Eddie Mair on LBC

So now we know. Eddie Mair will be taking over drivetime from Iain Dale on LBC, broadcasting 4-6pm Monday to Friday. He settles into his new desk next Monday, while previous incumbent, Iain Dale, shuffles into the evening 7-10pm slot.

Interestingly, this also means that Mair has the “pleasure” of handing over to Nigel Farage at 6pm which is where Farage’s show lands in the new schedule. I feel certain that there won’t be any droll back-handedness to any of those links. (LBC’s late night presenter Nick Abbot was perhaps the master of these. Years ago, at Virgin Radio, when he had the afternoon slot, his handovers were something to behold.)

I think like many others, I had been perhaps anticipating that Mair might move into breakfast, since Nick Ferrari has been doing breakfast shows for an awfully long time now. But Ferrari’s obviously not ready to stop yet, although this safely lines up Mair for such a time as Ferrari is ready to stop. Drive presenters are regularly first in line for the breakfast throne.

A lot will be made of the fact that Mair is up against his old programme, however it doesn’t necessarily follow that thousands of Radio 4 listeners will follow him over the parapets. 

The chart above shows the overall station overlap between Radio 4 and LBC. It shows that around half a million people listen to both stations in any given week. But, perhaps more relevantly, it means that while 24% of LBC’s audience listen to Radio 4, only 5% of Radio 4’s audience listen to LBC, at least in the course of a week.

There will be a myriad of reasons for that disparity, not least that the stations offer very different things. But in part this can also be explained by the loyalty of listeners to both stations.

That loyalty can be measured in a couple of ways. First of all, there are average hours per listener. According to the latest RAJAR and based on 6 month weighting:

  • Radio 4 listeners spend an average of 11.2 hours per week with the station
  • LBC listeners spend an average of 9.6 hours per week with the station

Both of these are high figures. In other words, listeners to those stations love them and spend many hours with them. Every hour they spend with their preferred station, is an hour they’re not spending with another station.

And then there are station repertoires – the number of different stations a listener hears over the course of a week. The lower the number, the more loyal the listener.

  • Radio 4 – 3.4
  • LBC – 4.1

Radio 4 listeners are slightly more loyal than LBC listeners.

If your station has a high listeners per hour figure and a low repertoire figure, you’re in heaven. Your listeners are going nowhere else, and they’re listening to hours of your station a week!

Finally, to examine the overlap between the stations, you can also do something called a Switching Analysis. RAJAR measures when listeners switch from one station to another, or indeed where they turn on and turn off their radios. 

Looking at the data, there’s nothing very conclusive about Radio 4 and LBC listeners. The biggest gain by Radio 4 from LBC comes at 1pm Monday-Friday, when 4,000 LBC listeners switch over to The World at One, and 3,000 come over from LBC for The Archers instead of staying for, er, Nigel Farage.

On the other hand LBC gains 8,000 listeners from Radio 4 at 9.00am when Start the Week, In Our Time etc begin, tuning for the final hour of Nick Ferrari. A further 4,000 head off to James O’Brien instead of staying on for Woman’s Hour.

But these are all trifling numbers in the scheme of things, when you consider the overall respective stations’ sizes.

And Eddie Mair’s new programme on LBC, and PM on Radio 4 are likely to be very different beasts. The LBC show is twice the duration, although it will have to accommodate 10-12 minutes an hour of advertising. LBC doesn’t anything like the resource the BBC’s news operation has, so it’s unlikely that we’ll be hearing very carefully constructed packages from teams of producers and reporters. On the other hand, Mair will have more time for his interviews, and to engage with listeners.

None of this is to say that there aren’t some enormous fans of Mair, so his personality alone is likely to see some giving him at least a trial. LBC would love to gain a few more Radio 4 listeners, even if only for a couple of hours a day. It will be interesting to see how much marketing Global gives LBC to promote their new signing.

And while that awkward 6pm junction when he’ll have to hand over to Nigel Farage is not perhaps a natural one for Mair, the rest of LBC’s daytime output of James O’Brien in the mornings and Shelagh Fogarty in the afternoons, probably makes Mair a natural fit for the early evenings.

In any event, Mair’s show comes at the start of RAJAR Q4, so don’t expect any reports on the relative audience changes until the end of January next year.


Note #1: I do hope Global does something interesting with Mair and a podcast. Although they publish a number, I’m not sure that they’ve fully adapted to podcasting, still earning a few quid selling complete shows behind a paywall. It’s notable that Mair is going to continue to present the BBC’s Grenfell Inquiry podcast until the end of November.

Note #2: Global’s press site is incredibly hard to navigate. It looks like some junior web designer was allowed to run away with themselves building without any thought as to visitors. It’s user unfriendly. I’m pretty sure it’s not accessible. And criminally, it’s not responsive. Seriously – try looking at it on your phone!

Read more on the challenges faced by LBC on this move over at Earshot, where Steve Martin has written more about the issues.