Thursday, 1 December 2011

The New Capital FM Breakfast Show... with Dave Berry

Congratulations to Dave Berry who has today been announced as the new host of the Capital Breakfast Show, to work alongside Lisa Snowdon who’ll continue in her role as co-host.

This isn’t really a great surprise, as he’s been hosting the weekend breakfast show for some time, and the fact that Capital were ready to announce someone only weeks after Johnny “left”, always pointed to the fact that it was going to be an internal appointment.

Is it a good move? Well... there’s no doubt that he has some traction with the younger end of the market through his TV work on E4, MTV etc... but as one of my late ’30-something’ friends tweeted to me today... “I’ve never heard of Dave Berry”.

Capital’s total audience has always been propped up by a chunk of older listeners that were almost there by default. This was good for overall reach. Increasingly, as the station has moved a lot younger, the output has become less appealing to those listeners. For some, Johnny Vaughan may have been the last reason they had to listen to Capital FM. Dave Berry may not interest them, as they have no reference points for him. He just isn’t on their radar... at all.

And this may well be a deliberate strategic attempt by Capital to move those listeners on... ideally for Global, to Heart.

It’s interesting that Capital didn’t take their time and try and secure someone with more media equity. E.g. someone off the TV... a comedian... someone from Radio 1 etc. There were rumours about Scott Mills being approached, but I’m guessing he’s becoming more and more ‘embedded’ with the BBC (with additional TV work etc), so perhaps he didn’t want to upset Auntie too much. I can understand that, although I think he would have been fantastic at it, and done a ‘real breakfast show’... if you know what I mean!

Will it matter that Capital doesn’t have a particularly high profile male host? Probably not, although it will certainly be harder to drive new listeners to the station based on the personalities. I wonder if they'll market the breakfast show, or just the station now? Lisa Snowdon is certainly the highest profile host on the station now... and she’s sounding great in the role too. I’m glad she’s sticking around.

It feels like Capital have taken another step in becoming a pure music-driven brand, with little more to offer other than a slick format, occasional big (and excellently done) events and a contemporary sound. They don’t even feel particularly connected to London when I listen to be honest with you. In a world where music (and easy access to it) is now ubiquitous, will "the Capital brand" be enough to drive younger audiences long-term, or will listeners find substitutes that are as good at providing music content as Capital are? Or perhaps even better?

I still believe that the ‘stuff in between the records’ is becoming more important than a well-packaged, tight rotation of current songs, particularly at breakfast time. Will Dave Berry provide standout content that will make Capital Breakfast a must-listen with ‘decade defining’ cultural moments, such as Chris Evans did on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in the 90s? Or will he simply blend into the background noise of an exceptionally well-produced CHR music format?

We shall see. I wish him and Lisa the very best of luck.

1 comment:

Adam Bowie said...

Count me as someone who only has the vaguest of ideas who Dave Berry is (I know of a Dave Barry - but he's someone very different). But then I'm not exactly Capital's target market.

I suspect that you're right and it'll cost them reach, if not hours too much.

You suggest that Global might like to shift audience deserting Capital over to Heart. I think that's difficult for a couple of reasons. Even if you accept the premise that these were people listening for Johnny in spite of the music rather than because of what they play, I'm not sure Heart is the most obvious place for them to go. Xfm might be closer. It's not such a leap to go from Johnny Vaughan to Danny Wallace.

But the bigger difficulty is directing the audience solely to another Global brand. Without significant cross-promotion between their brands, this is a hard thing to do.

So for an older listener who's re-appraising who they listen to at breakfast now that Johnny's left, there is an opening for a variety of stations including Xfm, Heart, Radio 1, Radio 2, 6 Music and, of course, Absolute Radio.

Nobody stays top in the London breakfast show battle for long, and I suspect that it's about to shift around again.

(Not strictly true, since John Humphries et al are consistantly London's true number one.)