Communicorp adds three streaming services to Today’s offering

Rebranded radio group will step up video and podcast activity in multi-media fightback

The logo for Today FM’s new 1990s-themed service, which will play artists such as Oasis, Britney Spears and the Cranberries, and is one of four new online radio services launched by a rebranded Communicorp Media.

The logo for Today FM’s new 1990s-themed service, which will play artists such as Oasis, Britney Spears and the Cranberries, and is one of four new online radio services launched by a rebranded Communicorp Media.

 

Radio group Communicorp is launching three music streaming services – Today FM 80s, Today FM 90s and Today XM – as part of a bid to increase its online audience.

The company, owned by businessman Denis O’Brien, is also rebranding to Communicorp Media under a string of changes designed to adapt to a “tough” and fast-changing Irish media market.

The addition of the three Today FM spin-off streaming services follows its launch earlier this month of Spin Xtra, a “non-stop fresh hits” offshoot of the group’s youth-targeting Spin 1038 station.

A promo for the Today XM service suggests it will play guitar-led bands such as Nirvana, The White Stripes, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys.

Communicorp previously managed the alternative FM music station TXFM on behalf of a broader consortium, but it shut it down in 2016, saying it was not possible to make it commercially viable.

The group’s talk station Newstalk also plans to step up its video and podcast activity, releasing some of its specialist radio programmes as podcasts before they go on air, developing podcast-only shows and revamping its video studio “to reach more eyes and ears”.

In recent months, it has focused on developing its Off the Ball sports show into “a multi-platform brand”.

‘S*** option’

Communicorp Media chief executive Adrian Serle told staff in meetings in Dublin on Wednesday that while FM radio would remain the group’s priority, “standing still looks like a s*** option” in the current market.

Mr Serle acknowledged recent criticism of the Irish radio industry, which saw the heads of several Irish media agencies lambast radio groups for a perceived lack of creativity and commercial effectiveness.

“We need to change the perceptions of the media agencies and we need to change the perceptions of the advertisers,” he said.

Irish radio advertising revenues have been on a declining path. The market reached €163 million in 2008, but revenues are forecast to be just €120 million this year.

“We’re going backwards,” said Mr Serle.

The medium has joined print in being squeezed by explosive growth in digital advertising, which is dominated by tech giants Google and Facebook.

“They are well and truly eating our breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper,” he said.

Digital pot

Communicorp Media needs to “get some of the digital pot” and grow the radio market, he added. “FM radio is still the biggest thing we do. It’s the biggest thing we stand for and it will always be our priority.”

The group is targeting 6 per cent growth in the number of listeners it reaches each week and a 3 per cent increase in revenues this year against the backdrop of a declining market. Some forecasts expect a drop of 6 per cent across the market in 2018.

Mr Serle, who joined the company in November 2016, said last year had seen it take “some tough, difficult decisions” to position it for commercial growth. “This year is about starting to realise the benefit of some of those changes.”

In 2017, the group cut senior management and other positions, closing its sales house Communicorp One and unifying all of its radio sales within the agency Media Central, a related company.

Journalists employed by The Irish Times remain banned from the group’s stations after Communicorp objected to a September 2017 column by Fintan O’Toole about Newstalk and its presenter George Hook.