Theakston's radio show loses 199,000 listeners

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The Independent Online

In his first set of quarterly ratings from the industry body Rajar, Theakston shed 199,000 listeners, a fall of 26 per cent on the 792,000 audience he inherited. The figures were a blow to Heart's owners Chrysalis, which chose him to become the face of the station earlier this year.

A spokesman for Chrysalis admitted yesterday that the figures were "slightly disappointing" but said that Theakston needed time to settle down.

"We are absolutely convinced we made the right choice with Jamie," he said. "It would be unreasonable to judge a new breakfast show on its first quarter." He said Theakston had only presented the show for the past 10 weeks of the 13-week period surveyed and that a marketing campaign to promote Heart's new star had only kicked in for the last six weeks of the quarter.

Chrysalis said Capital's breakfast presenter, Johnny Vaughan, had suffered a ratings setback after replacing Chris Tarrant. Vaughan is London's leading player in the commercial breakfast market but lost 161,000 listeners last quarter, recording an audience of 1.07 million.

The biggest winner from the survey was BBC Radio 1, which increased its audience by 5.3 per cent to 10.24 million nationally, partly thanks to Chris Moyles, whose 6.26 million audience is up 470,000 on last year.

Christian O'Connell, who won the Sony award for best breakfast show earlier this year, added 60,000 listeners to his Xfm audience ahead of his move to Virgin Radio. But Virgin's current breakfast hosts, Pete and Geoff, are also increasing their audience, recording 1.23 million listeners nationwide.

BBC Radio 3 lost 5.3 per cent to fall to 1.91 million, its lowest recorded figure. Classic FM has 6.3 million listeners, although it suffered a small decline.

With his string of past relationships to celebrities such as Joely Richardson and Natalie Appleton, Theakston, 34, is front cover material for showbiz magazines such as Heat and Closer. He was brought in at Easter to replace Jono Coleman. Chrysalis were banking on Theakston to attract a younger female audience.

In an interview with The Independent in February, Theakston explained why he had taken the job. "I thought there was a product that had performed well but could do better. I felt there was a lot I could bring to it to make it a better product," he said.

Chrysalis believed that Theakston's career as a children's television presenter would make him familiar to the twenty- and thirty-something audience that it was seeking to attract. He also presents The Games for Channel 4 and worked with the comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams on their Rock Profile series.