It’s always very difficult to know why a station’s axed a presenter, it’s normally though, a combination of things. How it performs, how it sounds, what the people are like, is everyone getting on etc. What’s interesting about Capital axing Johnny Vaughan is that they’re doing to a time when he’s (consistently) the number one commercial breakfast show in London.
However, my personal view is that they’ve made the decision at the right time. It is always better to make bold changes when you’re at the top of your game. So often change comes from weakness – declining figures, lack of growth etc – that any new show is already starting thirty-love down.
For Capital, the Breakfast show is popular, people aren’t drifting off to other stations and they tend to be locked in for the rest of the day. Naturally a new host will generate some churn, but with listeners broadly happy it’s a great headstart for a new programme.
I’ve always thought X Factor was excellent at constantly innovating with a winning formula. At the point they were top of their game, they weren’t afraid to swap judges out – bye bye Sharon Osbourne (and Louis Walsh at one point), take the auditions in front of a live studio audience and reinvent Sunday night’s result show as the new Top of the Pops. Conventional wisdom would have been to NOT CHANGE ANYTHING – but they took their lead and constantly developed and improved their already winning product.
Interestingly it’s been when change has been forced upon them – X Factor USA taking away two judges and management focus – that the changes have been less successful.
Back to Capital, I’m sure they’re also haunted by the ghost of Breakfast presenters past. Chris Tarrant caused the old Capital massive success and then massive problems. They were so wedded to Tarrant (he was a constant issue even in PLC annual reports) that they kept hold of him way too long. By the time he moved on, they had a Breakfast audience who were older and didn’t listen to the rest of the output and whoever they replaced him with would have been a massive change. Net result it took years and years for Johnny to be established. They just waited too long.
It’s a problem that Radio 1 now faces too. Moyles is an excellent breakfast host, and probably generates the best breakfast show in the country. The programme is however drifting away from the rest of the network. It’s hugely popular, but the audience is getting much older and the programming has a habit of drifting older topic-wise. Did you hear the hour long (!) interview with John Cleese? It took me ten minutes to realise who it was.
Now, they’ve renewed Moyles for another few years to give the station some breathing room whilst they advance their talent plans, but by doing so they’ve piled on the trouble for the future. By then he’ll be even more off target and his disappearance will lose them a stack of older listeners plus they’ll have to work hard to re-attract the 15 to 24s who’ll already be listening to another breakfast show – perhaps the new one from Capital?
Who’ll be Capital’s new breakfast host? I think the smart money’s on Dave Berry. He’s similar to Johnny, younger, more relevant and still funny. However, Global are excellent at pulling a rabbit out of the hat, and I think someone like Scott Mills could make an appearance. If they go for a Scott-type person or bigger they’ll also have the opportunity of networking Breakfast across the old regional Galaxies – so their new host could come to Yorkshire and the North East. Whilst I think they would be mad to replace Hirsty, with Steve and Karen off to Metro – maybe we’ll see the new host waking up two areas!