Written by Radio

Radio Update

There are various bits of radio news over the last few days that are worthy of note:

Capital has a new advert – Using all those artists who showed up for the Summertime Ball and did bits in front of a green screen. It’s a neat trick that they’ve been doing for a while – and very effective.

Radio 3 has a new controller – Radio Today was so excited, it Tweeted the news about 100 times (a server crashed or something). And why is that Radio 3 can stir up the most vitriolic things I’ll read anywhere on the internet with regards to radio? Passion for a music or a station is a wonderful thing, but…

BBC World Service English has a new Controller – Probably not at the top of anyone’s radio news digest, but World Service output has an audience that dwarfs all the other stations I’m mentioning here.

Sky Sports News Radio is closing down as a live service – I think this is a little sad, and I’m surprised that Sky never tried to make more of this service. It would have been great to see a Sky service on an application for the upcoming “D2” second commercial national multiplex. If nothing else, a broadcast radio service might have acted as full-time marketing for their paid services, constantly advertising the breadth of coverage that they offer.

And Bauer Radio has made some significant changes – Gone is the Passion and Place portfolio, and we now get the more defined National and Place separation of stations.

Let’s get into that Bauer news a little more since:

1. I used to work there, and

2. This is the biggest change Bauer has made in recent years, and they’re the second largest commercial radio group in the UK.

The three national brands make sense. This January, Absolute Radio 90s will give way to the London version of Magic on Digital One, while at the same time the “northern” Magic brands that weren’t actually the same as the London Magic FM will rebrand. That makes things cleaner. The local brands will become adjuncts of their FM siblings, Key 2, Metro 2 etc. And we’ve known Magic was coming to national DAB at some point, ever since Neil Fox told Media Guardian sometime around last year’s Radio Festival.

Perhaps the “bravest” part of this move is giving up The Hits brand and making that a younger focused sibling of their local FM brands – Key 3, Metro 3 etc. The Hits is a much unloved brand in many ways. It’s sat there through thick and thin with barely any promotion. Of course it was once the only free to air music TV brand on Freeview, and it gained a lot of traction there. Bauer was an early advocate of Freeview and locked up a good amount of spectrum, at what one would imagine was an attractive price. The Hits TV channel morphed into 4Music back in 2008, but the radio station continued. And despite a relative paucity of carriage, it had some excellent RAJAR figures. Too good to be true even! But Bauer was smart in utilising its brands cross-platform.

I think Bauer is just going to have to bite the bullet with The Hits and it’ll lose audience before the “3s” regain it. What will be interesting is how the 3 stations are presented and marketed to the audience. There won’t be a great deal (any?) local programming on these services, but while the talk is about DAB, the actual driver will surely be internet listening which is very strong amongst the 15-25s that these stations are targeting.

In some ways this is sensible then – killing a generally unloved brand even though it has some significant listening. Let’s not forget that Bauer already has a very strong Kiss brand to compete with Capital, complete with sister brands Kisstory and Kiss Fresh both of which are getting expanded DAB coverage.

The short term loser is Absolute Radio 90s. But with D2 on the horizon, it’d be hoped that some existing as well as new services will make it onto that platform. We’re a month away from applications needing to be in for D2. I expect many in commercial radio to be very busy over the next few weeks!

Incidentally, aren’t we still awaiting Global adding a Heart sub-brand to the D1 mulitplex to replace Smooth? They got permission a while back.

Matt and James have both opined on the Bauer subject, and I’ve tried not to duplicate what they’ve already said. Note that, as always, these are my opinions, and don’t represent those of my employer – or my previous employer come to that.

Finally, I’ve carefully avoided getting into Radiocentre’s new piece of research on audience impressions of Radio 1 and Radio 2, upon which I believe that they are basing their response to the BBC Trust review of service licences. It’d be a bit of tightrope to walk. Read the summary at Media.info.

I am looking forward to seeing details of their other new research though, which is being released today at a big event in London.