Chris Evans: Getting Up Early for Britain

Apparently there’s a new breakfast show later this morning.

Chris Evans taking over the Radio 2 Breakfast show is the big headline, but what’s fascinating is the knock on it’s going to have to other radio stations and to Radio 2.

Firstly it means a change to a third of daytime on Radio 2. The introduction of Evans means a new Drivetime show – Simon Mayo. This means Breakfast, Afternoons, Drivetime and the Late Show now sits with ex-Radio 1 presenters – Evans (1995 to 1997), Wright (1980 to 1995) and Mayo (1986 to 2001), Mark Radcliffe (1991 to 2004) and Stuart Maconie (1995 to 1997). These were some of Radio 1’s star performers and they were on-air not very long ago.

A significant chunk of this old Radio 1’s audience (today’s 35 pluses) have already moved across to Radio 2, but there’s a significant number that remain with Radio 1.

Radio 1’s line-up change last year was a recognition that the station was starting to trend older and they took the easy decisions to alter the mid-morning/afternoon line-up. What it didn’t do was tackle the main problem – Breakfast. Moyles continues to produce an excellent morning show, the problem is that the show’s seeing declining in listeners under 34 and growth with over 35s.

The arrival of Evans will make many of these listeners, a good deal of which listened to him the first time around, reconsider their morning preset. This bodes well for Evans and will help Radio 1 trend younger, but will likely leave Moyles in a precarious position come July.

Radio 2 have already played a good game to indicate to existing listeners that this won’t be much of a change. It’s important to remember that Evans has spent more time on Radio 2 Drivetime than any other job he’s ever done and he leaves the show with 6million listeners (compared to Wogan’s 8 million at Breakfast). On top of that I don’t expect the new show to change the music at all, it’s also got continuity with Lynn Bowles and a clever hire, in the seemingly universally liked Moira Stewart. Of course it’s also got Chris Evans too.

The show’s also been quite clever in its marketing. Firstly it’s had a very long handover. With an older audience it’s important that people get used to the idea of what’s coming. This has given time for lots of trust earning statements from Wogan, other presenters and from Chris himself. The existing Drivetime show’s also had months of talking about the new Breakfast show. Many of the Drivetime listeners may have other Breakfast choices at the moment, this work will ensure they’ll now have a new one with Chris. Commercial radio always seems to eschew this tactic and surprise listeners (and normally the old presenters) with a brand new line-up one morning – and then wonder why it takes 18 months for them to settle in.

As well as this activity, it also gets a BBC TV ad campaign, kicking off after an episode of Eastenders. We’ll skip over whether it’s appropriate that the BBC runs TV spots for the UK’s most popular breakfast show on the UK’s most popular radio station about the most well known change of presenter ever.

There’s a view that Evans at Breakfast will mean Radio 2’s listeners become even younger. I’m not sure the station’s going to massively drift – it did its main move in the 90s. The interesting threat for commercial radio is that Evans may extend the average listening of 35 to 44s to Radio 2 as they start to consume a breakfast show that they didn’t used to choose.

It also cements an on-going process that’s been happening since the early 90s, when Radio 1 had its ‘big shift’ and in the late 90s when Radio 2 had something similar. Now, for really the first time you have the two BBC mainstream commercial networks side by side – one for under 35s, one for over 35s. Great for the BBC, not so good for commercial operators. The last part of that puzzle will be who Radio 1 picks as the next Breakfast show host or hosts.

What is good about Evans at Breakfast is that it continues to mean that UK radio has some of the best talent on the air and keeps everyone on their toes.