National U.K. rock network Virgin Radio is to rebrand as Absolute Radio.
The station was bought by the Times of India Group in June for $106 million, from U.K.-based media group SMG. Times of India Group, under a new subsidiary TIML, is revamping the service from today (Sept. 2), with re-branding scheduled to be complete in October.
TIML says the re-branding was necessary because it did not own the name Virgin, which had been leased from the station’s original founder Virgin Group, and use of the brand name would have been restricted.
The flagship radio service will now be known as Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin Radio). It will complement Absolute Xtreme and Absolute Classic Rock, the digital stations previously known as Virgin Radio Xtreme and Virgin Radio Classic Rock, which were operated separately by radio consultancy Absolute Radio International (ARI).
ARI’s management team will now operate the new three-station Absolute network. Under the new regime, all three stations will cross-promote each other.
In addition to keeping Virgin’s existing star DJs like Christian O’Connell and Geoff Lloyd, TIML plans to appoint new DJs and use emerging talent.
Although radio will be the core business, the Absolute brand name will be used to new offerings including live-music sessions, live events, TV programming, plus digital music and ticket sales.
TIML also plans to increase the share of Absolute Radio’s branded content — programming and entertainment totally funded by brand owners and advertisers — to 50%-plus from its current 30% level.
Using the theme “Discover real music” in its multi-platform marketing campaign, the radio service will position itself as the media outlet for discovering new music via traditional and digital radio stations.
TIML declines to disclose the size of the marketing budget, but says it has £15 million ($27.3 million) put aside to develop the radio service over the next few years.