Rajar: Ian Wright scores for TalkSport

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has helped bring more listeners to TalkSport – but those tuning in are spending less time with the station.

The UK’s only national commercial speech station, owned by Ulster Television, has posted a weekly audience of 2.37m adults5, according to this morning’s Rajar radio listening figures.

The figure is up 6.9 per cent on the same period last year, which coincided with the football World Cup in Germany.

But the total number of hours spent listening to TalkSport has dipped since last quarter’s four-year high of 20.4m hours a week to 19.3m. This means that although more people are listening to the station, they are not tuning in for as long.

TalkSport hired retired footballer Ian Wright to front its afternoon show in March. Today’s figures are the first to include Wright’s new show, which is co-presented with Adrian Durham.

The station said the new show commanded 859,000 listeners a week – up six per cent year on year. TalkSport programme director Bill Ridley said: “Ian Wright has been a great success. He is knowledgeable, he is passionate and he connects well with the listener.”

The TalkSport breakfast show, hosted by veteran Scottish footballer Alan Brazil, has held steady just above the 1m-listener mark for the third quarter running.

Brazil, who is the longest-serving breakfast host on national commercial radio after eight years in the role, gets a new on-air partner next month, when ex-England and Essex cricketer Ronnie Irani joins the show.

TalkSport has also secured the rights to broadcast live commentary from 32 Saturday Premier League football matches every year for the next three years, starting last weekend when the 2007/8 Premiership season kicked off.

The commentary rights packages were sold in seven packages of 32 matches each – with the BBC securing six of the seven. The TalkSport win is the first time a national commercial radio station has gained the rights to live Premiership coverage.

The station’s increased use of live commentary is a far cry from the 2002 football World Cup, when TalkSport provided commentary on the matches from a television set in a Korean hotel room. TalkSport chief executive Scott Taunton said the station’s line-up had never been stronger.

“These figures prove that our policy of investment in sports rights and talent such as Ian Wright is paying off in attracting new listeners to the station,” he said.

TalkSport swept the board at last month’s Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards, winning four gong including overall station of the year. The judges said the UTV-owned station “was a shining example of how commercial radio can invest in a speech format to compete effectively with the BBC”.

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