Would a yearly ‘reset’ of UK radio line-ups work?Follow @mediaukdiscuss
When I was living in France a few years ago, I was intrigued by the concept of ‘la rentrée’ – where every radio station in the country, bar none, mirrors the exodus of city-dwellers for what’s effectively a two-month summer holiday by setting a date at the end of August to all simultaneously relaunch their schedules/positioning statements/music policies. This year’s ‘rentrée’ was today, with most of the big national networks making a number of changes – and in one case, Chérie FM, reverting to local breakfast shows on individual frequencies.
So it got me thinking – yes, there’s a bit of a cultural issue here to justify a yearly refresh in a country where radio listening in the summer’s lower than it is in Britain, but that aside, would it be a useful exercise here? Apart from obviously being dream fodder for anoraks/Internet forumites to have a specific date to look forward to, is the idea of a ‘reset’ actually a rather neat and tidy way of offloading shows/formats that aren’t working? Presenters know they have a year to perform, or their contract’s not renewed – would that see them up their game? The audience figures there don’t seem to suggest a regular change massively hurts listenership – although it’s very much swings and roundabouts, with a number of AC formats aping each other in particular.
On the flipside, how painful is it to be without your flagship for 8 weeks in the middle of the year when its presenter(s) are sitting on a beach somewhere, replaced by someone who’s usually on overnights? (And that’s common practice en France, by the way…)
Saying that it sounds like it does help with new talent getting through ie switching from night shift to day during those weeks. I wonder if they do the same through out big french multinational radio groups such as NRJ?
Britain doesn’t have quite the same tradition of everyone taking a long summer break in either July or August – or the September ‘rentrée’ being as important a time of year, perhaps – but it’d be very interesting to hear from UK programmers about whether they think some of the French approach would work, or whether it breaks every rule in the book.
Almost all of the big networks do it – NRJ, Fun, Virgin, Sky etc work on 10-month seasons for the breakfast show, breaking for summer around 29 June and everyone’s been back since yesterday morning. It’s not necessarily the overnighters who do ‘Le Morning De l’Eté’ (the summer breakfast show). Some are standalone shows in their own right, others are more like “best-ofs” from the season.
Maybe it’s helpful that all the big names are off at the same time… and I’ve seen some stations specifically use September-June as their reference period for audience measurement. I’m not sure a big UK station reporting quarterly would be keen on giving the breakfast show two months off.
On the main CHR networks there’s not been a lot of ‘churn’ talent-wise this year – just some tweaks to co-presenters/sidekicks. Last September saw lots of high-profile moves – it’s a bit like the football transfer window, with some of the networks having press conferences to show off their new line-up before the first show of the season.
I think it works really well here and generates a good amount of media interest in what radio is doing. To put it into context – the start of September here really is the ‘new year’ – new TV shows, cinema, books – so in that context it perhaps makes sense that radio follows the same pattern.
UK will never be like that for everything being fresh in sep, as it all about constant listener figures though out the year regardless. Big names would not move unless of course they wanted to work for another station bad or got removed like chris moyals. It will still remain all the same 24/7, unless the station itself is having a re-brand like heart did to many stations and capital so a fresh start can make a difference yes but for everyone to have to do it, bit unfair if everything working for them.
The Australians are a bit like that too with television.
The soaps, for example, come off over Summer. Home & Away, for example, takes 6/7 weeks off, despite being THE number one soap down under… it’s like ITV bringing Coronation Street off for nearly 2 months over here, where it just wouldn’t happen.
Neighbours takes about a month off, but it’s still a long time.
(Incidentally, this is why Channel 5 has to bring both shows off-air for so long each year, to avoid running out of episodes and staying at least a week behind Australia.)
I prefer it that way though. Not only does it provide a big excuse to do some massive cliffhangers, you can come back for the new season refreshed and revived, and people have “forgotten” what went before six weeks ago.
I know Dick Stone, in his blog, recently said the best time to refresh the output was at the start of the school academic year. It’s a far better time to do it than January I think.
Found the post James refers to above. Some excerpts below:
“For some, whose lifestyles are influenced by School Holidays, it will be the first time they have listened to your breakfast show on a weekday in their “normal” environment since the end of July. So in some ways if you are still doing what you always did back then, you can sound STALE.
“In some ways refreshing next week matches people’s lifestyles- as summer closes and people have a “heads down to Christmas” mentality they have a renewed vigour and “back on the treadmill” attitude- just as they do in January after the excesses of the Christmas holiday.”
That was the one. I remember a piece in a free paper saying you should make your New Year’s Resolutions around this week or next week, not January. I really agree with that in a way!