MuxCo’s Herts, Beds and Bucks application has a wide range of shareholders with local knowelge and digital radio background.
The Local Radio Company (20%)
The Local Radio Company plc owns and operates 28 local radio licences across the UK, from Falkirk in Scotland to the Isle of Wight and from Hastings to Yeovil. Based in High Wycombe, TLRC was formed in 2004 to purchase the entire share capital of Radio Investments Ltd (one of the first investors in commercial radio, investing in London’s Capital Radio back in 1973). TLRC jointly owns and operates the national sales house First Radio Sales in London and Manchester with UTV, creating radio advertising and marketing campaigns on 113 local radio stations across the UK. Within Herts, Beds & Bucks, TLRC operates two analogue services; High Wycombe based Mix 107 and Aylesbury’s Mix 96.
In relation to local DAB, in a previous business, the senior management of TLRC were founder shareholders in the regional multiplex company MXR, demonstrating their commitment to going digital in a cost effective and profit generating way. It is the intention of this same management to do the same at TLRC. TLRC recognises that the future of broadcasting will be digital and is committed to ensuring the group itself has a digital future. However, TLRC believes that a number of the existing DAB business models that have been adopted do not reflect the concerns and financial status of the smaller radio companies, such as TLRC. In addition, the management have kept a watching brief on the development of new digital technologies. The group’s strategy is to play an active role in the development of digital radio, and to ensure that it goes digital at the optimum time. MuxCo is pleased to be working with TLRC in a number of proposed licence areas, as we have every confidence that this is currently one of the most farsighted digital companies. By working together, we can help ensure that future technology changes that benefit the industry can be adopted. In relation to Herts, Beds & Bucks, with their head office in High Wycombe and with 2 analogue services broadcasting within the area, TLRC are pleased to be a shareholder in MuxCo Home Counties. Given the relative geographical relevance of the two Mix analogue services within the much larger multiplex area, TLRC do not believe that it is prudent or commercially viable to simulcast either service, certainly at this stage of digital development. However, through its shareholding, it has the ability to review the options to develop its services and to launch them within a commercially sensible timeframe.
Adventure Radio Ltd (20%)
Adventure Radio Ltd was established in February 2005 and acquired St Albans & Watford Broadcasting Company, broadcasting as Mercury 96.6, from GCap in March 2005. Stockvale Ltd is the major shareholder of Adventure Radio. Stockvale successfully bid for the commercial radio licence in Southend, which was awarded in April 2006. Adventure Radio’s ambition is to build a small group of local radio stations in order for it to be a robust and viable business for the future. Adventure Radio’s strategy is to strengthen their business position moving forward through the development of digital and analogue radio services in the Herts, Beds & Bucks and Essex area. Given the limited growth potential of Herts Mercury 96 due to size and competition within the market, they recognise that it is important to establish growth opportunities to secure the financial future and business viability. Whilst the benefits will take time to come through, they believe that participation in the digital multiplex will broaden their transmission area and therefore customer base, will enable the development of new media and non traditional revenue streams which become more viable within a larger broadcast area and will help extend the appeal to the existing audience base and protect against loss of listening through digital migration. Like other smaller radio groups, Adventure Radio do not believe that it is a realistic business proposition to simply simulcast Herts Mercury 96.6, a service focused on St Albans, Hemel Hempstead & Watford, across the substantially larger digital footprint. Their proposal is to deliver a new service which is built on Herts Mercury 96.6 but extends it to focus on the lifestyle of parents with young children within the region
Shadow Radio Holdings (5%)
Shadow Radio Holdings Ltd (‘SRH’) was established in 2005, primarily to acquire Hertbeat FM, the Hertfordshire radio station that had not managed to make a profit since its launch in 2001. SRH’s directors, however, saw considerable potential in Hertbeat FM, despite it operating in a highly competitive market being so close to London. The directors also identified that the future of radio was digital radio, with their own research suggesting 35% of people in the Hertbeat FM TSA owning a DAB sets, a figure almost identical to that derived from our own consumer study. As such, SRH is keen to have an involvement in the future, and to be able to have a greater degree of control over its destiny. They commit to simulcasting Hertbeat FM on the multiplex. As Hertfordshire has a high percentage of people who commute to their workplace (and not just to-and-from London), SRH see value in allowing listeners to hear the station once they drive outside of the existing, smaller FM footprint.
Absolute Radio International (20%)
Absolute Radio International Ltd (‘ARI’) is an established radio operator and international radio consultancy company. The company has in-depth experience of successfully operating radio services, and is at the forefront of radio developments across the world with a client base that extends across the USA, Europe, South Africa and India. An example of ARI’s operating credentials is that in 2003 it acquired struggling 15-29 targeted station 107.6 Juice FM in Liverpool. Within two years, Juice was transformed from obscurity to under 30s market leader, winning numerous industry awards and accolades for its programming, promotions and content. ARI currently owns Oxford’s FM107.9 where it has successfully re-launched the city’s 15-29 targeted radio station. In October 2006, ARI was awarded a new FM licence to serve Oxfordshire, JACK fm, which is expected to launch in late 2007.
ARI is committed to being an active participant in UK local and regional DAB. It will participate in a number of applications over the coming years, either as a multiplex owner, a service provider or both. The new local multiplexes and the establishment of MuxCo will allow the next tier of local operators in UK radio to take a direct ownership position in the development of DAB. ARI’s involvement in MuxCo HBB is with a view to introducing its unique ‘JACK’ brand & programming to this area. It will, alongside MuxCo, be involved in the Oxfordshire multiplex application, with a view to broadcasting its two Oxford stations via DAB across the entire county. ARI will consider applying for other local multiplexes as and when they are advertised. ARI’s vision is to operate a content hub from its existing facility in Oxford which serves ARI’s existing FM stations. Their newly appointed Commercial Director, Rachel Faulkner, has extensive experience in the HBB area, having spent 8 years managing and selling airtime at Mix 96 in Aylesbury. In addition, the General Manager in Oxford, Ian Walker, is a former programmer at the GCap Media’s Chiltern Radio cluster. In addition to Rachel and Ian, ARI’s Group Programming Director, Clive Dickens, was formerly the Group PD at Chiltern Radio and currently lives in Buckinghamshire. ARI plans to operate a local and regional sales team specialising in selling its DAB stations in the Herts, Beds & Bucks region, as well as the Oxfordshire area, from its current operations centre in Oxford.