Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Virgin on the cheap

Credit: Virgin/Wireless Group PLC
Virgin Radio is back!   After relaunching as Absolute Radio in 2008, new owners Wireless Group have relaunched the iconic brand.

However the connection with the old Virgin Radio ends there, this is a completely new radio station which while keeping the playlist guitar skewed, this is targeted at a younger male than the old station.

Justin Timberlake, Blackstreet, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. feature alongside the AOR fare of Travis and new bands, making it a hybrid of Radio X with a dash of Absolute.

The presenter line-up appears to be a mix of youth and experience.  Edith Bowman made the jump from the Beeb to present breakfast while Jamie East, the former editor of gossip site HolyMoly presents mid-mornings, Kate Lawler is on afternoons, formerly of rock station Kerrang, comedian Matt Richardson is on drive, while former Xfm Manchester breakfast presenter Tim Cocker is on evenings.

The first show was on a Virgin Radio branded train from Manchester to London.  As you'd expect, there were cut outs during links, but they did get the bands on live as they booked time to stop at railway stations for them to perform in the carriage.

Like sister station talkRADIO which launched last week, Virgin has suffered from technical problems with the DAB transmission, such as poor audio and problems with the studio equipment.    It appears that these two stations had very quick studio builds which has led to the equipment not being fully tested.

The first use of the so called 'Red Room' at Virgin's new HQ in Hatfields, London also had technical issues with the performance from rock band 'Reef' which didn't help when presenter Matt Richardson's mic kept distorting and cutting out.

On the positive side, the advertisers and branding consultants like the return of the brand and the launch today, which gives Wireless Group some breathing space, but a normal day on Virgin will be the key to this station's future success.  Can they build a new station on new younger listeners while older listeners to the brand in the past stick with the hybrid urban/AOR mix or return to the sanctuary of rival Bauer's Absolute Radio's brands of which the original Virgin is based on?