GCap Abandons XFM 

11 February 2008 tbs.pm/856

Whilst most of the emphasis has gone onto GCap closing digital stations and selling its stake in DigitalOne, this mornings announcement also included some other major news that stands the chance of being less widely considered by the press. GCap are selling XFM.

Well okay, not all of XFM – they’re going to keep the original London station, no doubt partly because London FM frequencies are very valuable commodities no matter what you put on them.

Over the years, Capital Radio spent a lot of time and effort in trying to make XFM a national brand, but it’s always been a station that has been stuck in the contradictions of the commercial environment. If it’s too mainstream, it makes more money but loses its credibility with its listeners and many of them depart. If it’s too niche, the money goes down, but the credibility and listening figures go up.

The non-London XFMs are, without doubt, not in a good shape. Comparing RAJAR figures for December 2007 and December 2006 do not paint a happy picture. The total number of hours of listening for XFM Scotland have almost halved in the last 12 months. XFM Manchester has stayed roughly the same in that respect but the average hours listened per listener has fallen, as has its reach.

The last 12 months for XFM haven’t been pretty – they do of course co-incide with the completely odd decision to banish all presenters from daytime radio and attempt to make the station into some kind of radio-jukebox. Cheap yes, but given how many non-presenter stations on DAB have closed over the years, it’s an odd policy and one which clearly hasn’t helped build any kind of audience for its newest of stations.

For GCap Media itself, the selling of the XFMs and the closure of Planet Rock and TheJazz see it in major retreat back to a heartland that it knows best – mainstream music stations for the masses. Popularism obviously pays.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Andrew Bowden Contact More by me