Orion Media: For Sale?

By James Martin
Posted 19 April 2016, 6.58pm edt

So I imagine most people have seen a number of speculative articles over the possible sale of Orion with a £40-50m asking price.

Given their backing some sort of exit plan is inevitable - that's how private equity works.

Bauer seem to be the bookies' favourite (well, if there were a market) and it would bring them into a market they've only got Absolute W Mids in. There's also the opportunity to put Magic on Gem but I would advise removing Sam and Amy on breakfast with caution as they're incredibly successful and the local angle does help that station.

Communicorp can't take on Gem AFAIK. However, the opportunity is there to put Capital on Free as a franchise and then convert Birmingham 102.2 to Capital Xtra, or potentially even Radio X. The rules which have caused a number of ownership changes at 106 though means Heart won't be returning there.

TWG could take it on, but there's an overlap with Signal 107 to consider.

Naturally RT and DS are clamorouing for the restoration of heritage names, but I'm not sure this is necessary. If the Free brand stays, then it's more about how the brand is marketed and executed, than what the name is, surely? Bringing back Mercia and BRMB et al won't change the station.


3 years, 9 months ago

If anything, it's likely the new owner of Orion will merge the Birmingham and Coventry licences as they're allowed to do, while Free Wolves/Shropshire continues to do the same thing. Bringing back the heritage names would only bring confusion to listeners who have only just got used to the brand.

Bauer have been known to keep local brands where they're market leading, such as Wave 105, despite various suggestions to bring the station into the Magic fold. Gem is another likely possibility. If anything, Gem would give Bauer a brand which would compete on a level playing field with Heart with both brands being Hot AC formats.

Bauer already have 'heat radio' which has more brand awareness as a trashy celebrity magazine, but I think Gem is the stronger proposition for advertisers. However, I'd suggest Sam and Amy's show is networked nationally on 'heat radio' or as a rebranded Gem.

The 'Free Radio 80s' licences would almost certainly join The Greatest Hits Network as Free 2.

3 years, 9 months ago

Heat is a cracking little station and I think could really gain some traction on a regional FM frequency. I'd be up for Heating-up 106.

Gem has been clearly groomed to look attractive as a national brand (the "106" has been phased out over about 2-3 years) - and it's quite strong at the moment. I guess the issue is Heat has the multimedia clout, and really Gem needs scale now to grow its' service.

The merger of Cov and Brum is a tough one. Makes economic sense but losing John Dalziel on breakfast would be a massive, massive blow. He really is "Mr Coventry" and I think it'd be dangerous to lose him. If John was on the enlarged show, that would just piss Coventry listeners off. I just think that particular show plays the local card very well.

3 years, 9 months ago

Bauer would fit like a glove. Keep Gem as Gem and Free as Free.

Communicorp works in the West Midlands but not the East. Maybe what Communicorp needs is a smaller, friendly Communicorp-style partner that it can franchise the Gem franchise to!

3 years, 8 months ago

So Bauer it is.

Already the cries of "Bring back BRMB!" have started but I can't see how changing the name back will change anything.

Wonder what'll happen to the Gem brand?

3 years, 8 months ago

Wonder what'll happen to the Gem brand?

It's a difficult one. If Bauer want to cost cut, they could easily simulcast Magic as the station is on D1, but I don't think they'll do that.

So you have these options:

  1. Keep Gem as it is with no change to output. (The Wave 105 option)
  2. Rebrand as 'heat radio', but move the station to Nottingham using Gem presenters. Digital versions of heat would simulcast Gem 106 with UK opts.
  3. Rebrand to Magic East Midlands with a mix of output from London and Nottingham.

3 years, 8 months ago

Rebranding 106 to Heat is a good shout. Sam & Amy would work so well on the brand. Infact given the direction Gem's taken musically, I can see it as the perfect opportunity to give Heat a much needed FM outlet.

3 years, 8 months ago

Sam and Amy on Breakfast with existing Heat drive presenter Sarah Powell would be a good peak line-up.

3 years, 8 months ago

Gem is currently doing best ever for that licence. I'd be surprised if anything other than Free 80s to Free 2 happened.

3 years, 8 months ago

DigitalSpy is hilarious tonight. There is no way the old names will return. None.

Is there any precedent for a rebrand to be branded back to an old name following an acquisition? The only one I can think off is in TV: Granada restoring Tyne Tees to Channel 3 North East.

3 years, 8 months ago

Gem is a great station everything at City Link has been a success through the years and the transitions. I hope they leave it well alone.

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