Evans claims victory in breakfast war

Virgin Radio was claiming victory in the breakfast show ratings war yesterday after official listening figures showed Chris Evans had added double the number of new listeners to his show as Zoe Ball has added to Radio 1.

Evans, who bought Virgin Radio from Richard Branson in November for pounds 84m, boosted his audience by 660,000 to 2.2m. Meanwhile, Radio 1 was able to claim that it remains the number one breakfast show, with an extra 280,000 listeners, taking Zoe Ball and partner Kevin Greening to an average audience of just under six million listeners.

However the news is not as good as it seems for the BBC. The two stations started their shows on the same day three months ago and at first the Ball-Greening pairing made the most impact. According to leaked unofficial figures, Radio 1 outstripped Evans with an extra 750,000 listeners in October. Either that was a statistical blip or the listeners didn't like what they heard because the unofficial figures show a half-million audience drop in November.

On the other hand, Evans's show has picked up listeners every month and over the quarter, it represents a startling 41 per cent increase. Evans's audience jump is so big it has enabled the whole of Virgin Radio to increase its audience by 23 per cent.

John Pearson, Virgin Radio's chief executive said yesterday that the result was "tremendous" and hinted that the station would be campaigning to transfer its frequency from AM to FM nationwide.

Radio 1 was emphasising that it had increased the number of young listeners tuning in and said Zoe Ball had reversed its decline.

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