Absolute Radio audience falls 461,000 after rebrand

LONDON - Absolute Radio's audience figures have dropped by a fifth following its rebrand from Virgin Radio, according to the latest Rajar figures.

Absolute... audience drop
Absolute... audience drop

Absolute’s weekly average audience fell by almost 500,000 from the previous quarter to 1.89 million in Q4 2008.

The station was rebranded on September 29 last year after Virgin Radio was sold to the Times of India Group and the radio consultancy Absolute Radio for £53.2 million.

Absolute’s chief operating officer Clive Dickens blamed the drop on listener misattribution: "The heritage of the Virgin brand causes a misinterpretation by listeners. But Rajar is our currency and we fully support it.

"The important point for us is that reported listeners dropped and the trading audience dropped but actual listening hasn’t."

He added: The figures from our perspective are well within the parameters of what we were expecting. We are very comfortable with the results. Fifteen weeks is very much a snapshot in the life of our brand."

Global radio’s Galaxy Network saw an audience rise pf 43.7 per cent year on year, but was down 0.5 per cent on the quarter. The reach of its Heart Network was up 107.3 per cent year on year.

Bauer Radio saw a 1 per cent increase in total reach year on year, from 24 per cent in Q4 2007 to 25 per cent in Q4 2008.

National speech radio station Talk Sport saw an increase in listeners of 8.7 per cent on the previous quarter and 2.6 per cent year on year to 5.7 million in Q4 2008.

Digital radio stations suffered losses.  Bauer’s Q was down 25.8 per cent on the quarter and 17.8 per cent on the year, to 245,000.

Another Bauer station, The Hits, suffered a 16.8 per cent loss on the previous quarter and 2.6 per cent year on year to 1.33 million listeners per week.

Smash Hits, also owned by Bauer, was down 8 per cent on the previous quarter to 922,000.

However, digital station Planet Rock bucked the trend, and was up 7.4 per cent on Q3 to 680,000 listeners.

Overall commercial radio’s audience share dropped year on year to 42.2 per cent.

In Q4 last year, commercial radio’s audience share fell 0.2 per cent year on year and BBC Radio’s audience share rose form 54.9 per cent in Q3 2008 to 55.7 per cent in Q4 2008.

Commercial radio’s total reach of 31.2 million weekly listeners on average, was up 1.6 per cent up on the same period in 2007.