EMAP revamps Big City Network output to attract older listeners

EMAP Radio is to change the output of its Big City Network in a bid to broaden its appeal and attract an older audience.

It follows months of audience research looking at the local radio network.

EMAP is keen to increase its share of listeners and advertising revenue by broadening the focus of the eight northern stations, which includes Manchester’s Key 103 and Sheffield’s Hallam 97.4FM.

The research has also led to the group removing live football coverage from its schedule (MW July 28) after listeners said they no longer thought it essential for the stations to cover the game.

Big City Network managing director Travis Baxter says he aims to make all the stations leaders in their market, but this could not be achieved by targeting only 15- to 25-year-olds. He says: “We have decided that we have done enough work looking at how to increase audience figures, and that returning to a broad focus would help this.”

He says the stations will now target all age groups over the age of 15, but that it hoped to increase the number of listeners aged over 30 years old. They will play a selection of music that will make them appealing to a wide audience while also focusing on local news. The changes will be supported by local marketing campaigns.

The Big City Network has struggled to maintain its audience over recent years. The Rajar figures for the second quarter of 2005 show the network has 2.84 million weekly listeners. This is down from 3 million for the same quarter in 2004. However, individual stations such as Key 103 saw a 7.7 per cent increase in listeners.

Baxter, a former managing director of Kerrang!, was promoted to managing director at the end of last year.

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