Footie boosts radio audiences

MacKenzie: relaunched talkSPORT

With the climax to the domestic football season and World Cup fever taking hold, sports and news radio stations battling for listeners have scored some of their highest audience figures over the past three months.

Commercial sports radio station talkSPORT clocked up its highest figures, with more than 2.4 million listeners tuning in each week, giving the Wireless Group-owned station a 1.7 per cent share.

The figures, released by Radio Joint Audio Research (Rajar) for the first quarter of 2002, represent an 8 per cent increase compared with the same period last year and is the highest achieved since Kelvin MacKenzie relaunched Talk Radio as talkSPORT in 2000.

The station claims that Sports Breakfast, its morning show presented by former Daily Express and Press Association journalist Mike Parry and  former footballer Alan Brazil, also achieved its highest audience, with one million listeners tuning in weekly.

MacKenzie continued his criticism of the current system of recording audiences when he claimed the figures were "just the start of what we expect to be a record year for talkSPORT. Even with Rajar’s diary system, the figures show that talkSPORT’s audience is growing."

But the growth in its audience failed to dent the success of rival BBC Radio Five Live, which held its lead in the news and sports field, with more than 6.4 million listeners. The figure, bolstered during the football season, beat the station’s previous record of 6.25 million last year and gave it a 4.5 per cent share of the audience.

Football drew in Saturday afternoon and midweek evening audiences of around 2.5 million for the station. News audiences, which were boosted in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, have remained stable and Radio Five Live’s Sony Radio Academy award-winning Breakfast show’s audience stayed at the 2.3 million mark.

TEAMtalk 252, the newest challenger to talkSPORT and Radio Five Live, attracted an audience of 412,000 in its first months.

The non-stop sports and news service was launched in February after Teamtalk bought up the licence for Atlantic 252, a youth music station in Ireland. It had anticipated losing some of the 1.4 million listeners but will be working hard to increase its 0.2 per cent share in the coming quarter.

Radio 4’s audience continued to grow and was up by just under 10,000 from the previous quarter to 9.94 million during the first three months of 2002. The figure represents an increase of 800,000 in the past year.

The London station, BBC London 94.9, which has introduced a number of changes to its line-up, saw its audience grow slightly from 322,000 in the last quarter to 330,000.

The BBC’s local services achieved increases across the board, with 21 recording rises in their weekly reach.

Radio Cumbria achieved a share of 20.5 per cent with an audience of 132,000, up 10,000 on last year.


By Julie Tomlin

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