The Radio Network is claiming that the loss of about 20 per cent of Radio Sport listeners over winter is because there has been no cricket - and not because Tony Veitch left the breakfast show.
Commenting on the Research International radio ratings figures for the six months to October 10, TRN said Radio Sport is closely tied with cricket, and that causes a natural seasonal shift in figures.
It was not because Veitch - who became embroiled in allegations involving a former partner that led to six charges of assault and one of injuring with reckless disregard - had gone, said TRN talk radio general manager Bill Francis.
In nationwide figures released on Friday, Radio Sport saw its 3.2 per cent share of listeners recorded in April fall to 2.5 per cent. The cumulative audience dropped 41,000 to 175,000.
TRN programming director David Brice said he had expected Radio Sport results would be "softer" in the second ratings for 2008 and acknowledged the departure of breakfast host Veitch may have been a factor.
Both Brice and Francis said Radio Sport market share would increase with international cricketer Mark Richardson joining D'arcy Waldegrave in a new two person line-up from today.
Radio Sport is a small niche listenership and its audience is the 12th biggest of 23 commercial stations in Auckland. But with the December 19 departure of TRN Newstalk ZB breakfast host Paul Holmes - who has held sway for 20 years - there are prospects for a radio war - especially in breakfast radio and in Auckland.
Newstalk ZB attracts 12.9 per cent of listeners nationwide and 14.3 per cent of Aucklanders. Holmes draws 20.9 per cent of Auckland breakfast radio listeners
Rival MediaWorks has been building its profile in Auckland establishing The Breeze in Auckland and buying music station Mai FM.
When Holmes bows out there will be a big marketing push to ensure that his replacement retains Holmes' audience.
Between them TRN and MediaWorks own almost all New Zealand's commercial radio stations.
MediaWorks established its talk station RadioLive to take on Newstalk ZB and changed Radio Pacific into B-Sport Trackside that competes for some of the same listeners as TRN's Radio Sport.
But on Friday, RadioLive finished another ratings survey with no sign of challenging Newstalk ZB and with B-Sport Trackside wallowing at a share of one half of 1 per cent.
RadioLive increased its Auckland share from 2.3 per cent to 2.9 per cent while its breakfast show - hosted by Marcus Lush - was unchanged at 2.3 per cent. MediaWorks' news and talk radio programming director Mitch Harris defended the result. He said that MediaWorks - which also owns TV3 and C4 - was happy with the result and Radio Live was on track to grow.
He said that Newstalk had difficulties for the first two years when its format was established when the Lush show had included talkback content. Asked if RadioLive was ready to pick up listeners after Holmes departure, he said he doubted that the change to Mike Hosking would lead to a large scale shift in the market.
However, TRN programming manager David Brice questioned MediaWorks' strategy of changing Radio Pacific to B Sport and starting RadioLive.
He said that the combined audience of RadioLive and BSport Trackside was smaller than when it had been Radio Pacific alone.