The new owner of Absolute Radio, formerly Virgin Radio, says the rash of changes in British radio ownership can help usher in a new golden age for U.K. commercial radio.
In a rare interview, AP Parigi, CEO of Mumbai-based Times Infotainment Media Ltd. (TIML) — a division of media giant Times of India Group — tells Billboard.biz that acquisitions like TIML’s £53.2 million ($93.9 million) purchase of Virgin will help re-invigorate the market.
“Some kind of intellectual fatigue had set in, not just at Virgin, but in the whole radio industry,” he says. “Now there has been change of ownership, whether it be us, Global Radio [recent buyers of radio group GCap Media] or EMAP [media group recently bought by German company Bauer].
“It’s a matter of coincidence but also significance that we are on the same train,” he adds. “We are seeing a renaissance of radio in terms of investment and branding. With several serious players coming in, there will be no fatigue in building new brands.”
The rebranding of Virgin as Absolute Radio has been backed by a multi-million pound marketing campaign, with Parigi denying there was any risk in abandoning a name as well known as the Virgin brand.
“We had very good discussions with [Richard] Branson and [Virgin owners] SMG and decided everyone’s priorities would be met if we bought in our own brand,” he says.
Parigi admits TIML’s first venture outside India is “a challenge,” but says the appointment of a U.K.-based management team headed by Absolute COO Clive Dickens means “we have hit the road running” since the name change became effective Sept. 29.
“We are excited about the launch, the response seems to be good but these are early days,” Parigi says. “We plan to wait for the brand to settle down and then bring in lots more innovations.”
Parigi did not rule out international expansion of the Absolute brand, nor further European radio acquisitions, but did not expect movement on either front before mid 2009.
For more on Absolute Radio see the current edition of Billboard magazine.