How one brand doubled its TSL: and how you can too

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Whenever I’ve made it to Oslo, Norway, I’ve been there in winter – snow on the ground and it appears to always be twilight. But last week, an extraordinary thing happened: the sun shone.
The sun shone because there were radio people in town, of course: a conference run by the slightly-oddly-named “” celebrated “Radio’s digital leap”, the decision by the Norwegians to switch off FM and move all their large stations over to DAB+.
One of the speakers was Dee Ford, Group Managing Director for the European radio group Bauer Media. Bauer is in acquisition mode: buying up stations in the UK and in Scandinavia, where their purchase of a bunch of market-leading radio stations is just about to be given the go-ahead by regulators.
Dee is a master story-teller, and a great (and woefully under-used) speaker. She held the conference to attention as she told the story of Absolute Radio, who doubled its total “hours” (what we Brits call time-spent-listening) in five years. It’s a great story.
Absolute Radio is a national radio station in the UK, with a pop-rock format (“things with guitars and cymbals in”).
In 2009, Absolute Radio launched a spin-off service, Absolute 80s. It’s broadcast on DAB Digital Radio, on some TV systems, and online.
Absolute 80s is an astute exercise in sweating your assets. It has the same music position as the main station, just limited to the 1980s – I suspect the music was, initially, an exercise in “select all songs in the main database that were hits between 1980 and 1989”.
Technically, it doesn’t need new studios, since it’s all voice-tracked, using studio downtime in the existing building. Playout used already existing station infrastructure, too.
Dee explained that the radio presenters for Absolute Radio found their renegotiated contracts included a new voicetracked show on Absolute 80s; but since it’s a music-intensive format, these shows take little time to put together.
And it was put together really fast. I’m told that from the initial idea to the launch took just six weeks.
Absolute 80s has been a success; so in the years that followed, the station launched decade stations from the 60s to the 00s: all running the same way.

Above, you can see the effect these stations have had on the brand’s TSL. While Absolute Radio itself has held steady, the decade stations have added significant hours – doubling the total TSL for the brand. And, since most advertisers on Absolute Radio are steered to buy the network, not just the main station, that has translated into significantly more cash and more profit.
And it might not be a massive surprise that P4 in Norway – a national radio station – has now launched its own set of decade-themed radio stations. With the opportunities offered in that country by digital, why wouldn’t you grasp this opportunity?
Lessons we can learn from all of this are:

1.Launching new stations online and other new platforms is a great use of the opportunities offered by your broadcast facility
2.Brand extensions are easy for listeners and advertisers to understand, and are relatively simple to set up
3.Educate your clients to buy the brand rather than an individual station to make the most of them
No wonder the sun was shining in Oslo! But, Norway, we need to have a chat about the price of your beer.


James Cridland is a radio futurologist, and is Managing Director of, a companion website to radioinfo and AsiaRadioToday.

He has served as a judge for a number of industry awards including the Australian ABC Local Radio Awards, the UK Student Radio Awards, and the UK’s Radio Academy Awards, where he has also served on the committee. He was a founder of the hybrid radio technology association RadioDNS.

James is one of the organisers of, the radio ideas conference each September, and is also on the committee of RadioDays Europe. He writes for publications including his own, Radio World International and RAIN News.

James lives in North London with his partner and a two year-old radio-loving toddler. He very, very much likes beer.

Radio Tomorrow is a trade mark of Radioinfo Pty Ltd

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