Rajar Q4 2011: Media agencies upbeat on Capital and TalkSport

Radio buyers give their verdicts on the latest Rajar figures, describing a "solid but unspectacular" quarter for commercial radio, while Capital and TalkSport are among those singled out for praise.

Howard Bareham, Anthony Mann and Mike Williamson
Howard Bareham, Anthony Mann and Mike Williamson

As is often the case, the Rajar figures for the fourth quarter of 2011 (18 September to 19 December) provided some cheer for most of the radio groups with growth at Global Radio's Capital and Bauer Media's Magic in London and nationally at Absolute Radio, TalkSport (owned by UTV Media), GMG Radio's Smooth and Bauer's Kiss.

Each quarter, most radio groups find some metric by which its hours or listeners grow, either year on year or on the quarter, but this time the good news was consistent, albeit against a stronger BBC.

Johnny Vaughan bowed out of Capital's breakfast show on a high with 1.3 million listeners, while TalkSport and Smooth kept their weekly reach above three million and Absolute Radio improved year on year and stayed steady on the quarter.

Here, three radio buyers share what they believe to be the main points to take away from this quarter's figures:

 

Howard Bareham, investment director, radio, MindshareHoward Bareham, investment director, radio, Mindshare

"Capital has had an excellent result in London, reaching a seven-year high and the growth in the network has been driven by London.

"Capital in London is strong but they have more work to do with their positioning and programming elsewhere. Likewise, Heart in London has grown but regionally it has regressed.

"When you look at the networks it's difficult to get clear comparisons and as they get larger they can get more volatile. Magic has also done well in London but not performed as strongly elsewhere.

"You've got to accept there will always be competition from other media as well, it's not just radio.

"TalkSport has done well as has GMG, particularly Smooth where they seem to have got the formula right.

"Commercial radio has gone down slightly but that's nothing to worry about – although momentum has slowed." 

Anthony Mann, associate director, investment, StarcomAnthony Mann, associate director, investment, Starcom

"As we digest the latest Rajar release, I think it's fair to say that the radio industry can once again be pleased with its endeavours.

"As expected, today we will be bombarded by the usual all staff emails portraying positive stories from all camps, but under this hard sell lies one simple fact – More people are consistently listening to radio than ever before.

"Commercial radio has arguably been the biggest winner by attracting an additional 1.4 million listeners in the last two years and in the process creating a competitive market of clear recognisable brand propositions.

"Credit should be given to the networks that have been prepared to veer away from the traditional in order to push the boundaries creatively and produce an attractive listening experience for the consumer.

"Yes this release does suggest a minor drop in listening (0.1% for all radio, 0.7% commercial year on year) but it is a minor blip in what's been a great 2011 for radio.

"The real challenge lies in 2012. Commercial radio needs to convert these audiences into revenue against a tough economic backdrop and a year in which display mediums are likely to profit off the back of the Olympics, Euros and Jubilee." 

Mike Williamson, head of radio, CaratMike Williamson, head of radio, Carat

"A solid but unspectacular set of results for commercial radio against a strong performance from the BBC.

"Within this there are several successful trends occurring. Capital Radio continued its recent rich vein of form both in London and nationally.

"It was number one in London with 15% more listeners year on year, and pushed further past the seven million listeners landmark nationally is a great return for its owners Global Radio.

"TalkSport stayed above 3.1 million listeners making 2011 by far their biggest year ever – their coverage of the Rugby World Cup in October proved to be a big hit with listeners.

"And Kiss increased its weekly reach to 4.2m, making 2011 their most successful year to date with over four million listeners achieved consistently throughout the year.

"Digital radio continued to grow albeit slower than we would all like. The total amount of people who use digital radio each week is very near to passing the 50% mark (49.4%, up from 43.9% in Q3) – a significant landmark which will be expected to be hit next quarter."

Follow Maisie McCabe on Twitter @MaisieMcCabe

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