CBBC Brings Back Crackerjack – who cares?

I had a call from 5 Live to chat on their Drive show about the news that the BBC are re-booting Crackerjack and the Demon Headmaster. They were after me as we run a children’s media brand called Fun Kids – it’s a national radio station, YouTube channels, podcasts, a website etc – mainly targeted at 6 to 11 year olds.

Of course, as is often the way, I was bumped for someone better, as they chatted to Stu Francis, Radzi off of Blue Peter, a CBBC commissioner and a media analyst.

I’d done a quick bit of research and had a think about what I was going to say, so I thought spluttering onto a quick blog post might mean that my 15 mins of mad browsing and thinking wasn’t entirely wasted.

First of all, I LOVED Crackerjack as a child. I even had the vinyl single of Stu Francis’ Ooh I Could Crush A Grape. It must have had a huge impact on me, as looking at the dates I would have only been 5 years old when it was on. But then again, not much else was.

Today that’s just not the case. As well as the BBC’s children’s channels there’s content from Nick, Disney and the Cartoon Network as well as Netflix, YouTube and mobile apps like TikTok.

In the 5 Live chat there was quite a bit of talk about the BBC public values providing elements of nutrition as well the bubblegum pedalled elsewhere. All very true, but the BBC’s focus on its linear digital kids channels and iPlayer catchup is probably disastrous for its valuable mission to educate and inform as well as entertain.

Consumption of linear television by children is dropping fast, minutes consumed has halved over the past ten years, and it continues to drop faster all the time.

Try and explain the concept of linear television to a 7 year old and they’ll look at you like you’re mad. What, I have to watch something that someone else has chosen?

It’s interesting to compare the top tens of the linear CBBC channel vs CBBC on iPlayer. On the telly its Odd Squad (US drama), Operation Ouch (UK fact-ent), Newsround (UK news), Dragons (US cartoon), Scream Street (UK cartoon). These top shows are generally getting a 20% share of 6-11s watching TV at the moment, which I guess sounds okay – but the draw of other kids and regular channels is clearly pretty strong. I also find it interesting that the stuff that does quite well – imports and cartoons – is what kids like watching on Nick and Disney. It’s almost like telly has trained them for what content works in that place.

On the CBBC iPlayer, the top three shows Dumping Ground, Worst Witch and Almost Never are all UK dramas. The fact-ent stuff is the bottom of the top ten, but it all starts to be a bit long-tail. The kids drama is what does well, with double or triple the number of requests.

I don’t think its that much of a surprise that high quality, appointment to view box sets are what’s doing well in kids iPlayer, same as it does for the grown up one, as well as services like Netflix.

In a world of infinite TV you’re going to seek out the good stuff. My hunch is for kids, when consuming living-room style television is its more the long-form, narrative stuff that they’re happy to watch.

The disposable has almost entirely moved to the internet and mobile and this is where shows like Crackerjack are going to fall between the cracks like a cabbage tumbling off a child.

The reboot will be presented by the excellent Sam and Mark and with a big studio audience and live interaction it looks like the BBC is spending a decent amount of cash on it. But using a brand with parental heritage and shoving it on a kids channel is the wrong place to put it. If you’re trading off parent affection and encouragement to watch – it should be on Saturdays at 5.30pm (or 4.55pm) on BBC One not on the CBBC channel.

I’m also not sure that a variety show is something that kids want to watch. The elements of it are things that they love – music, sketches, pranks etc – but they’re given much more regular (and naughtier) versions online.

The CBBC YouTube channel does just under 5million views a month. Morgz – a 17 year old Sheffield lad – with content attractive to 9 to 13s is doing 100million views a month.

CBBCs YouTube channel mainly does plugs for its shows and some best-of clips. The highest number of views they’ve generated in the past week is around 5k for a Horrible Histories song, most do less than a 1,000.

They are not particularly doing the things on YouTube that help grow an audience. Talking to people there, they know this, but there are internal worries about putting kids content on YouTube. The end result is that it’s a mess and generates no appreciable audience.

The main issue around kids content is that TV people believe that what was put out on television in the 80s and 90s was what kids wanted to watch then. This, like all media, is not the case. Kids liked it because its all there was to watch and the nature of monopolies meant no other content could be tried.

YouTube can be accessed by pretty much all children and it gives them the ability to seek out anything they want. Yes, of course, some of it is crap and some of it is dangerous. Though the vast majority of families work out ways to integrate it safely into their lives.

What its meant is an explosion in hugely popular new content types that were never put on TV. Unboxing videos (playing with things you don’t have), cartoon-based music television, watching people play computer games and vlogging – where individuals like you talk and communicate one to one. It’s also somewhere that disposable trends can be explored, exploited and discarded. The soaraway success of Fortnite comes from it being a format that you can easily play and easily watch other people play.

TV chose not to do new things. There’s nothing wrong with cartoons, comedy, drama, fact-ent and music-entertainment shows. But they’ve been running for years. Yes, of course there’s been innovation, but nothing on the scale of what we’ve seen outside of telly.

For teens, their acceleration of online consumption has been hastened by a near abandonment of them from broadcast television. Bye bye T4, ta-ra a linear home for BBC Three, see you later anything on BBC One or ITV. Indeed those channels have doubled down on programmes for older audiences and seen their average age grow to the late 50s. Even shows that young people like on the old terrestrial channels need to have ‘broad family appeal’ so Strictly can have youngsters tuning in, but only if Granny likes it too.

Indeed we have the odd situation where the panic of TV’s greying means that all of BBC Radio has had to pick up the slack to cater for under 45 licence fee payers.

Heritage TV operators like the BBC can’t have it both ways – you can’t ghettoise kids content to the digital channels where they compete in the EPG with 20 more and at the same time provide pretty much no digitally native content.

I’m sorry Sam and Mark, but the budget for Crackerjack should be spent on young producers making truly digital native content.

Oh, and Hacker should definitely be a vlogger (with his own channel).

RAJAR Q4/2018

The news, this week, that Bauer has acquired Celador and the Lincs FM Group is another reminder that we’re on the verge of an entirely consolidated sector. I’d also expect another few sales to go through in the coming weeks, leaving just a few stand-alone stations left. The unconsolidated groups – Communicorp and Nation Broadcasting – will likely be closely aligned with one of the main commercial groups.

The radio sector will pretty much become the BBC, Global (with Communicorp), Bauer (with Nation) and Wireless. Take a look at the chart below showing group, hours and share. There isn’t a whole lot of scale left to buy up. If you take away the big four, UKRD and ‘other’ (that’s the listening of stations that aren’t in RAJAR) you’re just left with 2.4% of the radio market.

I’ll just say that again. Only 2.4% of the radio market isn’t owned/sold by the biggest five radio groups.

BBC 510,579
50.9%
Global (and friends) 235,043
23.5%
Bauer (and friends) 164,649
16.4%
Wireless 33,331
3.3%
UKRD 5,852
0.6%
Q Radio 2,171
0.2%
Premier 2,067
0.2%
Sunrise 1,389
0.1%
KMFM 1,269
0.1%
Lyca 1,111
0.1%
Oxis/Jack 1,110
0.1%
Tindle 909
0.1%
Quidem 616
0.1%
Panjab 590
0.1%
Dee 326
0.0%
Other 25,358
2.5%

Bauer’s grouping even had a relatively bad book this time too, if we looked at last quarter they’d be 1 percentage point higher.

The nature of this consolidation means UK radio will be an almost entirely national branded affair.

Global started this over 10 years ago and now has its operations grouped into Capital, Heart, Smooth etc. Bauer’s always had strong London/national branded networks in Kiss, Magic and Absolute and now the local teams are gearing up behind Hits Radio and Greatest Hits Radio. Celador’s stations will probably slip into these brands pretty easily and I’m sure we’ll see the rest of Bauer’s local stations will now move across too.

Now, this won’t be without its problems. And the results at Hits Radio Manchester, the former Key 103, won’t encourage them to deploy the folder marked “Hits Radio roll-out plan”.

Hits Manchester hit an all time low with a reach of 270k – it was doing over 500k reach as recently as 2014. It’s also got its lowest ever hours (1.6m) though it’s had a similar number since the middle of 2016.

And this is where I pause to say perhaps the nature of audience figures has hurt it.

Key 103 had a huge amount of heritage. It had been around a long time and was generally looked on favourably by the city. That doesn’t mean they listened, of course, but I’d guess there wasn’t a lot of negativity around it. Back in my time at Leicester Square we often saw in the research that people were very positive towards heritage ILRs, but their listening had drifted off elsewhere. It’s something that’s incredibly annoying to face as you have to get people to re-evaluate a thing they like, but has for the station negative perceptions. Things like “it’s what my Mum listened to” or “it’s old fashioned”.

As often the heritage stations remain front of mind, when RAJAR pop round with a diary (filled in on paper, web or and app) and ask which of these stations you listen to, it’ll often be selected. This makes it easier to later give some listening time to (perhaps when you weren’t entirely sure which station you were hearing) and thus keep reach looking buoyant.

So Key probably got some ticks – some reach – that it probably didn’t deserve. A re-brand later and those bonus ticks disappear. Hence, a precipitous reach drop but hours being broadly the same. A similar thing afflicted Virgin Radio when it changed to Absolute – a hero brand generating some ghost reach until a rebrand.

However, will this Hits Manchester business still stop them doing something similar to their other big city stations?

On these FM’s, year on year there’s been some big reach drops. Hallam: 347 to 284; Viking: 203 to 136; CFM: 110 to 84; Forth 1: 351 to 315; Gem 561 to 469. At the same time there’s been some more positive stories too: TFM: 96 to 134; Clyde 1: 514 to 534; Free Cov: 122 to 141 with the rest stable. This constant split result always means a re-brand leap will be a gamble. How long before Bauer bite the bullet and get on with it?

Kiss in London took quite a hit with reach dropping to 1.6m (vs around 2m year on year and quarter on quarter). Capital London didn’t benefit much either seeing a year on year drop from 2.1m to 1.8m.

This resulted in the following commercial share scores in London:

LBC 97.3 5.5
Heart London 4.6
Magic (London) 4
Capital London 3.7
Kiss (London) 3.7
Smooth Radio London 3
Absolute Radio (London) 2.4
Radio X London 1.7
Capital XTRA (London) 1.6
LBC London News 1.4
Gold London 1.2
Sunrise Radio London 0.4

Over at Radio 1, the main station seems to have a bit of a downward trajectory. However, there is good news from Breakfast as its bucking the trend beating the station share, and growing reach.

Q4 was Greg James’ first full quarter, with a reach figure towards the top end of what the timeslot has done over the last three years.

Creatively I think the show sounds great, and is different to much of the market – it’ll be interesting to track over the coming quarters.



Q4 2017 Q1 2018 Q2 2018 Q3 2018 Q4 2018







Radio 1 – All Reach (000’s) 9,839 9,467 9,236 9,600 9,375

Share % 5.9 5.6 5.9 6 5.7







Radio 1 – B’fast Reach (000’s) 5,722 5,096 5,291 5,333 5,422

Share % 6.5 6.2 6.4 6.3 6.3

At Radio 2, Q4 was Chris Evans’ last quarter. He finishes up 200k on Q3, with just over 9m weekly reach. Over at Virgin, Sam & Amy went out with their best figures for a year at 166k reach. I imagine, next quarter, Evans on Virgin will come in somewhere between the two!

Eddie Mair moved from Radio 4 to LBC and this is his first book. He’s added 50k to Iain Dale’s reach, taking the show total to 715k across the UK. Iain, moved to early evenings has also done well, taking the slot from 540k to 599k.

Going back to consolidation – the removal of many of the smaller operators leaves more of a pro-digital stance in the sector and groupings that will make it much easier to switch off FM at some point.

The RAJAR figures for digital are again the strongest number so far with 52.6% of all listening now ‘digital’ and the remainder – 47.4% AM/FM.

DAB is listened to by 57.2% of listeners, which represents 38.3% of all listening. DTV contributed 5% of hours and the internet 9.4%.

And finally, when stations are axed, they generate great figures, so well done to Heat, it goes out at 652k and 2.6m hours. It’s best figures for two years.

More to read:
Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough

New Station Launches & Welcome Scala

News today of another new national radio station launch – Scala Radio. It’ll be a classical music station with, seemingly, a more contemporary vibe. It’s anchor DJ is Simon Mayo, who it turns out doesn’t need to spend too much time on his new books, as he’ll be rocking up every weekday from 10am to 1pm.

The station comes from the UK’s number two commercial radio group – Bauer. They’ve been on a march recently to narrow the hours gap with their big rival Global. As well as launching a raft of new spin off stations for Absolute and Magic, they’ve been trying to sort out their local station networks and have also been getting the cheque book out, acquiring Planet Rock and Jazz FM

Scala will use the space (and I guess the budget) previously used to broadcast Heat Radio, which gets reimagined as an internet-only music service.

Scala’s a much bigger play, however, with a fuller range of talent including the bods below, as well as previous Classic FM stalwarts Jamie Crick and Mark Forrest.

Bauer doesn’t need to ‘take on’ Classic FM to win. Classic’s brand position and distribution will mean it’s unlikely to be wounded too much by the new station. The opportunity for Bauer is to build something with strong hours, a younger demo than Classic and to bolster their ABC1 properties alongside Jazz FM. It’s more immediate task is to generate more hours than Heat delivered (2.2m) on, I imagine, a much higher budget!

New stations

Launching new radio stations today is tough. There are now 46 national radio stations on DAB and more than double that in London. Generating cut through and awareness is harder than it’s ever been. The excitement of there being a new radio station has been massively diluted.

We’re also way beyond the idea that “if you build it, they will come”. With apologies to Kevin Costner, but that’s a phrase that no longer rings true. It isn’t good enough to hope people find you, you need to go and drag them in.

Virgin Radio did two years with a solid but unremarkable 400k listeners before they pushed the boat out and snapped up Chris Evans (and probably more than doubling the stations’ operating costs in a moment). The big money move, and significant press coverage, will have finally lodged in people’s minds that Virgin Radio exists!

Interestingly, the rest of the Virgin Radio product hasn’t really changed – a little tweak on the music and line-up but otherwise business as usual. I would guess their research has shown what it’s always shown – what they’ve been doing is pretty right for the target audience – they just needed to discover it.

Scala Radio are trying the same trick with Simon Mayo. He’s not quite an Evans – but then again, who is? There’s the added complication that with a more niche music position, it’ll only ever be able to attract a subset of Mayo fans. But it does give it a head start in establishing itself in a competitive field.

I imagine Global will be disappointed that they let Simon slip through their fingers, and that Radio 2 will breathe a sigh of relief of where he’s ended up. And to continue to find ways to tell people about it.

Classic

Obviously the thing that really set up Classic FM’s success was my tech-opping in the early 00s. But outside of that, it’s always been one word that’s helped deliver its success – relax. Classic FM isn’t successful because it plays classical music, it’s successful because it delivers an emotional state through what it does. The market for a true classical music station has always been the same, before Classic’s launch and after – 2 million people. That’s the listening figures that BBC Radio 3 have always have.

The challenge, and I’m sure it’ll be a fun one, is creating a different environment that uses classical music to cater for another audience need.

Your 2018 Podcast Picks

The internet seems overrun with podcast lists, but most are driven by our American chums. On Twitter I asked you for your picks of the year. It’s unscientific, and there was a bit of spamming, but out of over 200 different podcasts suggested, here are the ones that got a few more votes than the others.

Happy listening!

A Gay and a NonGay
James and Dan discuss gaps in each other’s gay/straight knowledge.

Adam Buxton Podcast
Buckles interviews interesting folk plus walks with Rosie.

Athletico Mince
Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson’s notionally football podcast.

Battle Rap Resume
Tom Kwei talks to the biggest names in Battle Rap.

Brexitcast
Human-sounding journalists follow every twist and turn.

Ear Hustle
Prison stories, produced and told by people inside.

Fortunately with Fi and Jane
Day to day life and interviews outside on the BBC piazza.

Help I Sexted My Boss
Posh guy and Northerner help you navigate modern life.

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review
Film reviews and saying hello to people.

Live Lounge Uncovered
Behind the scenes as bands perform at Radio 1.

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Podcast
Interviews in front of a live studio audience.

Rule of Three
Comedians analyse/fangirl great comedy series and films.

Tailenders
Greg James, Jimmy Anderson and Felix White’s alternative look at cricket.

The Naked Podcast
Naked hosts interview naked guests.

The The One Show Show
The One Show forensically dissected. To death.

Top Flight Time Machine
Andy Dawson and Sam Delaney talk football and that.

Other suggestions with a few votes: 9yrspodcast, About Race, Adrift, All Killa No Filla, Beef And Dairy Network, Blood On The Tracks, Caliphate, Crudely Drawn Swords, Dan Snow’s History Hit, Friends With Friends, Griefcast, Guardian Football Weekly, Hamish and Andy, Intrigue: The Ratline, Joe Rogan Experience, Lineker and Baker, Love Island: The Morning After, Multi Story, No Such Thing As A Fish, Off Menu, Overrated Everything, Reply All, Sarcasm City, Secret Dinosaur Cult, Short Cuts, Slow Burn, Smersh Pod, Table Manners, That Peter Crouch Podcast, The Allusionist, The Bugle, The Cycling Podcast, The Empire Film Podcast, The Fun Kids Science Weekly, The Horne Section Podcast, The Rabbit Hole, The Two Shot Podcast, The Untold, Unfiltered with James O’Brien, Wooden Overcoats and You, Me and the Big C.

Radio’s New Localness Rules

Ofcom’s announcement of their new localness guidelines is the staging post for the eventual removal of the majority of local programming rules for FM radio stations. It’s a tough subject to talk about as the implications for the jobs of people working in commercial radio are potentially pretty significant.

Of course all industries are affected by market forces and the changing natures of society, just ask the 4,000 people likely to lose their jobs from Debenhams. Mostly though, changes are subtle as companies evolve and change. Local radio, though, has always had government regulation, so any changes see a rush for radio groups to align with how they want to run their businesses.

But why is radio such a regulated business? Mostly history. The first commercial licences were awarded in the early 70s based on a beauty parade rather than a cash bid (something that has continued until today). The thinking was that spectrum was a public good and limited. You would be one of few people able to broadcast to an area, but in exchange you had to promise some public good – news, current affairs, specialist music etc – alongside the bits of programming where it was easier to make money. As an applicant you were happy to do that deal because what you were getting back was a scarce resource and massive barriers to any competition as there were few licences.

Over the years the scarcity of that public spectrum has reduced. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, the regulator advertised more and more licences. Secondly, radio consumption became multi-platform – with people listening on non/less regulated platforms like DAB/DTV and online. Thirdly, the rise of technology and the internet meant that becoming a new entrant into music, audio and any form of entertainment happened without any barriers to entry. The value of this scarce FM spectrum has been dropping and dropping, so the government has taken the view that the operators of this FM spectrum can reduce their local committments.

Indeed, the government has recently gone much further than what Ofcom have just announced. In their response to a radio consultation they stated that pretty much all localness requirements and music format rules would go. But to have that happen will need an Act of Parliament and Brexit has somewhat filled up available parliamentary time. They did say though:

In the meantime, the Government is open to and would support any moves by Ofcom to consider, in the light of the consultation responses received, whether there is scope for changes to its rules and guidance in lieu of longer-term reform.

In other words, the changes announced by Ofcom are them trying to achieve Government policy whilst legally fitting in with the current laws.

So, what have they come up with?

At the moment if you own any radio licences within any of the regions here then you’re allowed to treat them as a single radio station – that is, generally, you have to produce seven hours of local programming (between 6am and 7pm) and that must include the breakfast period. For example what used to be individual radio stations in Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter could now be ‘Heart’ and share a single breakfast show, providing they provided local news reflecting each of the licences each hour in daytime.

The new rules see two changes. Firstly the regions get bigger, and now stations only have to broadcast three hours of local programming within that region. That local three hours can be at any time between 6am and 7pm, and doesn’t have to include Breakfast. So with our Heart example what was Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter as well as Bristol, Gloucester, Bournemouth and Southampton could now share a single regional mid-morning show with the rest of the programming come from outside the region – say from Leicester Square, providing they provided local news reflecting each of the licences each hour in daytime.

The most common question I’ve been asked about this is “what do you think the big groups will do?”. I’m afraid I don’t know. These are big changes and it opens up lots of different scenarios. Firstly though it’s important to think about what prompts a change – and that’s generally money – this is commercial radio after all.

From a business perspective, the value of the local shows are that they can drive local audiences, that the teams can deliver local sponsorship and promotions as well as being a local face for the radio station. Now there’s some costs for delivering that – the local staff – but there’s the revenue you generate from it through things like local S&P and events. If the local revenue outweighs the costs then it makes sense to continue with local shows.

The other assumption is that the group’s always deliver the regulatory minimum – and that’s not always the case either. At the moment if you’re a regional radio station that also broadcasts the brand nationally on Digital One, then you can stop doing any local content on FM. Kiss has taken advantage of this, broadcasting their London programming on London FM as well as their regional FM licences in the East and West of England. Capital on the other hand, which has regional FM licences in the North East and Yorkshire, chooses to keep regional programming on those stations when broadcasting on Digital One means that they don’t need to.

When I look at the new regions, which are huge, I wouldn’t be surprised to see groups create their own combination of stations within the areas that better suit their businesses – I don’t think they’ll instantly create super regions with one daily show.

If they do decide that the local sponsorship and promotions money is not a fair exchange of the costs of delivering local programmes, then the other option is, of course, delivering up to eight local mid-morning programmes and the rest of the programmes coming from London, or the network centre.

These changes are also likely to have an affect on the attractiveness of independent groups and stations for acquisition by the bigger boys. We’ve seen some of it already with Bay and Juice Brighton being bought by Global and added to the Heart and Capital networks. They followed this up with 2BR, which is likely to become a Capital. The rule changes make it easier for them to deploy their brands onto more FM licences with minimal local commitments.

So is this the end of local radio and local breakfast shows? I thought I’d have a look at what the UK listens to at the moment and what is potentially under threat with these changes.

Within my RAJAR tool I’ve created some new combinations of stations – Nationals (Radio 1, Classic, Planet Rock etc), Networks (commercial brands like the Capitals, Hits Radio network etc that are likely to embrace the new opportunities), BBC Local Radio and Locals (stand alone commercial stations plus groups like Nation, UKRD and Lincs who are less likely than others to make significant changes). As people can of course listen to multiple types of stations in a week, I’m using the share of listening that these combinations have.

The thing that surprised me is how dominant national radio is at breakfast time. 68.3% of all breakfast listening is to the national stations. BBC Locals, something that isn’t affected by the changes, delivers an 8.4% share. The Networks account for 17.3% and the Locals accounts for 4.4%. So, collectively the local breakfast shows potentially under threat are consumed by just a fifth of available listeners.

Personally I’m a little torn by the changes. Fundamentally I’m a radio fan and I like that there’s a variety of presenters up and down the country delivering local and branded radio. I also lean to being a free-marketeer. It does seem crazy that in today’s world that when faced with unregulated competition from Facebook, digital television and digital radio, that local FM licences are forced to deliver specific output.

I think localness is an excellent way to win in a market. It’s a great difference that can serve audiences and the bottom line. There’s also a growing number of digital-only radio stations that have chosen to be local stations (without any regulatory encouragement) as they think that’s the way to build a business. But, of course, it’s not the only way to do it (as the success of national radio with listeners shows).

Like all great mediums, one size does not fit all and radio is no different. These new rules, taken on their own, are a big change for many. However, outside of FM, there have never been as many audio opportunities. I imagine there are more radio jobs now than there were in the peak of the local radio in the 90s. From the growth of new national digital radio stations to developments in podcasting, radio production skills have never been in demand by so many people (and listeners).

 

RAJAR Q3/2018

This is the Summer quarter – July, August, September – which tends to give bumpier results than usual, as listeners disrupt their regular patterns and behaviour. Whilst this can generate hiccups that get corrected later on, it can also be a quarter that accelerates change as the alterations in listeners’ lives (and their favourite presenters going on holls) mean they can tune around and sample new stations.

All of this crashes into the big structural shift in UK radio listening – the increasing number of stations people are listening to, driven by a larger and larger percentage of the population becoming multi-platform radio consumers. 65% of listeners have DAB Radios, the arrival of a new class of radios – the smart speaker – as well as the phone (powered by WiFi and 4G) teaching users through streaming services and podcast apps, that their device makes a pretty good radio too.

In reach terms, 71% of the UK population now listen to some form of digital radio (DAB, DTV and the Internet) each week, analogue isn’t that much higher at 76%. But when you look at the share of listening, digital has seen a bump to 52%.

This shift is starting to have a greater effect on what we think of as the traditional radio battles in different parts of the UK.

The chart below shows the reach of all the stations in London. Stations in blue are the digital stations, the black the analogue originals. The top part of the chart is as you would expect, Radio 4 and 2 sticking it out in front, Capital, Kiss and Radio 1 battling, Magic and Heart and so on. But the digital stations are starting to have more of an affect. Kisstory is bigger than stations with FM licences Absolute Radio and Capital Xtra.  Indeed for Capital Xtra who have always been hobbled by a poor FM signal, are starting to reap the benefits of their digital distribution. In London they’re in a better place than 1Xtra with nearly three times the reach and leaving Global stablemate Radio X in its wake. Nationally, the service is up to 1.8m (800k ahead of 1Xtra).

Also, on the right hand side of the chart we’re seeing that the AM coverage of specialist stations is now providing no real benefit now when compared to the digital onlys.

Also if BBC Radio London is trailing Radio 3, 4 Extra and is neck and neck with the World Service isn’t it time for some drastic changes? A station on all the platforms with significant BBC resources should be doing better than 20th.

Looking at commercial market share and the battle for number one in the capital – LBC rides high with 6.6%, Magic then at 4.4%, Kiss at 4.2%, Capital at 3.8% and Heart at 3.7%. So once again Capital can say it’s the number 1 hit music station based on reach and Kiss can say it’s bigger than Capital on market share.

In Manchester the changes aren’t as marked, but they’re coming…

Kiss as a strong digital brand is beating a local FM station XS Manchester with Kisstory, Absolute 80s and 6Music not far behind.

Manchester is an interesting market as a heritage leader in Key 103 has had its first full book as Hits Radio Manchester. This has seen its reach drop from 374k to 325k, its hours have fared worse dropping from 2.2m to 1.6m – its lowest RAJAR figures ever.

I’m not entirely surprised, RAJAR is a recall methodology, so there’s always been a certain bias to memorable stations, to heritage. You’re recalling what you’ve listened to when you fill in that diary on paper, computer or your phone, so old stations are going to be more front of mind. They’re now the challenger brand in the market with Capital and Smooth being the heritage stations. It doesn’t help that these brands are backed by strong marketing and well-programmed output. Finding a niche for Hits Radio will require more marketing and much noisier programming. I’m afraid though it’s only likely to get worse before it gets better, I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom yet.

What is interesting though is that the new format – music, networked shows and production – has been rolled out on many of the BCN/Hits Radio network FM stations. Success has been mixed. Some increases for TFM, Hallam and Radio Aire, Free Coventry, but others have seen strong declines – Viking FM dropping to 129k reach from 169k q on q and from 217 year on year, it’s also about halved its hours. Free Radio in Birmingham’s running at its lowest ever audience 254k (down from 308k q on q, 262 y on y) and losing about a quarter of its hours.

Radio City saw its audience fall back a little to 344k reach/1.9m hours, but what has been growing is its relatively new FM sister – the AC Radio City 2. It’s seen gradual growth over the past year, now with a reach of 218k and hours of 2.1m, which means Radio City 2 has a greater market share than Radio City. This strong duopoly is about to be replicated in the West Midlands as Bauer flip Absolute Radio on FM into a similarly formatted AM station.

Over at the BBC, Radio 1 has pulled back a little q on q, back up to 9.6m leaving it relatively flat year on year (9.7m). This book shows a little positive news for R1 Breakfast, which is a majority Grimmy quarter, with a few weeks of Greg – it’s now at 5.44m (up from 5.37 q on q and 5.02 y on y). The next book will see how Greg fares.

Over at Radio 2, this will be Chris Evans’ penultimate book before he moves to Virgin Radio.  He’s seen a marginal drop – 8.8m reach from 9.0m q on q (and 9.3, y on y) this change is reflected in Radio 2’s top line figure – 14.6m (down from 14.9 q on q and 15.3 y on y).

A lot’s been written about Jo and Simon on Radio 2 Drivetime, you’d assume it was bickering and tone based on the commentary. The numbers however shown some small changes. The times are slightly different for the new show (5pm to 8pm rather than 5pm to 7pm) so it’s not directly comparable. But if you compare this timeslot the current reach is 5.5m – down from 5.9m q on q and 5.8m y on y, but not something mortifying.

More to read:
Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough

The Audio Content Fund

I’m overjoyed that DCMS today announced the arrival of the Audio Content Fund. It’s £1m a year, from the Government, for radio stations of scale to broadcast great public service programmes from a variety of production companies.

It all came about when the Government announced they were working on a content fund for television perhaps concentrating on genres that were hard to fund in today’s society – particularly children’s programmes. As the discussions for that were happening I started talking to people about how it shouldn’t be a TV fund but a cross-media one. I felt that if you’re creating public service media for children, that just keeping it on broadcast television – especially today – seemed a little anachronistic, and that it should be open for radio and new media too. I also run a children’s radio station, so you can understand why I was quite keen that the scheme be expanded!

RIG (now AudioUK) were very supportive of this, so we worked together to start talking to more people about it. I even wrote this piece for Broadcast magazine.

As part of those discussions we started a conversation with the DCMS, who were positive, but felt that the TV fund wasn’t the vehicle to do it. So instead we started having some exploratory meetings about what an audio fund could look like. First of all I started to ask some big commercial broadcasters about whether they would be happy to run public service material funded this way on their networks – things they would like to do, but couldn’t commercial justify. They were all positive.

Me, Will Jackson from AudioUK, Phil Critchlow, Audio UK’s chair and their policy expert Tim Wilson then had an interesting meeting with some of the policy team at DCMS where we explained how radio was made (commercially and at the BBC) as well as how the commercial radio business model worked. It was definitely a light bulb meeting for them, as they realised the cost-effectiveness of making public service programmes and broadcasting them on radio stations of scale, like commercial radio, would be.

AudioUK then started working with RadioCentre and doing the hard work with the Government which has resulted in what’s been announced today. The short version – £1m per year for radio stations of scale – to commission and broadcast public service programmes. It’s the cousin project to the £20m a year TV fund for children’s content administered by the BFI. The Audio Content Fund will be managed by a new company operated by RadioCentre and AudioUK – they’ll award the money to programme makers under the guidelines set by DCMS.

I think this really is a win-win for everybody. Commercial radio gets to commission quality programmes that they want to have on their networks, but can’t afford to do day-to-day. Production companies get an outlet for public service ideas that isn’t the BBC. This means more commissions for them (and new income), but it also means some competition for the BBC for these ideas.

At the moment many of the inefficiencies in the BBC’s radio commissioning structure stem from the fact that there’s no competition for great radio ideas. In television, the commissioning process has changed for the better because the influx of competition from Netflix and Amazon has meant the BBC now needs to be faster and more flexible. From discussions with BBC colleagues, the podcast commissioning rounds have also generated very different responses than radio, because there are a far broader range of outlets and business models for great podcast ideas – the BBC is just one. Again – it’ll change how the BBC works, for the better. Whilst £1m is perhaps only around 5% of what the BBC spend on outside commissions, it’s certainly a good start and will help invigorate radio commissioning.

More good programmes on a variety of commercial radio stations will also be good for ‘radio as a product’. If you consider all of the stations on broadcast radio (BBC and commercial) and our cross-platform delivery of them as a single product that we’re presenting to consumers – something I think is essential for radios continued relevance – then the addition of great shows can only enhance our offer. More great programmes can only ever be a good thing.

I’m excited to see what this new £1m a year delivers for commercial radio and listeners.

More information about the fund: audiocontentfund.org.uk

Chris Evans Leaves Radio 2 for Virgin Radio

Chris Evans announced he was leaving Europe’s biggest breakfast show at 8.15am, and by 10am NewsCorp’s the Wireless Group had announced that he was taking over the Virgin Radio breakfast show.

To say this is a coup for Virgin Radio would be a massive understatement. There is absolutely no reason for Evans to take a job on a digital-only station that’s currently only reaching around 400k listeners when his current show reaches nearly 10million. He’s already a rich man and scoops over £1m a year for the Radio 2 breakfast show. Talking to people at Radio 2 it seemed there was a worry that he was getting a bit bored (a recurring Evans trope) but there was no desire for him to leave.

On deciding to move, he would have had the pick of any radio station in the country. Especially as we approach a point where the big groups can network breakfast, there would have been no one to turn him down.

Chris, though, has always been a master of reinvention, grasping the media narrative and doing the unexpected. And surely there’s nothing more front page worthy than a seeking ‘return’ to Virgin Radio.

For younger readers, the 90s and early 00s saw a tsunami of stories as Chris abandoned the Radio 1 Breakfast show for not giving him Fridays off, decamped to Virgin Radio for a ten week contract, stuck around by buying the radio station, parlayed that into a £225m sale to SMG, fell out with SMG, quit the show and was sued by them and pretty much lost all the money. Rehabilitated by Radio 2 he eventually took on the breakfast show, grew Wogan’s audience and helped the station get its highest ever ratings.

So returning to Virgin has a very much unfinished business feeling about it. The station itself was rebranded to Absolute Radio ten years ago, but the brand was re-licenced by the Wireless Group three years ago when they won the 2nd national multiplex.

It’s ownership by NewsCorp is probably central to Evans’s return. Chris’s tabloid heyday meant that I’m sure he’s always had a relationship with Rebecca and co. Additionally NewsCorp’s ambitions in radio are aggressive. Currently trailing behind Global and Bauer in a far off third place and with very few stations of scale left to buy, a strategy to grow the national digital stations is the right one, and who best to achieve that than the biggest presenter in the country.

For Chris though, what a gamble, a challenge that is very Evans-esque. Can you take a, to many, unheard of radio station and push it to the top of the charts? In some ways there’s already been a dry-run of this with Chris Moyles helming the launch of Radio X. It’s been a success for Global, though a slower one than many at Leicester Square hoped and also one that only happened three years after he left Radio 1.

I’m sure Chris’s appearance on Virgin won’t be be taking that long.

New BBC Local Radio Evening Shows

Radio Today is starting to list the new shows that local BBC radio stations are launching at 7pm to replace their previously networked programmes.

It stems from a speech last year from BBC Director General Tony Hall where he said:

“Local Radio should be for everybody. It’s there to serve the Facebook generation every bit as much as the rest of us. My ambition for BBC Local Radio is for it to have more creative freedom, to celebrate local life, to be the place where we report local news but also the place we reflect local identity, nurture local talent and engage local audiences through digital platforms. I want to see a renaissance in Local Radio.”

It’s a great sentiment but it, and the announced shows, demonstrate the inherent conflict between building successful radio stations and delivering public purposes.

Let’s look at BBC WM’s new shows

BBC WM 95.6 has a different show each night on offer.

Samantha Meah, back on-air at the station after 20 years will host a Monday Night Party, and chatting about how it feels to be 50 in Birmingham and the Black Country.

DJ Vital, the grime, rap, and dancehall specialist from Wolverhampton, is launching his Tuesday evening show tonight (28th August), with arts and entertainment features.

Wednesday and Thursday evenings now play to the sound of Sasha Simone, The Voice finalist and former Brummie and bricky. WM says Sasha will tackle the issues that young people are facing and brings her own selection of music to the station.

The new schedule also sees BBC WM producer Lisa Smith debut her new Friday night music show, Lady Lisa’s Kitchen Disco, featuring the biggest songs from the seventies, eighties and nineties ‘to make a quiet night in feel like a big night out’.

At the moment 66% of WM’s audience at 7pm is over 55. I’m sure they’ll enjoy the new show on the Monday. I think Tuesday will perhaps be tough going. Rap and Dancehall fans will probably not entirely be on board with a speech show around young issues on Weds and Thurs, and those teenagers are unlikely to be into club classics on a Friday.

Across the whole station, 76% of WM’s audience is over 45 (and 59% is over 55). Over time their programming and brand values has led to local listeners understanding what it does. The closest thing they have to a youth programme – BBC Introducing on Saturday nights at 8pm to 10pm – already has no listeners under 45. Young people do not see BBC WM as a home for their ears.

Indeed, younger audiences on the whole, are not the appointment to listen generation. Their media consumption is driven by easy to understand branded environments – using channel choice as a tap to deliver something specific or a la carte on-demand consumption through services like Netflix, podcasts and Spotify.

It’s a similar story for ethnic groups and specialist music fans. A single show a week on a station that’s built no brand association with a topic has an almost zero chance of any ratings success. And when I talk about ratings, in this context I’m talking about something that demonstrates a target audience is consuming the programmes made for them.

The only thing that give these programmes any chance of success is through above the line marketing. Advertising the shows to existing listeners isn’t particularly helpful because as we know (for WM)  it’s predominantly 45+ (and 84% white). Promos after the local TV opt-outs is also not particularly helpful as TV and local news has an older average audience. So to tell people that these exist they’ll need to be investment in outdoor, direct mail, digital etc.

Now do I believe that the BBC should be creating local programmes for diverse audiences and should they be catering for a broad selection of local licence fee payers – including those under 45? Yes, absolutely – the problem is that the existing local radio station is not an effective delivery mechanism for this. Indeed it’s probably counter-productive as existing listeners will find their station is less relevant for them and it will promote the sampling of other stations.

It’s also not as if the BBC hasn’t realised ghettoising programmes on networks doesn’t work. Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra ran children’s programmes on those channels. What was the result? No children listened and it interrupted the flow for the regular listeners. They knew there was public value in kids shows, but hoping this audience would magically find and turn up for them was naive. The shows were axed and they now provide an online channel in the form of Cbeebies Radio.

So in a modern media environment what should the BBC do to launch programmes for broader demographics?

Firstly they need to establish a local brand and products that they can use to communicate to different audiences. They also need to integrate this into the BBC’s existing output.

Firstly I would re-imagine bbc.co.uk/derby or similar as a true local aggregation of content and information for broad audiences. At the moment it’s very local news-driven, instead it should be a bit more love of local life. It should be picking up a local band who’s performing on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading, referencing that a local stately home is hosting the Antiques Roadshow and featuring interviews with big names from the local area. It should be a digital product that can then highlight local content across all of the BBC’s output.

I also wouldn’t limit this to BBC platforms. A Derby YouTube page, Twitter and Facebook should exist, reaching the audiences where they are, and not being limited to local news and instead tuned to the demographics of each of those platforms. The BBC is perfectly placed to launch a local podcast for each area, again reaching out to people who have an interest in their area.

Secondly, new shows can’t just be one three-hour programme on the radio. If you’re trying to launch output that reaches particular communities, randomly choosing a single platform – the radio – to reach them is basically a gamble. Once again these shows should be mini-brands in all of the relevant places. The content should be platform agnostic. If your response to that is that we haven’t got the resources to do it – THEN YOU SHOULDN’T BE LAUNCHING THEM ANYWAY!

Thirdly, these shows should be able to be promoted programmatically throughout the rest of the BBC’s digital output. It would clearly be a non-starter to promote a local show nationally after Eastenders, but promoting the WM Asian show as a pre-roll to logged in Asian audiences in the West Midlands before catching up on Eastenders in iPlayer? A much better option.

Similarly all of the BBC’s digital output should be designed so local content can be traffic’d to reach the right audiences.

Fourthly, if you want local radio to reach new audiences, don’t mess up your existing channel, launch a new one. Spin offs, be it Absolute80s or 1Xtra have demonstrable success. With DAB, local Freeview and online there would be decent enough distribution to reach local audiences. Modern production techniques, voice tracking, re-using material and introducing new voices, all made by existing local radio production staff is entirely deliverable today.

A new channel would also be easier to promote to new people without complicating the existing, successful brands.

Launching a wave of one-off shows on local radio as a way of trying to grow reach and deliver to new audiences is based on outdated thinking about how modern audiences consume media. More crucially its a waste of the time and effort that all the teams will be putting into their content. If the BBC truly wants to reach new, local audiences, it’s got to think about platforms, marketing and the right content not just shoving 60-odd new shows on the radio, one day a week, at 7pm.

RAJAR: Q2/2018

This RAJAR seems to be the prologue for lots of changes to come. It doesn’t give us the full picture on the new Hits Radio network, Radio 1’s updated schedule or what’s really happening with Radio 2 drive. It does, however, continue to track the ever-changing nature of our sector and how some new entrants can make quite the impact, whilst others seem to make none at all.

The Jack family of stations (Jack, Jack 2 and Jack 3) in Oxfordshire now has a bigger share than Heart’s family of stations (and indeed just the local Heart too) in its own TSA. It’s also bigger than Heart in Heart’s Oxford TSA too.

On a Jack-a-tip, it’s interesting to look at Sam FM Bristol and South Coast when compared to the days they were branded Jack. In the South Coast they’ve halved the hours they had in Q2 2012-15 and in Bristol it’s similar, halving their share from the 2013 to 2015 period. On the face of it similar formats, but the marketing and brand execution is very different and delivers very different results.

Not a great book for Radio 1. It’s their 2nd lowest ever total reach, down to 9.2m and their 2nd lowest 15-24 reach too – down to 2.5m. Capital, across the UK (but with worse distribution) manages nearly that, with 2.2m 15-24s. The gap is certainly narrowing.

Radio 1 will be changing up the schedule, swapping Greg and Grimmy at the beginning of Q4 – but is it enough to reverse this trend? To me, right now, Radio 1 seems an odd listen. When I tune in it can be in a Kisstory-style Greatest Hits hour (playing songs that were released when an 18 year old wasn’t even born), a single link music sweep in the Summer Mix or different presenters depending on whether it’s Thursday or Friday. It’s a lucky dip when I tune in and seems to lack the familiarity and consistency that delivers audience for successful radio stations.

Capital’s 2.2m 15-24s seem a good figure when compared to Radio 1, but that’s alongside a relatively bad result for Capital in London where it’s slipped to number 4 in the commercial share table (3.6%), being beaten by LBC (6.4%), Kiss (4.3%) and Magic (4.2%). As well as share, Kiss has also beaten Capital on total reach – 2,087m vs 2,063m. An amazing success for Kiss which means I’m not sure how Capital will be able to say that they’re London’s Number 1 Hit Music Station any more. Well, at least it’ll mean an update to this page on the website.

What is weird is there wasn’t even a mention of this London success for Kiss in Bauer’s RAJAR press release. You’d think going number 1 in London would be worthy of a mention!

It’s somewhat early days for Bauer on the Hits Radio front. The re-branded Key 103 only existed for one month of the six months that this quarter’s figures cover. So it’s Manchester reach of 374k is marginally down on last q’s 382k and marginally up on a year ago’s 369k.

The new Hits Radio network (the national Hits Radio plus what was the Big City Network) reaches 6.7m people, making it the third biggest commercial network after Heart (8.6m) and Capital (7.4m). Following it are Classic FM (5.1m), Smooth (4.9m), Kiss (4.5m), Magic (3.2m), talkSPORT (2.8m) and Absolute Radio (2.5m). Kisstory isn’t far behind as the highest performing commercial digital only station, racking up an impressive 2m listeners.

Radio 2 maintains its dominant position scooping up nearly 1 in 5 of every hour listened to on UK Radio. Its reach dropped a fair chunk quarter on quarter to 14.9m (from 15.4m), but that’s still up year on year (from 14.8m). The new Simon Mayo and Jo Whiley Drivetime show hasn’t had a full quarter yet so it’s hard to discern if the change has had as much as an effect that a vocal bunch would have you believe. I think there was about 6 weeks of the old and 6 weeks of the new show in this quarter, and so far it’s still delivering around the same audience that slot has had for the last year. It’s now at 6.4m vs last quarter’s 6.3m and last year’s 6.4m. However, only time will tell.

At our gaff, we had quite a good book for our children’s radio station Fun Kids. We only measure our London audience, but for 15+ our reach is 64k and 10+ its at 99k. Sadly RAJAR doesn’t measure our core audience – under 10s. However 10+ in London makes us bigger than talkRADIO, talkSPORT2, Absolute Radio 70s, The Arrow, Union Jack and lots more. Which we’re very happy about.

That’s it for RAJAR fun this quarter, but if you’re the kind of person that reads the blog, you need to come along to mine and James Cridland’s radio ideas conference – Next Radio. It’s on the 17th September and we’ve just announced the vast majority of the line-up. Ask your boss to send you. And if they say no, then it’s probably the excuse you need to look for a new job.

More to read:
Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough