well as year-on-year increases in share and reach in the latest Rajar figures.

The station has recorded over 19m total listening hours a week for all four quarters of last year for the first time since the station was launched as Talk Radio in 1995. Total listening hours equates to the overall number of hours of adult listening to a station in an average week.

Speaking at a Rajar press conference, the chief executive of the Commercial Radio Companies Association, Paul Brown, said: "I am an avid listener of talkSport and over the last six months its output has improved dramatically. It is far more lively to listen to and this is reflected in the Rajar figures."

The station also recorded an increased share in listening from 1.6 per cent to 1.8 per cent, despite commercial radio losing 1.4 per cent in market share to the BBC over the last year.

Scott Taunton, chief executive of UTV Radio and talkSport, said: "To increase listening hours, reach and market share is a fabulous achievement in light of the fact that commercial radio’s market share is down.

"We’re definitely bucking the trend with a speech format that many in the industry still believe cannot compete against the might of the BBC."

LBC speech stations have recorded an increase in reach in London and across the UK. The total number of people listening to LBC has risen by 9.9 per cent to 722,000 over the year.

LBC 97.3’s reach in London has increased 14.7 per cent year-on-year from 468,000 to 537,000 and its share has risen from 2.1 per cent to 2.5 per cent. Despite the station’s success in London, BBC London 94.9FM’s rose above it this quarter, with weekly reach increasing to 546,000 listeners — 95,000 up on last year.

BBC Radio 4’s share is up to 11.8 per cent — the station’s highest figure since 2003 during the Iraq war. The station is still the most listened-to in London: the Today programme attracts 1.75m listeners there — equivalent to the combined breakfast listening of Capital, Kiss, Magic and Heart.

Controller of BBC Radio 4 Mark Damazer told Press Gazette: "It’s heartening that Radio 4’s share has risen — particularly because it has not occurred as a result of any extraordinary news event. It’s terrific that we do so well in London, but I hope we can match that performance across the UK."

■ Rajar also reported on the increasing uptake of digital radio. What Rajar describes as the "Digitally Enabled Universe" has increased from 23.8m adults last quarter to 24.6m adults — 49.8 per cent of the population; 11.1 per cent of the population are living in DAB households; 20.2 per cent of people have listened to the radio via the internet and 35.8 per cent have listened via digital TV. Only 8.8 per cent of adults listen to radio via a mobile phone, but 11 per cent of all radio listening is via a digital platform.

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