MEDIA: HEADLINER; Ginger man’s expansion plan focuses on media ownership

John Revell proves to be a perfect foil for Chris Evans, as Claire Beale discovers

John Revell proves to be a perfect foil for Chris Evans, as Claire Beale

discovers



You know that old saying about dogs and their owners, well, on first

meeting, John Revell seems so like his business partner, Chris Evans,

that you feel as if you know him already.



Mind you, my first experience of Chris Evans was an insistent: ‘I don’t

speak to journalists, I’m not speaking to you.’ On the other hand,

Revell is furiously doing his bit to bolster the PR of their company,

Ginger Productions, by playing Mr Nice and talking to any journalist who

will listen.



What the pudgy-faced 37-year-old chief executive of Ginger is keen to

talk about is its involvement in a consortium that is bidding for the

new London FM radio licence. Ginger has teamed up with Michael Caine to

propose a new service, the Edge, targeting 15- to 24-year-olds with a

mix of contemporary music and fresh personalities.



This is just the latest in a series of ventures Ginger is carefully

considering as it gears up for expansion. The production company is

already responsible for the phenomenal success of the Radio 1 Breakfast

Show (audience: 7.3 million) and for topping and tailing Channel 4’s

Friday evening schedule with TFI Friday (audiences: 2.5 million for the

early evening slot and 1.5 million for the late night slot) which won

Best Entertainment Series at last week’s British Comedy Awards.



Ginger is currently looking for a bigger partner with deeper pockets to

provide financial back-up in return for a slice of the action. Then

there are plans to bid for a second radio licence in the North-east of

England, another in Sydney, Australia, and expansion across Europe. But

Revell sees the London FM licence as the prime building block in

Ginger’s expansion scheme.



‘It means a lot to me. For the bigger plan of Ginger it is very

important. We want to get into media ownership and radio is something we

think we’re pretty good at. It is where Chris and I started and we have

a natural affinity for it,’ he explains.



Revell began as a DJ on local radio; he then persuaded Richard Branson

to launch an in-store radio station for Virgin Megastores, with him in

charge. Revell moved to launch GLR for the BBC, where he produced Tommy

Vance, Emma Freud and Janice Long, before leaving to join Chris Evans on

the Big Breakfast. After a stint as programme director at Virgin 1215,

he jumped at the chance to spend his mornings with Evans again, this

time on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. His TV credits include devising the

original format for Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush and he is also

associate editor of TFI Friday.



Now Revell is quite happy to entertain the idea of becoming a media

mogul but, he says, ‘We’ve got to work out what that moguldom would be

based on.’ Revell’s role centres around formulating future strategy but,

for those of you who find Chris Evans a little, how shall I put it,

nauseating, don’t worry. This is not about Chris Evans appearing every

time you turn on the TV or radio.



‘What we have to offer is the Ginger culture,’ Revell explains. ‘Chris

drives that culture along, but this company is not about just providing

new platforms for Chris Evans. We’re already developing programming

ideas that don’t revolve around Chris, we’ve got people like Danny Baker

working with us to do that and we want to develop new talent.’



But with Evans (and increasingly Revell himself) being fair game for

tabloid journalists searching for the latest celebrity expose,

protecting what is an increasingly ubiquitous brand will not be easy. It

is a delicate balance between popularity and tedium that Revell himself

is well aware of.



‘We’ve taken a strategic decision that we are an entertainment-based

company, so we are not going to go off and set up an airline or

something that doesn’t fit in with our core business which is TV, radio,

publishing and maybe music. That’s the bedrock we’ll build on,’ Revell

explains.



The company has just pulled out of lengthy discussions with the beer

group, Firkin, for the launch of a beer brand, Ginger’s, but the door

remains open: ‘It’s obviously the sort of thing we would consider doing

but the fit has to be spot on,’ he insists.



But for all Revell’s professed business acumen, it is Evans who picks up

the awards, the women, and the most money. Does Revell ever feel

obscured by the shadow of Evans’ success?



‘It’s never entered my head,’ he maintains. ‘I don’t see Chris and me as

creative rivals. He’s light years ahead of me creatively and I’m

enjoying this side of the business more, to be honest.’



------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Revell file

------------------------------------------------------------------------

1982    Radio York, tea boy then DJ

1984    Launched Virgin Megastores’ in-house radio station

1986    GLR, producer

1991    The Big Breakfast, producer

1993    Virgin 1215, programme director

1996    Ginger Productions, chief executive (joined 1995)

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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