I feel bad writing this one. It’s fundamentally unfair to judge a brand new breakfast show, especially one that followed a renowned programme, after just two quarters on the air. That won’t, of course, stop the papers who no doubt will be saying there’s a ‘crisis’ at Radio 1.
There won’t be of course. You don’t re-position a network without some collateral damage. So, what’s happening?
Top line is this:
|Q1 2012||Q4 2012||Q1 2013|
|Adults 15+||Reach (000’s)||7,103||6,691||5,784|
|Market Share %||10.1||8.2||7.1|
That’s a year-on-year decline of 1.3m listeners (18.6%) and a quarter-on-quarter drop of 907k (13.6%).
Year-on-years hours have faired worse – down 32.5%. This isn’t really a surprise though. Moyles listeners were older and more passionate – he was the longest serving Radio 1 breakfast presenter after all – that means they’re going to listen longer. You churn them out and it’ll have this sort of effect.
So, who’s gone?
Well, the biggest chunks are the olds! Year-on-year 767k of 35 pluses have disappeared. This is particularly concentrated with the 35s to 55s – this is the group that have loads of commercial and BBC choice. 55 pluses are only down a little. This is one of the problems that Radio 1 faces – these lot are really not going anywhere – these are the ones that keep dragging Radio 1’s average age older.
Of more interest are the 15 to 34s.
In this group the 25 to 35s have taken a significant hit. This was, of course still part of the plan – be younger by getting this lot to disappear too. Year-on-year, the market share in this group has dropped from 25.7% to 17.4%. 300k have disappeared.
There is a smaller decline with the core audience – 15 to 24s. 247k y-o-y (down 11.9%) and 198k q-on-q (9.7%). This is clearly a worry, as that’s the audience they would want the show to attract. But, to be honest, it’s part of the sort of decline you would expect with a new breakfast launch.
Programming-wise, I don’t think this quarter was particularly strong. Personally, I thought the music was all over the place – way to heavy – and the content didn’t really hit the mark. I think the issue they face is that the stuff that sends away older audiences can also send away the younger ones too.
This quarter’s already much more focused and relevant. The Big Weekend lets them be more poppy and younger – you can hear that with the music and last week’s school tour. The return of Call or Delete allows there to be much more mainstream content in the 8 o’clock hour.
Fundamentally Nick Grimshaw is a good, funny presenter. He does a great job of being target.
However, I think structurally and team-wise they have a significant way to go. I know it sounds like a formatted commercial-radio observation, but whole teams need to be ‘cast’. They need jobs to do, they need to take on a position. How are Matt/Laura/Ian different? They definitely have the potential to be an integral part of the show, but great breakfast shows have well defined characters.
I’d also hope that they were really leaning on music research of 15 to 24s for song choices. I’m not expecting ‘pop’ or ‘hits’ but artist and song choice needs to resonate completely with that audience. With a team of late 20s/early 30s working on it – are they absolutely sure their free plays or records of the week work for the target? It still feels a little too indie when looking at the currents.
Overall though, and this will annoy the haters, the general show strategy has been the right one – they’ve skipped a generation with the host and done things to get rid of the olds. Re-focusing breakfast was essential to stop the whole station drifting older.
So, how has this affected the station as a whole. The chart below shows market share for each of the demos.
|Q1 2012||Q4 2012||Q1 2013|
The 25 to 44s are definitely getting the message and moving away. The market share for these demos has seen rapid decline. Grimshaw at Breakfast and Scott’s move to a different daypart has unsettled many older listeners.
R1 still faces significant trouble with 55+ – they just don’t want to go.
This is where I feel for Ben Cooper and his directive from the Trust to ‘go younger’ – he is clearly doing the things to achieve this, but those 55+ wedded to Radio 1 cannot be shifted and their average hours are still good – keeping the station’s average age up.
15 to 24s have seen a little bit of share decline across the station as a whole. I don’t think this is particularly anything to worry about. But they clearly still need to keep focused on attracting this audience. The research I’d be looking at is whether these station-wide changes have been communicated to non-listeners.
Overall – R1 are carrying out a disruptive, risky strategy. But it’s the right one to achieve their aims. The challenge now is to quickly evolve the breakfast show to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders – and communicate that to the non-listeners.