I think it’s fair to say that the FM licence awards that Ofcom have presided over haven’t exactly set the ratings world on fire. Indeed many of the stations are somewhat, er, off plan, from what’s in the application documents.
However, one station has bucked this trend spectacularly and they’ve just had their first RAJAR figures published – Smooth Radio North East.
Originally licensed as Saga, it was acquired, with its brothers and sisters, by GMG and launched as Smooth on January 8th 2008. In its application to Ofcom it said, by the end of year one, it would have 11% reach (which they said would equal 219,016 listeners) and 10.5 average hours (equating to 2,229,773 total hours) which would produce a 6.1% share.
Bearing in mind they’ve still got six months to go, the station’s actual figures are a 13% reach (275,00 listeners) and 9 average hours, resulting in a total hours of 2,467,000 and a market share of 5.9%. This, in a competitive marketplace, is a truly astounding launch and easily one of the most successful in recent times.
Why do other stations do so badly with their own launches? I don’t think it’s one thing – it’s a combination.
The first thing is noise.
In the olden days, a new radio station launch was big news! With only four channels on the box , less than 10 on the radio dial and no internet, a new radio station massively enhanced the amount of media a listener had.
Now there’s millions of channels and seemingly something new launches every day, no one really cares if something’s appeared on 107.1FM anymore.
Then there’s competition.
You have to remember that, already, 90% of the UK listen to the radio, for an average of 24 hours. This means that they’re actually quite satisfied with what their hearing. Now, i’m not saying that it can’t be improved or that there’s something else they would like to hear, but getting them to move off their dial is hard. This is especially the case if you’re playing in the mainstream. Radio 1 and Radio 2 do an amazing job, producing high quality programmes with high value talent and with no ads! And they’re positioned tightly next to each other with one targeting 15 to 34s and the other targeting 35 to 55s. When you add on commercial radio and local BBC stations with heritage, it makes it a difficult play.
Telling people what you do….
…is also very hard. I think few station launches have managed to spend enough money and spend it well enough too. Bus backs and some telly is definitely not going to provide cut through today. And it’s unlikely to combat the things listed above.
So, how have Smooth done it?
From an outside perspective, they’ve got a number of things going for them. Firstly, they’re targeting a demographic that’s not particularly well catered for on the radio – over 45s – and they’ve got a music policy that has very little competition on FM (From 3pm yesterday – Dionne Warwick, Beatles, KC & the Sunshine Band, Stereophonics, Supertramp, Sad Cafe, Beach Boys and the Bellamy Brothers). They also have a brand position that’s cemented by a Ronseal name – Smooth. You know what that’s going to be – and then when you tune in, they deliver it. Well. Additionally they spent money. Lots. About a million quid, with plenty on TV advertising and they has the support of a good print partner in their parent company too.