The New Radio 1 Breakfast Show

The day has finally come. Chris Moyles has announced his departure from the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. After two hours of fierce twitter discussion, the white smoke finally rose out of Newsbeat (or Broadcast’s website ten minutes earlier) to reveal that Nick Grimshaw has been appointed Radio 1 Breakfast Show Number 15.

I think he’s an excellent choice.

He’s been on the network for a decent amount of time (6 and a half years) and whilst he’s got a late evening show now, he’s been a regular dep on daytime and helmed more mainstream shows like Switch and events coverage too. He’s also someone who’s familar with 15-24s as a T4 host. He’s young, cool, funny and good on the radio – a great position to take over breakfast.

There were some discussions about whether Greg James would get this. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t. He’s made excellent progress and has only just settled into drivetime, they would be mad to make another change this soon. He’s also someone that’s clearly on the BBC promotion train – with TV roles on BBC Three and music events coverage – all gradually making him a more recognisable chap. A couple more years of all of that, will bring him to the place Grimmy’s at now.

For Nick though, this isn’t going to be an easy time. Moyles was a big ratings success on the Breakfast show. With 7million tuning in each week. Much has been made of Moyles’ appeal to older audiences and whether he’s too old for Radio 1. Really, looking at the numbers he does pretty well with key demos. 58.9% of his audience are 15 to 34, just a smidge higher than the station average at 58.1%.

Looking at it more closely, i’ve taken the reach Moyles gets and compared it to the reach the station gets across all of the demos. What’s a bit more obvious is that his appeal is broad, particularly as a perecentage of the station, with his strongest demo 25s to 54s. Only after those demos comes the core 15 to 24. Now it’s not exactly measuring like for like but if you grouped 35 to 54s together, he’s got more listeners there than in the 15 to 24s or the 25 to 34 groups.

However, all successful stations do suffer from a similar problem – if you’re popular in whatever demo – you’re always going to attract lots of people who you’re not particularly targeting. 2million 15 to 24s still tune into the show each week, representing over 60% of Radio 1’s total 15 to 24 cume.

Radio 1 have clearly spent some time trying to reduce the average age of the audience – the earlier in the year daytime rejig and the alteration of the specialist schedule are all designed to discourage the older end from tuning in. All of this though is a double edge sword for Grimmy. If he does his job and makes the show and the station younger his audience will drop from that headline 7million figure. There’s 1.5million 35 to 44s and 1.3million 45 plusses tuning in at the moment – if half of those disappeared – the show could drop to 5.5m. Of course, he may bring in more 15 to 34s – there are 2.3m who listen to Radio 1 and who don’t listen to the breakfast show at the moment.

In the commercial world though, a change of this scale would be hard to do. Stations make their money based on the amount of hours they can deliver – on demo ones are great – but broader audiences are often good enough too. The monetary pressures are sometimes too great to even make the best strategic decision. By the time that Capital let Tarrant go, they had ended up with two stations in one – the older listeners who only listened at Breakfast – and the on-target ones who listened the rest of the day. The belated swapping with Johnny Vaughan meant short term they made money, but when the swapped, JV dropped significantly, taking three to four years to get back to a market leadership position. They lost the double whammy of the Tarrant premium and the more regular money generated from total hours. When they finally ripped the plaster off, it hurt!

It never got this bad with Chris Moyles. I think one of the excellent things about his show, is that whilst his team may have got older – he rarely did. He continued to reflect a younger lifestyle (single, gamer, mainstream pop fan) whilst still appealing to a wider audience that have grown with him. Plus, when he’s on fire, there’s no better presenter in the UK.

Now, whilst the BBC don’t have the same commercial pressures, they sometimes  have even worse ones – the Daily Mail!

So, when the first figures come out for Grimmy, don’t be distracted by the big number – the smaller ones are much more interesting. All you need to ask is whether he’s helping the station lose older listeners and whether more 15 to 24s are tuning in – not that he’s got less than Moyles’ 7 million.

3 thoughts on “The New Radio 1 Breakfast Show”

  1. I think it’s an often forgotten point that Moyles, although attracting a lot of people outside Radio 1’s target audience, does unbelievably well with that station’s core demographic. You can also add to his headline figure the huge number of under 15’s who listen but aren’t picked up by RAJAR.

    The pressure will be on Grimmy from the off, numbers will fall, probably quite substantially, but as Capital did with Johnny Vaughan you would hope the Radio 1 management give him time to build an audience of his own over 2 or 3 years.

    I think Grimshaw has a lot more personality than Greg James too, James is a great talent but probably a bit too much in the ‘solid jock’ territory for a breakfast show. Grimshaw is about as good a choice as they could have made.

  2. Matt, would you agree that “average age of listener” is the wrong metric to track?

    No programmer actively discourages a particular demographic from enjoying their output, especially in the public sector where the population as a whole is paying for it.

    This is also a time in history when musical and cultural tastes cross generations more than ever.

    Therefore, one might argue that reach and share of 15-24s would be a better measure of the show and the station’s performance.

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