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Broadcaster Feels Deck Chairs Sliding Away

Branding for media outlets can be complicated. Listeners, viewers and readers develop their preferences over years. Brand identity is, then, defined by expectations long developed giving huge advantage to traditional outlets. Needs, wants and expectations have, however, their own trajectory. Successful media brands manage their identities by watching their audiences. It doesn’t work the other way around.

slip sliding awayAs French measurement institute Médiamétrie released January to March radio audience estimates (April 20), media watchers were certainly resigned to a further tip toward news and talk channels, presidential campaigning looming large. Total radio audience Monday through Friday dropped to 80.2% of the population from 80.6% year on year. Average daily time spent listening also fell by three minutes. News and talk-based national channels generally rose, music channels dropped… again.

The top spot Monday through Friday is, of course, reserved for legacy general interest channel RTL, 12.6% audience share, up from 12.1% year on year. Number two is public national general interest channel France Inter, up to 11.7% audience share from 10.5%. Also up noticably is RMC, 6.7% audience share and third place from 5.9% audience share and 6th spot. All three radio channels are significantly invested in news and talk-shows.

The result were not good for Europe 1, again. There is only so much room on the head of the news/talk pin. Audience share fell to 6.2% from 6.9%; 4th place but no cigar. Over the last few years Europe 1, owned by Lagardère Active, has gone through several strategic and personnel changes. Listeners have fled.

And, so, Lagardère Group chairman Arnaud Lagardère is taking over, sort of. “I decided to take the presidency of Europe 1 until it is corrected,” he said to Le Monde (April 20) shortly after the Médiamétrie audience estimates were published for all to see. “It’s a modus operandi that I’m used to when things are not going well.” Long simmering rumors to the contrary, M. Lagardère reiterated commitment to radio broadcasting.

“This is not a sanction,” he continued, adding that Lagardère Active president Denis Olivennes still has a job. Others, not so safe. What’s needed is “a director who hears the station, who is there morning, noon and night, and, if necessary, probably on the radio… someone who is strong in character but also has the flexibility to attract talent.” All this will happen, he said, “quickly.” When the November-December 2016 audience estimates were released in January a company spokesperson said a “relaunch” would be forthcoming.

The national music channels turned in a middling performance, none rising significantly and some punished. On aggregate audience share dropped to 30.2% from 32.5% one year on. Most of that loss seems to be from NRJ, falling to 6.1% audience share from 7.4% but still the top rated national music channel. (See French national radio audience trend charts here)

Most of the French national music channels were down slightly, up slightly or something in between. Other that NRJ, two were noticably off; RFM and RTL2. Millennial pop oldies RFM, owned by Lagardère Active, fell to its lowest audience share in years, 2.7% from 3.2% one year on. Its close competitor, pop-rock RTL2, owned by RTL Group, dropped to 2.5% audience share from 2.8%. Both adjusted DJs and program last September. Hip-hop R&B Skyrock placed 10th overall, up slightly to 3.4%.

Public broadcaster Radio France, on aggregate, posted its best result in years, 25.8% audience share up from 24.6% year on year. Following the whopping gain by France Inter, all-news France Info and France Culture were up, France Musique unchanged and regional network France Bleu down. “We have never had so many listeners,” said Radio France president Mathieu Gallet, quoted by Les Echos (April 20).


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