10 Jan

2019 – The Year Ahead In Commercial Radio

If 2019 is as eventful as 2018 in commercial radio, then we are in for another exciting one! There were huge news stories and developments last year that will without doubt impact on the coming year. So here are a few of our thoughts and predictions for the next twelve months.

The Commercial Radio Coup

The news of Chris Evans’ return to commercial radio was a huge coup for the industry. His new breakfast show on Virgin Radio launches on January 21st. And to shake things up even more, the show will run WITHOUT ad breaks in a pioneering, all-encompassing sponsorship deal with Sky. The deal means no other brands will advertise during the flagship show, while the partnership comprises branded content, competitions and events in lieu of traditional radio spots. And there is talk within the industry that the show could roll out across some of Wireless Group’s smaller stations – but we will have to wait and see on that one!

And what of Simon Mayo? After he left Radio 2 last year too, might he be tempted to follow Chris Evans into commercial radio this year? Some say he would be a perfect fit for a certain well known commercial radio network….

Rules and Regulations

Another massive development was OFCOM’s announcement of their new commercial radio “Localness Guidelines”. This potentially has huge implications for the industry this year as it essentially paves the way for the eventual removal of the majority of local programming rules for FM radio stations.

At the moment, a station has to produce seven hours of local programming between 6am and 7pm and it MUST include breakfast. The new rules mean stations now only have to broadcast THREE hours of local programming within their region. And that local three hours does NOT have to include Breakfast.

These are big changes in the industry and could open up a lot of different potential scenarios. Is it the end of local radio and local breakfast shows? Well, we will see as the year progresses. But with radio groups investing heavily in big breakfast talent – Chris Moyles on Radio X, Chris Evans on Virgin, Jamie Theakston on Heart, Ronan Keating on Magic and so on – you’d be forgiven for thinking that networked breakfast shows could be on their way.

One thing is for sure though – these changes are likely to have an effect on the attractiveness of independent groups and stations for acquisition by the bigger players. We’ve seen some of it already with Bay and Juice Brighton being bought by Global and added to the Heart and Capital networks. They followed this up with 2BR, which is likely to become a Capital. The rule changes make it easier for them to deploy their brands onto more FM licences with minimal local commitments.

Sticking with new rules, 2019 could bring about a change in legislation on terms and conditions within radio commercials. A new cross-party report that is recommending a different approach to Ts & Cs in radio ads after Brexit. The Red Tape Initiative (RTI) report has proposed that radio and audio ads be exempt from the full terms of the Consumer Credit Directive in future, with consumers simply directed to a website for more information. This is a potentially significant development in Radiocentre’s long-term campaign to tackle terms and conditions in radio commercials. And let’s be honest – who ever really listens to (or takes in) all those garbled caveats at the end of commercials?! Here’s hoping!

Radio Group Changes

At Bauer last year, Key became Hits Radio in Manchester and effectively merged with The Hits, to provide a single national service in the UK on DAB, Freeview and online. Will this be the year that sees them follow suit across their other heritage brands? With the launch of “Greatest Hits Radio” this month, they’ve wrapped all their AM stations into one national network, bringing with it new opportunities for advertisers. So, for example, Radio Aire 2 becomes Greatest Hits Radio West Yorkshire. Absolute Radio Birmingham becomes Greatest Hits Radio West Midlands and so on.

Over at Global, last year they surprised everybody by moving into out of home with the purchase of Primesight and Outdoor Plus. Looking ahead, this creates some really exciting and ground-breaking audio advertising opportunities. With their DAX platform, they will be able to use audio to target people as they walk past outdoor advertisements. Layer onto that the new development of dynamic personalised audio messaging, this really is the stuff of science fiction.

Production & Technology Developments

Talking of personalised audio, last year we produced a number of “Dynamic” campaigns and we expect this to increase across commercial radio this year. Dynamic audio is a VERY exciting development in radio advertising as it allows us to create truly personalised campaigns – the “system” knows who is listening, where they are listening, how they are listening, what day and time of day it is, even what the weather is like where they are – and it will then instantly play out a tailored version of the ad for that individual person. This means we can make the radio advertising experience even more relevant and bespoke than ever.

The same goes for 3D audio. Binaural Sound – to give it its true name – gives us the ability to create a truly “immersive” audio experience for listeners. It is basically pure surround sound. We can create soundscapes that really make listeners feel as if they are right in the middle of the action. It requires headphones to work – without headphones it simply sounds like great quality stereo – but research shows us that more than a quarter of adults listen to their chosen radio station on their mobile phone or tablet .. which will usually involve headphones. And we suspect that there will be many more radio advertising campaigns produced in Binaural Sound throughout the coming year.

So exciting times ahead in the world of audio and commercial radio. If you’d like to talk through any of the subjects in this blog then do get in touch with the Kalua team. Happy New Year!



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