Daniel Owen, strategy and planning director for Chrysalis RadioWhen the Radio Authority announced the creation of a new commercial radio licence for the West of Scotland it was obvious all the UK’s major radio groups would want it. Katy Archer meets Chrysalis Radio’s strategic boss as he begins to plot a way to win this ultimate prize.
Once again another radio network has thrown its hat into the arena and declared an interest in one of the most sought after radio licences in the country. But what can any proposed radio station offer that isn’t already on offer?
There is currently a myriad of radio stations vying for the attention of their public – ranging from the young Beat 106, the stalwart of Glasgow’s airwaves, Radio Clyde, and the new kid on the dial Real Radio.
Many large radio groups are willing to take their chances, though – with Scottish Radio Holdings, Absolute Radio, EMAP and the Guardian Media Group’s Jazz FM all said to be preparing bids in what will be the most hotly contested showdown since ‘Bits and Pieces’ on Radio One’s roadshow. All stations play the hits and specialise in either classic rock or cutting-edge pop and dance, but Chrysalis Radio hopes to conquer a section of society that it says is no longer being catered for – the semi-grey market of the 40- to 59-year-olds.
Daniel Owen, strategy and planning director for Chrysalis Radio, has the task of setting up the proposed bid for the West of Scotland licence, due to be announced by late Autumn. He believes that the intended station, The Arrow, can offer a different take on what is currently on offer within West of Scotland commercial radio: “What we are aiming to do with The Arrow is bring about an exciting and new musical challenge. We want people to be able to listen to rock from both the 70s and the 80s with artists like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Springsteen, but also to introduce newer acts such as The Verve and Travis.”
But surely a lot of the music that they will be playing is already catered for by the multitude of stations that are already on air?
“Our target audience is slightly older and therefore different to other radio stations’ listeners,” says Owen. “Most of the other stations tend to appeal largely to females, and they also target a much younger audience. We want men of a certain age who not only know about music of a certain era, but also want to hear it, and the station will provide it.”
The licence is popular for a number of reasons – probably the biggest factor would be the target audience of around 1.7 million Scots in the area. Owen believes that, since Chrysalis already has a template for the proposed station up and running on a digital network, the transition would be seamless.
“We won’t have time to do an RSL, like Virgin. Instead, our digital channel will help in getting the station off the ground. Whilst there are around 30 million potential listeners for digital radio, the digital revolution probably has not taken up as many as that yet. But we can see what is working with the station and then specially tailor it for the Glasgow audience in terms of the type of programming news and local information content. We can also put Arrow into 40 different households within the area and hold a focus group to find out their reaction and views on what we are doing.”
Owen believes that Chrysalis has the opportunity to become a force to be reckoned with in the Glasgow area in terms of promoting local events. “What we are aiming to do is become the authority in terms of promoting both local and live music. The audience will be more mature, more informed, and the presenters hosting the shows will be in touch with what is happening in the music scene in Glasgow.”
Having worked for the Radio Authority after leaving university, Owen is in a better position than many to give his judgement on how the inner sanctums work. The Radio Authority is a notoriously fickle place, so how does he rate their chances on being successful this time around?
“It really is impossible to say. I mean what the Radio Authority has to do, and will do, is not believe any of the stations’ PR,” he says, smiling. “The thing to remember is that while all of us who are preparing for this bid will do a variety of these interviews and try to sell ourselves around numerous business events, the Authority must remain totally impartial. The key areas that they will look for are more choice for the listeners, that the station is distinctive but is able to balance this against the broad appeal.”
Within the radio industry as a whole there has been much speculation as to what will happen following the passing of the Communications Bill. Owen insists that Chrysalis is in a good position to make an acquisition, not be the subject of one.
“We are a big player within the industry, and we are very confident that we won’t be swallowed up by our competitors. We are in a unique position because, although ad revenue within our sector has gone down, Chrysalis’s performance in sales has been quite extraordinary and we have seen significant growth across the board. But, as is the nature of this type of change, it is difficult to predict what will happen, and only time will tell.”
In terms of the station’s appeal, who will be the main competitors and where do they intend to get their listeners from? Chrysalis, as with most regional commercial radio stations, believes that the best way to get listeners is to take them from the national radio stations, not local. Says Owen; “I think that we are probably going to be trying to take some listeners from both BBC Scotland and Radio Five Live. Although to a lesser degree we would be aiming to get some people also from both Radio Clyde and Real Radio.”
Since Beat 106 has been launched it has undergone significant changes, in particular its ownership – what does this mean in terms of how the Radio Authority views the application process, and does it naturally suggest that a larger media group will win? “What happened with Beat was a shame – the Radio Authority goes to great lengths to award the station that matches all of its criteria. I can’t see the Authority being happy with what happened in terms of the station’s ownership,” says Owen. “In that respect I think, and hope, that the Authority will be looking towards appointing a major networked station so that something like that does not happen again. But only time will tell.”