Rajar Q4 2010: TalkSport breaks reach and hours records

TalkSport reported record reach and hours for the last three months of 2010, while Global Radio-owned Classic FM and the newly-national Smooth Radio also increased reach and hours, according to the latest Rajar figures.

Rajar Q4 2010: TalkSport breaks reach and hours records
Rajar Q4 2010: TalkSport breaks reach and hours records

TalkSport, the national speech station owned by UTV Media, had an average weekly reach of 3.09 million in the three months to 19 December 2010, up an impressive 23.7% year on year and up 4.3% from the third quarter of 2010.

The average total hours TalkSport was listened to each week was at its highest ever at 24.51 million in the fourth quarter 2010, up 19.9% year on year and up 11.5% from the second highest figure, in quarter three 2010.

Scott Taunton, managing director UTV radio GB, said: "Since I joined six years ago the bulk of the back office and presenting team is the same; but they’ve worked really hard to build our reach and hours so I'm really pleased for them."

Taunton also pointed to BBC Radio 5 live, which increased its reach by 16.2% year on year and 12.7% period on period to 7.09 million, as a sign there is "more than enough space" for commercial and BBC sports radio.

"For too long too many stations have cut the product but TalkSport's results show that in areas where there is investment, audience will follow," he added.

Smooth Radio, which became a national station on 4 October, had an average weekly reach of 3.08 million in the period 20 September 19 December 2010, up 14.5% year on year and 1% quarter on quarter, making it the third biggest commercial station.

The Smooth Radio figure includes the English national service broadcast in London, the East Midlands and West Midlands, North West and North East of England on FM, nationally and locally on DAB and online as well as listening to the Scottish station.

On average Smooth Radio's total number of listening hours, the metric used by agencies when trading radio, was 23.87 million in the three months to 19 December, up 11.8% year on year and 1.5% quarter on quarter.

Stuart Taylor, chief executive of GMG Radio, said: "The Smooth Radio figures are highly encouraging with increases in reach, hours and market share. We're looking forward to receiving our first pure set of Smooth Radio UK results, incorporating the new Simon Bates breakfast show for Q1 in May."

Classic FM remains the biggest commercial station by reach with an average of 5.72 million listeners every week, up 11.4% compared with the same period in 2009 and 0.8% period on period.

The average total number of hours Classic FM was listened to every week was 41 million, up an impressive 17.2% year on year and 9.9% quarter on quarter.

Absolute Radio's core station, available nationally on AM, DAB, online and through digital TV as well as FM in London had an audience of 1.38 million a week, down 7.9% year on year and 16.9% quarter on quarter.

The decline in quarter four is a particular disappointment as it follows a good quarter for Absolute Radio in Q3, when the station reported its first increase in reach quarter on quarter and year on year since the station rebranded from Virgin Radio in September 2008.

The total number of hours listeners tuned into the main Absolute Radio station was an average of 9.47 million a week, down 16.0% year on year and 22.6% quarter on quarter.

The Absolute Radio network, which includes Absolute's digital stations such as Absolute Classic Rock and Absolute Radio 90s, had an average weekly reach of 2.22 million, up 32.88% year on year but down 7.57% period on period.

The total number of hours consumers listened to Absolute Radio network was an average of 15.87 million a week, up 27.1% year on year but down 12.78% period on period.

Clive Dickens, chief operating officer of Absolute Radio, said much of its period on period decline could be attributed to a loss in London, which was felt by other commercial stations. "12 million hours have come out of commercial radio," he said.

"It is all about how to measure the complex London market. When you have good growth outside of London, growth on DAB and our digital stations, why is listening on FM any different? We are going to speak to Rajar about methodology."

However, Dickens said Absolute has launched a seven figure marketing campaign in Q1, which will use mainly outdoor and digital starting with Apple's new iAd format, to increase its visibility.

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