BBC Radio 5 live has suffered another dip in listeners in the latest RAJAR figures.
The MediaCityUK-based station shed 440,000 listeners in the past three months – down 7.6% to 5.3 million – meaning they have 960,000 fewer listeners than at this time last year.
There was some good news for sister station Radio 5 live sports extra, however, which posted a record 1.63m listeners, up from from 1.34m last quarter and 919,000 last year.
Jonathan Wall, controller of BBC 5 live and 5 live sports extra, said: “We’ve seen stable figures for our daytime news programmes, helped by brilliant coverage of the general election.
“Elsewhere we face some challenges including maintaining our sports listening figures but with plenty of live action in the months ahead including the Ashes, Premier League and Rugby World Cup, we have strong plans in place.
“I’m also delighted that 5 live sports extra has achieved record listening figures and we’re leading the way in offering content on digital platforms where we’re seeing huge growth.”
Commercial rival talkSPORT claimed to be closing in on 5 live, with the gap between the two down to 2.3m – five years ago it was 4m. However, the UTV Media-owned station also experienced a fall in listeners over the quarter, down 6.6% to 3m.
The figures come as UTV prepares to launch new national speech radio stations talkSPORT 2, talkRADIO and talkBUSINESS, and also revive Virgin Radio in 2016.
Scott Taunton, talkSPORT’s chief operating officer, said: “This is a really pleasing set of figures for us, as it shows great resilience in the absence of a major football tournament this summer.”
6 Music reclaims its title as the UK’s largest digital station, having fallen behind Radio 4 Extra last quarter. The former held its own at around the 2m listeners mark for the quarter, but Radio 4 Extra fell 10%.
There was also better news regionally for the BBC, with Radio Manchester adding 41,000 listeners in 12 months, up 21% year on year. Across all the Beeb’s local stations, listeners were up 0.2% over the quarter, compared to a 2.6% rise for local commercial stations.
Kate Squire, managing editor of BBC Radio Manchester, said: “We have got an amazing line up of presenters and shows, and I’m absolutely thrilled listeners in Greater Manchester are loving the station.”
There were a couple of major disappointments commercially in the North – in Manchester, Key 103 recorded its lowest ever numbers, with 387,000 listeners down from 444,000 three months ago and 558,000 a year ago. Capital Manchester appeared to be the main beneficiary, up 54,000 to 565,000.
In Newcastle, Metro Radio recorded its lowest weekly reach since 2012, dropping to 379,000 from 406,000 last quarter.
Among the local results, UTV Media-owned Wish FM in Wigan and St Helens grew listeners by 31% year on year and 13% quarter on quarter, while Wire FM in Warrington was up 74% year on year.
Iain Fowler, director of local radio for UTV Media (GB), said: “This result is pleasing. Our programming teams both on and off air, demonstrate a connection with their audiences each and every day and these numbers once again show just what a unique proposition UTV Local stations are for both listeners and advertisers alike.”
The best results were recorded by Bauer, with its Kiss network growing 13.1% year on year as it climbed to 5.24m listeners for the quarter.
Another Bauer network, Absolute Radio, also made strong gains. The main Absolute Radio station rose 10.1% to 1.98m over the quarter, with Absolute Radio 80s on DAB surging 28.8% in the quarter to 1.60m listeners.
Dee Ford, the group managing director of radio for Bauer Media, said: “This is a fantastic book of ‘best-evers’ with outstanding results from our KISS, Absolute Radio and Magic brands.”
Heart remains the most popular commercial network, pulling in a weekly audience of 8.86m, down 1.4% over the quarter.