Friday saw the shock announcement from OXIS Media which whose largest shareholder is Absolute Radio International (ARI Consultancy) about the expansion of their licensed Jack FM brand across the UK regionally and the launch of Jack FM 2, a female skewed version of the largely automated main station in Oxford.
Jack FM 2 replaces Glide FM, which itself launched with a blaze of glory by stunting as Glee FM, which played tracks from the hit musical tv series. However since then, ARI hasn't been able to capitalise on it's early publicity and is now on it's third relaunch in a short period for a station which was also called FM 107.9. As Oxford's only commercial radio station for young adults, this is a failure despite sharing resources with the main Jack FM station, yet it appears that a CHR skewed Heart is still continuing to bring in the numbers, despite being networked from Reading and London.
For those of you who are not aware, ARI are also under contract to manage Absolute Radio, the national AM and London FM station on behalf of the Times of India, which may also be converted to be a Jack FM later in the year. While ARI have increased the share of the overall Absolute Radio network, this has been done by launching seven costly digital radio spin off stations based on the decades from the 1960s to the 2000s and a mainstream classic rock station.
While some of the programming decisions of the main station have to be applauded, such as their investment in personality presenters such as Christian O'Connell, Geof Lloyd, Frank Skinner and Emily Dean, the business continues to lose money and has been rumoured that the likes of Richard Branson and Bauer have attempted to acquire the station.
If TIML don't sell and ARI continue to operate the station as Jack FM, this is about preserving the business and cost cutting, rather than taking the money from a larger well resourced radio group as well as maintaining Absolute's AOR 'real' music policy while not having to pay presenters.
The other rumour is OXIS/ARI may be ready to step in and acquire stations Global Radio have to divest as part of their acquisition of GMG Radio to launch Jack FM in major regional markets. The beauty of the Jack brand is that it can be adapted to suit the formats of other stations, for example Jack FM Solent a former AAA format is as far as you can get from Jack Hertfordshire which plays Hot AC. Both of these stations are not owned by OXIS, but they have licenced them to other media groups as part of the business to sell the branding to local stations.
If OXIS pulls this off, it'll take them from being a small scale operator in Oxfordshire and a loss making contractor in London to taking their one successful brand Jack into something special. It could be that midas touch that stops Bauer's expansion of Planet Rock and puts them into another successful male skewed brand alongside UTV's talkSPORT while keeping the contract for the national and London station safe.