The UK receives its first sport-dedicated commercial radio station
this week when Talk Radio relaunches as Talk Sport. It will complete the
transformation of the station, which began with Kelvin MacKenzie’s
takeover in October 1998.
It will also unleash a sports bidding war with its main rival, the BBC’s
Radio 5 Live.
Mackenzie has been increasing steadily the station’s sports content in
direct competition with the BBC. He broke down the corporation’s
stronghold on radio sports rights by protesting against the European
Broadcasting Union, which gave way to a clutch of deals.
However, this period of transition has so far failed to reap
Talk’s ratings have been falling throughout the year: in the last Rajar
figures, for September 1999, its weekly reach had fallen by 17.2 per
cent since June, to 1.9 million. Its share of listening also dropped,
from 1.8 per cent in June, to 1.5 per cent in September.
Radio 5 Live’s figures also dropped, but its weekly reach stands at 5.6
million and its share of listening rose to 4.2 per cent.
Despite the steep decline at Talk, the station appears to be building a
loyal audience, with the average number of hours for which listeners
tuned in rising during the year.
Impact, the group’s new sales house, currently targets a male audience
between the ages of 25 and 54 in the BC1C2 category. But the target
group will change with the relaunch to attract a younger 15- to
However, this age group has so far failed to make an impact on the
weekly figures. In the latest data, men in both the 15- to 44-year-old
and 25- to 54-year-old age bands showed a decline of 18 per cent and 13
per cent respectively.
Women, who made up a large proportion of the station’s audience before
its takeover, are rapidly losing interest. According to September’s
figures, female listeners overall fell by 24 per cent compared with the
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