Virgin Radio is to
shut down one of its three digital spin-off stations, Virgin Radio Groove,
and has pulled out of the Channel 4 Radio national digital multiplex.
Virgin Radio Viva was due to launch on the new Channel 4 platform next
year, aimed at 15- to 29-year-old women.However, the SMG-owned station has
decided not to proceed with the launch, and is also closing Virgin Radio
Groove, aimed at older women with a mix of Motown, soul and disco
The Virgin Radio executive chairman, Richard Huntingford, said the
closures were part of a plan to concentrate its resources on Virgin's core
brand values."I think we are doing the sensible thing. We are making sure
we focus our digital investment on the areas that are really core to our
radio proposition. Like everybody else in the business we have to make
sure we can see the right return on our investment," he said.
"We are moving towards that critical mass where we will start moving
into profitability [on our digital stations] but we are not quite there
yet."Virgin Radio Groove is the only Virgin station which is not based
around guitar rock and has struggled to make an impact. It had 94,000
listeners in the third quarter of this year, according to the latest Rajar
The Virgin Radio Classic Rock station is the broadcaster's most
successful digital outlet, with 244,000 listeners. Virgin Radio Xtreme
lags behind with a weekly audience of 82,000. Virgin Radio Groove's
closure follows a strategy review of Virgin's digital output. It will shut
at the end of this year.
Huntingford said the broadcaster
had decided to focus on a "a network of guitar-led pop and rock radio
"This is part of a process of getting fit for the future and focusing
resources on areas of the business that deliver the best commercial
performance," he added.The Virgin Radio boss said he was "absolutely
committed" to Xtreme and Classic Rock, which he described as Virgin
Radio's "irreverent younger brother" and "slightly older brother".
However, the decision to scrap plans for Virgin Radio Viva is a blow
for Channel 4 Radio, which is due to launch in the middle of next year.
"It makes sense to take that decision now before one puts time and energy
into the start-up," Huntingford said. "It is the right thing to exit that
Channel 4 downplayed the impact of Virgin's decision to pull Viva from
the broadcaster's multiplex.
"4 Digital Group, the Channel 4-led consortium, has signed nearly all
its long-term carriage agreements and is making good progress with the
others, since it was awarded the new DAB multiplex licence in the summer,"
a Channel 4 spokesman said. "The consortium has also secured agreements
with nine podcast partners.
"We are confident that we have put together a compelling partnership of
industry leaders to take radio to the next level from 2008."