PROGRAMME CHANGES AT
LONDON'S 'CAPITAL FM'
ATTRACT YOUNGER AUDIENCE
BUT SEND OLDER LISTENERS
TO 'BBC RADIO 1' FOR REFUGE
b...
In January of this year, a brown envelope containing a new set of audience
figures landed on the desk of Richard Park, Cap...
In addition to these personnel changes, Capital FM upped the quota of dance
music played in daytime, programmed even more ...
And, in this age of targeted radio, how far will it fight for one particular
demographic, at the risk of alienating and lo...
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'Programme Changes At London's "Capital FM" Attract Younger Audience But Send Older Listeners To "BBC Radio 1" For Refuge' by Grant Goddard

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Analysis of the impact of weekday daytime programme changes at London, UK local commercial radio station 'Capital FM' on its ratings of 15-24 and 25-34 year old listeners, written by Grant Goddard in September 1991.

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'Programme Changes At London's "Capital FM" Attract Younger Audience But Send Older Listeners To "BBC Radio 1" For Refuge' by Grant Goddard

  1. 1. PROGRAMME CHANGES AT LONDON'S 'CAPITAL FM' ATTRACT YOUNGER AUDIENCE BUT SEND OLDER LISTENERS TO 'BBC RADIO 1' FOR REFUGE by GRANT GODDARD www.grantgoddard.co.uk September 1991
  2. 2. In January of this year, a brown envelope containing a new set of audience figures landed on the desk of Richard Park, Capital Radio plc's Programme Director. There was plenty of good news within them and the station's PR machine duly went into action selling the company's continuing success story. But a closer look at the figures showed a significant audience trend. The cornerstone of 'Capital FM' programming, the weekly daytime schedule, was losing listeners in substantial numbers. It was true that Chris Tarrant's breakfast show continued to draw a massive audience, backed up by a huge publicity campaign using television and posters. But, from 0900 onwards, there was a notable loss of listening in the core 15-34 age group. John Sachs' 0900-1200 show had lost a third of its 15-24 year old listeners in the last six months. And the following shows, Mick Brown (1200-1400) and Richard Allinson (14001630), were both substantially down. Only David Jensen's long-running drivetime show (1630-1900) had held its listenership. Since the last set of figures six months earlier, London had seen the launch of several new music stations, of which 'KISS FM' was most obviously looking to steal Capital FM's audience. KISS' first set of figures showed it had attracted around 25,000 listeners aged 15-24 to its daytime shows, but Capital FM had lost twice that number during some parts of the day. So the blame could not be put on KISS alone. There was something more fundamentally wrong with the daytime sound. Richard Park acted swiftly. A new schedule was introduced in March, the severity of which shocked some staff at Capital. Out of the daytime line-up, and out of Capital completely, went John Sachs with his housewife-orientated innuendos ("Sachs/sex in the morning"). Out also went Richard Allinson, banished to the overnight shift and holiday relief. In an interesting move, the successful breakfast and drivetime shows were lengthened. Tarrant now ran an hour later to 1000 to try and stem the critical post-0900 loss of listeners, while Jensen started half-an-hour earlier at 1600. The three shows that had been in between were amalgamated into two and given to Pat Sharp and Mick Brown. Having attracted large numbers of London's pubescent girls to sample their pouting evening shows on Capital in the 1980s, Mick and Pat have been set the same task in the 90s – but with real grown-ups. Programme Changes At London's 'Capital FM' Attract Younger Audience But Send Older Listeners To 'BBC Radio 1' For Refuge page 2 ©1991 Grant Goddard
  3. 3. In addition to these personnel changes, Capital FM upped the quota of dance music played in daytime, programmed even more 'strong songs', and stole my KISS FM slogan "The Music Leader". The net result – more music, more hits more frequently, more competitions and less of the DJs' personalities getting in the way of the music flow. And what do the listeners make of it all? The latest audience data (JICRAR 1991, Wave 2) shows Capital had some success at halting the decline, but further remedial action must still be on the cards. Amongst the fickle 15-24 year old audience, the later-ending breakfast show and Pat Sharp's following programme have clawed back some of the previous period's losses. Mick Brown's show has merely maintained the audience inherited from that slot's predecessor, Allinson. But latest figures for David Jensen now show a loss. The problem is – if you turn your daytime sound into fast, hit-after-hit, no-nonsense hype, Jensen tends to sound a bit old fashioned and out of touch with the music once four o'clock comes around. 15 to 24 year olds who quite warm to Mick and Pat's 'wideboy' stance are more likely to tune over to another station from late afternoon. Six months ago, Jensen had a 6:1 lead over KISS' competing drivetime presenter Dave Pearce at 1700. That lead has now fallen below 2:1. The writing is on the graph paper. How long will it be before Jensen is pensioned off to a slot on 'Capital Gold', to be replaced by some 'smoothy' like Martin Collins who at least sounds as if he is under 40? Interestingly, KISS FM's new figures also show growth in the 15-24 audience, seemingly unaffected by Capital FM's schedule change. So both stations are now fighting tooth and nail for this age group, with lots of dance music and competition giveaways. But that means the older 25-34 year olds are increasingly being left out. KISS had made a marginal impact on this age group, while Capital FM continues to lose their loyalty. In the last year, 25,000 of them have tuned away from Capital FM's daytime shows, reducing the audience of 25-34s by a third in midafternoon. In London, at least, it seems as if 'BBC Radio 1's less abrasive pop music and more chatty presenters are becoming the refuge for 25-34 year old music fans whilst, conversely, the 15-24s are deserting it for the younger sounds of Capital FM and KISS. The problem for Capital FM in the long run is how to lose its audience gracefully in the expanded marketplace with new competitors. Programme Changes At London's 'Capital FM' Attract Younger Audience But Send Older Listeners To 'BBC Radio 1' For Refuge page 3 ©1991 Grant Goddard
  4. 4. And, in this age of targeted radio, how far will it fight for one particular demographic, at the risk of alienating and losing others? Meanwhile, London's 25-34 year olds face increased difficulty finding a commercial music station that completely suits their tastes. The time has never been better to launch a rock music service that could mop up this age group's intolerance of the dance-orientated music that now dominates the pop charts. In fact, a rock station in London must represent Richard Park's worst nightmare. Having already seen KISS slice off the far left of Capital FM's audience, a rock station would produce a similar effect on the far right. And 'Rock FM' would dent the Capital Gold audience, something that none of the other new stations have achieved. How long will it be before David Maker asks The Radio Authority if he can change the name of his recently acquired London station? [Submitted to 'Broadcast' magazine, unpublished] Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk Programme Changes At London's 'Capital FM' Attract Younger Audience But Send Older Listeners To 'BBC Radio 1' For Refuge page 4 ©1991 Grant Goddard

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