Wireless Group is launching two digital-only stations in a bid to diversify and grow the Virgin Radio brand.
Virgin Radio Anthems and Virgin Radio Chilled have begun broadcasting today.
Both stations will air the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on 21 January, which will run without ad breaks and instead will carry branded content competitions and events in partnership with Sky. Wireless will sell ad spots for the channels for the rest of the day.
David Wilcox, Wireless’ national sales director, and his team are responsible for selling advertising inventory across the new channels. Wilcox’s team has begun working with other commercial teams across News UK to identify cross-selling opportunities across platforms.
Virgin Radio Anthems will target audiences aged 35 and over with "guitar-led classics" and "crowd pleasers from the 60s to the 90s". The channel will also air longer-form features that focus on classic albums and significant anniversaries in music.
Meanwhile, Virgin Radio Chilled is aimed at 25- to 44-year-olds with a "more laid-back" repertoire that will feature easy listening and acoustic hits, as well as exclusive recorded sessions in the manner of BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge.
The move echoes moves by commercial radio groups to grow their flagship brands with variants on DAB. The most popular commercial digital-only station, Bauer’s Kisstory, achieved 2.16 million listeners in the latest Rajar listening figures after launching on DAB in 2014. Virgin Radio has an average reach of 414,000 weekly listeners – well below that of other big-name digital-only channels such as Global’s Capital Xtra (1.84 million) and Bauer’s Absolute 80s (1.76 million).
Francis Currie, group content director – music radio at Wireless, said: "Virgin Radio Anthems and Chilled demonstrate our commitment to putting our listeners at the heart of what we do. They’re building out from the DNA of the Virgin Radio UK brand and I’m certain they will provide the perfect music blend for our existing listeners, as well as hooking new audiences with their must-listen playlists."
Wireless was bought by News UK, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, in 2016.
Last year, News UK promoted its sales chief Dominic Carter to group chief commercial officer, with responsibility for overall ad sales across newspaper and radio brands.