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Growth for Talkradio and BBC Sounds content

Talkradio saw a large audience boost in the first quarter of 2023 while the BBC saw success with its on-demand audio content, according to the latest RAJAR radio listening figures. 

Talkradio, which is owned by News UK Broadcasting, increased its audience by 29% year-on-year, growing its weekly reach from 650,000 people in the first quarter of 2022 to 840,000 in Q1 of 2023.

Its quarter-on-quarter audience also saw a large jump, increasing 38% compared to the 608,000 people reached in the last quarter of 2022. 

Talkradio now simulcasts content from sister TV channel TalkTV, which launched in April last year. New appointments include Vanessa Feltz at drivetime, followed by Jeremy Kyle and Piers Morgan in primetime TV slots.

Talkradio’s audience boost was not matched by a similar boost in listening hours, which fell by 1% year-on-year to 5.67 million hours per week – although this was up 20.9% quarter-on-quarter.

News UK said Talkradio had seen record reach, with record figures in the slots for Julia Hartley-Brewer (6.30am-10am), Mike Graham (10am-1pm), Ian Collins (1pm-4pm) and Vanessa Feltz (4pm-7pm).

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Meanwhile Talksport also saw growth to reach a record 3.3 million listeners in the first quarter of the year – up 12% both year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter. 

Scott Taunton, News UK’s EVP, president of broadcasting, said: “News Broadcasting is the UK’s most digital broadcasting group, with 86% of hours from digital, 38% from streaming. This positions us brilliantly for continued digital audience growth and to build out a clear path to sustainable digital revenue growth.

“Both Talksport and Talkradio deliver record reach in the period – a testament to the talented teams under News Broadcasting director of audio Dennie Morris. And the Talk brand – on TV, streaming services, online and on the app now reaches more people than ever on radio.”

Drop in audience for Times Radio

Fellow News UK property Times Radio, however, saw its audience decline by 9% year-on-year and 2% quarter-on-quarter to 554,0000. Times Radio put the fall down to the loss in audience compared to the boost in listening that came with the start of the Ukraine war a year ago. (Press Gazette has calculated Times Radio’s year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter audience change on the basis of RAJAR figures supplied to Press Gazette by the station, which moved to a six-month survey period mid-last year).

Times Radio, which was launched in June 2020 as an alternative to Radio 4 and LBC, did however see record high listening hours with listeners tuning in for an average of 6.3 hours each. Total listening hours, while down 3% year-on-year to 3.49 million, were up 2.5% quarter-on-quarter. 

High-profile names at the station include former culture minister Ed Vaizey who began presenting a weekly politics show on Times Radio in December, while Jane Garvey and Fi Glover were hired from the BBC last year.

BBC radio loses audience, while on-demand grows

All BBC speech radio stations tracked by Press Gazette saw audience falls in the latest RAJAR results, which present listening data for the quarter ending 2 April 2023.  In contrast, the BBC’s on-demand content showed strong growth. 

According to the broadcaster, BBC Sounds reached 4.6 million weekly listeners across all platforms while there were 436 million plays of its live and on-demand radio programmes, podcasts and music – both record highs.

Plays of BBC Radio 4 content were up 15% compared to Q1 2022, it said. Radio 4 was also responsible for eight of the top ten most listened to on-demand radio programmes on BBC Sounds and five of the top ten most downloaded BBC podcasts globally on third party platforms. Investigative journalism podcast The Shamima Begum Story was the most popular podcast on BBC Sounds, as well as the most popular podcast for listeners under 35.

BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore said: “With more people listening on-demand, we’ve upped our editorial ambition for BBC Sounds and it is paying dividends, as BBC Sounds is repeatedly reaching record numbers and our investigative podcasts like the eye-opening The Shamima Begum Story are proving hugely popular.

“With Radio 4 we’re adapting to meet the changing listening needs of our audiences and have risen to the challenge with on-demand listening for the station up by 15.1% year on year with its programming dominating the most listened to charts. The quality of content is world class and Radio 4 remains the home for trusted and impartial news, thought provoking current affairs, ground breaking documentaries, and boundary pushing comedy, arts and drama.” 

In contrast, the BBC’s talk radio audiences were down as users are increasingly switching to digital audio formats, according to the corporation. The BBC World Service audience fell 28% year-on-year and 17% quarter-on-quarter to 1.09 million.

Listening hours fell similarly by 19% year-on-year to 5.89m hours, despite growing at the end of last year. In 2022 the BBC made deep cuts to its shortwave world service output including the end of radio broadcasts in Arabic, Persian, Hindi and Chinese, as well as hundreds of job losses in the face of increasing costs and cash flat licence fee revenue. 

BBC Radio 4’s audience reach fell 11% year-on-year to 9.4 million, while listenership to the BBC’s network of local stations in England which carry a mix of news and entertainment was down 17% to 5.29 million. BBC Radio 5 Live shed 8% of its audience reaching 5.1 million people.

The size of the listenership to BBC Radio 2, the UK’s most popular radio station, stayed steady compared to 2022 remaining at 14.46m people.

RAJARs 2023 Q1: LBC News makes small gain

LBC, owned by Global, saw its audience remain largely unchanged compared to the same time last year, reaching 2.71 million people – although the company said that presenters James O’Brien, Shelagh Fogarty, Tom Swarbrick and Andrew Marr all increased their reach, hours and share compared to the past quarter.

Global’s 24-hour rolling news station LBC News grew its audience by 3% year-on-year to 1.1 million, breaking its previous record. 

Ashley Tabor-King, Global’s executive president, said: ”How better to celebrate the 50th anniversary of commercial radio than to see record audience numbers for Global, our highest ever.”

GB News Radio, which launched in January 2022 as a simulcast of the GB News TV channel, saw strong year-on-year growth in its first available annual comparison, as its audience grew by 33% to 319,000.

Its audience was also up slightly compared to the last three months of 2022, growing 4% after falling sharply (by 26% quarter-on-quarter) in Q4 of last year. 

LBC London leads for average hours per listener

Of the speech stations tracked by Press Gazette, listeners tuned into to LBC London for the most hours each on average (12.3 hours), followed by BBC Radio 4 (12 hours) and LBC UK (10.9 hours). 

Despite dips in listenership, the BBC remains the UK’s number one radio broadcaster, reaching 53% of people aged over 15.

Among the stations on our list, The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show remains the UK’s most popular breakfast broadcast attracting 7.26 million listeners. The Today Programme on Radio 4 had 5.92 million listeners, while LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast now reaches 1.43 million weekly listeners across the UK, up slightly (72,000 people) compared to the last quarter. 

Talkradio’s breakfast programme led by Julia Hartley-Brewer was tuned into by an average of 334,000 people each week – ahead of Times Radio’s Stig Abell and Aasmah Mir on 238,000.

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