Monday 23 November 2020 12:01 am

Boom or bust: Radio veterans take on BBC with new baby boomer station

Two radio industry heavyweights are launching a new station aimed at baby boomers as they look to tap into a generation of older listeners “left behind” by the BBC.

Boom Radio will launch across the UK early next year, bringing a mix of music and conversation to the country’s roughly 14m boomers aged 55 and older.

Read more: Radio listening surges in second lockdown as Brits work from home

The station promises a playlist of boomer classics from across the decades including the Beatles, Tom Jones and Abba, as well as favourites from contemporary artists such as Adele and George Ezra.

In addition to music, Boom Radio will offer a range of speech programming such as gardening shows and book reviews, though it is expected to steer clear of overly political subjects.

The venture is being launched by industry veterans Phil Riley and David Lloyd. As chief executive of Chrysalis Radio, Riley masterminded the launch of Heart FM before overseeing the group’s sale to Global in 2007. Lloyd has four decades’ experience as a presenter and executive at stations including LBC and Virgin.

The launch comes amid growing discontent among older Brits that the BBC — and its commercial rivals — are trying to target younger audiences at the expense of the boomer generation.

“We want to step on the toes of Radio 2,” Riley told City A.M. “Our view is that Radio 2 is almost relentlessly being dragged younger, so that they can appeal to people over the age of 30.”

As a result, the radio boss said there was a gap in the market. “We think there’s an appetite among over-60s for a radio station that just targets them,” he said.

Riley added that the new station will also look to capitalise on the relative affluence of boomers — a demographic previously considered unattractive for advertisers.

Read more: News UK set to cut jobs in radio and newspaper

‘Left behind’ by the BBC

Boom Radio is the latest new venture aimed at challenging the dominance of the BBC and cashing in on surging listener numbers.

Earlier this year Rupert Murdoch’s News UK launched Times Radio, a new talk station that has been positioned as a rival to the BBC’s flagship Radio 4.

A string of top presenters have moved to the new station, while Virgin Radio this week poached Graham Norton from Radio 2.

Boom Radio is not set to announce its full line-up of presenters until January, but it is expected to call up a string of high-profile radio DJs who rose to prominence in the 70s and 80s, but have since taken a step back from the spotlight.

Bosses will also look to harness social media to distribute clips from its shows — a growing trend among stations such as LBC and Talk Radio. However, it is likely to focus on social media sites favoured by boomers, such as Facebook.

Boss Riley said the station would not invest in costly studios, but would operate largely on a remote basis.

“We’re taking advantage of what’s been happening in lockdown to completely rethink how you run a radio station,” he said.

“For us, the fact that the industry has proved that presenters can work from home… we took that as a great sign and we said to ourselves ‘that’s probably a fantastic model’.”

The station is set to operate with a roster of around 12 presenters, with a similar number of staff employed in sales and production.

Boom Radio will initially launch on DAB in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow, with rollout to additional cities expected later in 2021. The station will also be available online and through smart speakers and apps.