London’s Number 1 Hit Music Station

There must have been some celebrating last night.

95.8 Capital FM has often, since its launch in 1973, been the figurehead for commercial radio. It was, just, the second commercial station in London and its historic success and sound has been coveted and emulated by many. It was also the first to face the challenge of new stations moving into its market and the faded glory of having heritage status. It’s difficult to remain number one when a selection of stations are taking bites out of you.

The first time round Richard Park was in charge, he’d started to see a couple of quarters of decline before leaving Leicester Square in 2001. The massive explosion of stations at that time, a resurgent BBC and some dubious programming choices saw Capital’s figure cliff over the next few years and then hit rock bottom at the beginning of 2006. Since then they’ve plateaued and have started to see slow growth.

Today, they celebrate something that they lost for the first time in Q3 2003, when Heart stole their crown – being the number one commercial station in London. Suddenly the ‘London’s Number 1 Hit Music Station’ tagline is actually correct.

However, it’s a very tight race and Capital has only just nudged ahead. I also think it’s the lowest ever share figure in London to grab the top spot. Indeed, if you have a look at the share chart below these are not great numbers with Capital at a lower share than even the last quarter.

Getting back to number one is a real success for Capital. The station sounds better than it has for a long time, it’s doing what CHR needs to do – play a small number of hits, have a good selection of presenters with a personality and have all the big events. However with such a tight race it’s going to be hard for them to keep that number one spot.


2 thoughts on “London’s Number 1 Hit Music Station”

  1. Without wishing to rain on Capital’s parade, this does raise the age-old question as to which is more important, reach or share.

    In terms of reach – the number of people listening (“…for at least 5 minutes in the course of an average week”) – Magic (2,009,000) and Heart (1,893,000) still have more listeners than Capital (1,818,000). Yet in terms of market share, Capital is just ahead of Magic, while LBC 97.3 comes in third place among London’s commercial stations.

    In a major radio market such as London, with a relatively large number of stations jostling for position, market share becomes much more important – especially for advertisers.

    As for Capital’s past decline some might say “dubious programming choices” is a polite way of putting it. In particular the period when Capital swung between trying to be “Kiss 95.8” in order to regain lost younger listeners, and then went the other way to take-on Heart – who, in turn, were trying to be “Capital Lite” – didn’t do the station any favours.

    Many (older) Capital fans look back to how they remember the station in the early-90s with a certain amount of affection and dewy-eyed nostalgia. Admittedly I’m biased because I was part of the team that helped make it happen at the time, and it did sound great, but I’m not one of those who believed turning back the clock was the answer.

    It’s too easy to forget that, back then, Capital had the mass London radio audience to itself and much has changed since then; not just more stations, such as Heart, as well as the transformation of Melody into Magic, but also the gradual evolution of Radio 2 into its current position as the nation’s most-popular station.

    What I’ve found interesting has been the way Magic grew slowly and quietly by re-defining its focus and appealing to a younger audience than its predecessor. Once anybody at Capital realised what was happening – because they were looking too closely at Kiss and Heart it was too late and Capital lost its crown.

    Finally, a blatant plug. To see how the London stations have performed through the day see

  2. In this climate, hours and share are much more important than reach. That’s why I find Media Guardian’s reporting a little curious.

    While having more listeners is a great claim to have, the sales team will be rubbing their hands with glee at being London’s commercial number one.

    Clearly you don’t get hours without reach in the first place, but while the AutoTune-tasticness of the station completely escapes me, somebody is definitely listening!

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