Capital Breakfast

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!

20 thoughts on “Capital Breakfast”

  1. Isn’t the ability to network breakfast to the NE or Yorkshire dependent on broadcasting a single national Capital DAB service (either on D1 like Smooth, or a combination of multiplexes like Kiss)?

  2. In Ofcom’s Local Guidance:

    Where certain ‘regional’ analogue stations, listed below [Capital FM: London, North East England, Central Scotland, Yorkshire], provide a version of their programme service nationally on DAB, our policy is that they should not generally be required to broadcast local material and locally made programmes. This in effect, allows them to become national DAB stations with partial national coverage on FM. However, because of the importance of nation-specific content in the devolved nations, any regional stations in those nations will still be required to produce nation-specific programming as per the guidelines for local FM stations.

    This is what have Kiss done. They’ve popped their service on lots of local muxes to get to ‘national’, which Ofcom accepted at 80%. I wouldn’t be surprised if Capital are already at, or close to 80% DAB coverage anyway – so they could regionalise a number of their areas.

  3. Kiss’s programming is the same national version everywhere though, isn’t it? (And so is Smooth’s national D1 feed).

    Capital doesn’t provide a national version on DAB, as such, but lots of different local versions. Does that count? I would have thought not, but I’d value your opinion.

  4. Great blog as usual, Matt. I think it’ll be Dave Berry too. He’s the next generation. Scott sadly is getting on in radio terms methinks (sorry Scott!)

  5. I guess I interpret the line “provide a version of their programme service nationally on DAB” to mean literally “a version” not “a number of versions”. (And the ad thing not counting as part of the “programme service”?? – Classic FM has regional ads, after all, but is a national station).

    But I’m not a lawyer!

  6. As you say, this is the right time for them to let Johnny go. Clearly they’ve learned from the old company’s mistakes with Tarrant (even he was embarrassed to still be there at the end).

    The Beeb / Moyles thing is an interesting one. If they were commercial I’d say they’d made a bad decision by not having an exit strategy a bit sooner. Plus, I think it’s inevitable now that he won’t be leaving at the top of his game, so it’ll be a personal lose for him too. But I don’t see a natural successor to Moyles and that’s probably for the best – R1 needs to change that breakfast audience to reflect the rest of the station’s output. It’ll be interesting to see where Johnny and (eventually) Moyles go next. Will ego allow either of them to take another job in radio? Would they want to or be able to? From the outside it seems the possibilities for Capital and R1 are much broader than they are for their former (and not quite former) Breakfast show presenters.

  7. Matt, even though it does not say it as ‘a rule’ as such (as I understand it), the networking option via a national DAB is for regional servces only. Interestly, as outlined and recommended in my report to Government in 2009.

    Capital could network across their regional heart brands but not to local services. Smooth and Kiss are able to acheive this national service by going on the national DAB multiplex or achieving a signifcant national coverage via local multiplexes. All London FM services are regarded as regional services on this particular point.

    Local stations are not allowed to achieve national ambition even though they might be carried on a national DAB as they must still deliver 7 hours a day of local output. They could apply for special permission from OFCOM as it is within their gift to approve it as primary legislation does not actually prevent this I believe. However, ambition is one thing, getting approval is another but OFCOM are a strange beast.

    In any case, I think Capital know the value of good local breakfast shows.

    Hope that helps.

  8. I would put money on Moyles not being there a day longer then his current contract (if not before), hes been trying to launch a TV career for years with mixed success.. If he was to move to another radio gig, what and where? what commercial station would allow him the freedom he currently has (and team / resources) and would he work for less freedom, resources or pay?

    Johnny I think is much more flexible, and it will be interesting to see where he goes, it will also be interesting to see where Scott and Greg goes over the next few years..

    On a random DAB question, I didnt think you could do regional adverts on D1, I thought it was 1 output nationally.. I thought to achieve regional adds you needed to use local mux;s

  9. John – yep, I’m just talking about the regionals

    Martin – there are no splits for D1 (though Scotland is on another frequency so that could be done, though it probably wouldn’t be worth it).

    Re: Moyles, he’d be attractive for lots of commercial stations LBC, Talk, Absolute all work.

    I don’t think we’ll see JV back on a stripped radio show. Though I’m sure he’ll pop back up on Five Live.

  10. Great blog Matt. Nothing to add, but enjoyed reading it and the informed comment! And on @John’s point, just to be clear, am I right in thinking you are distinguishing between the regional versions that can (i.e. Yorks, London, NE) vs the local ones (Birmingham, Manchester, East Mids, South Coast) and regional one that can’t (Scotland), right?

  11. Final pedantic hypothetical: what if Bauer rebranded Wave 105 as Magic and wanted to play out 105.4 on the south coast. Would the northern Magics on local DAB count towards the 80% national DAB coverage?? Are they versions of the same service (same name, after all), or are they a different service to 105.4 (different format, after all)?

  12. My money is on Dave Berry – hope he can cut it through.. Its come too soon though, he’s only just got back onto Capital, have the audience got to know him?? However having said that Ricky and Melvin were relatively unknown on Kiss, that turned out to be an inspired gamble!!

  13. Great blog Matt. I couldn’t agree with you more on Radio 1.

    As much a I think Moyles is a great broadcaster, I heard the hour with John Cleese the other day and like you wondered who it was (as they do that thing of never re-cap who they are talking to) and also surely he was more Radio Two/Evans Friday takeover.

  14. As I understand the current legislation, Capital would only be able to network its shows across London, NE England, Yorkshire and Central Scotland if the combined coverage of those areas was construed as national – which it wouldn’t be since it’s not big enough.

    Capital would then either need to put a “national” version of the service either on D1 or find places on lots of other local or regional muxes to try to get to somewhere around 75%-80% coverage as Kiss has achieved by being on the majority of local multiplexes.

    The problem there is that in many places there’s already a local Capital. I’ve not run the numbers, but I suspect that with high population areas like Manchester, Birmingham and South Wales having local Capitals which would have to remain either way, they’d need to put a duplicate “national” service into some of those places to achieve the requisite coverage.

    Don’t forget Ofcom consulted on Kiss when they offered 73% coverage rising to 79% coverage.

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