The transformation of Radio Nova makes waves, but the audience is growing

Published on Dec 2 2023 at 8:28

A recent Instagram post from Radio Nova sums up the ambivalence of the situation within the station founded by Jean-François Bizot in 1981. “+25% cumulative audience: according to the latest Médiamétrie surveys, Radio Nova is the radio station that has the most progress in a year! » welcomes the station taken over by the investment banker Matthieu Pige in 2015 and integrated into her media and live group, Combat. Internet users’ comments are less enthusiastic. “Where is the good music from before? » asks one. “Give us back our radio!” » adds another.

The transformation of Nova disconcerts some of the faithful, but the first audience results, for the months of September and October, interrupt its decline. The number of daily listeners climbs to 339,000, compared to 271,000 a year earlier, the cumulative audience increases to 0.6% (compared to 0.5% a year earlier) and the listening time increases by 23%. , according to Médiamétrie. The best return to school in five years, according to Nova.

THE audiences had fallen with the Covid-19 crisis, with a loss of 31% in almost eighteen months. “If everything was going well, we wouldn’t have changed,” explains Emmanuel Hoog, the general director of Combat, who affirms, with supporting figures, that the majority of comments on social networks for two months have been positive.

Music programming

After the departure of the former general director, Mélanie Mallet, a replacement, Jean-François Latour, was appointed at the end of June. This former antenna director of RTL2, RTL, Nostalgie and Oüi FM, also formerly with Radio France, turned radio habits upside down and implemented a savings plan announced before his arrival. According to “Le Monde”, the radio has accumulated 4.9 million euros in operating losses since 2018, figures not confirmed by Combat.

Nova carried out three economic layoffs and four departures at the end of the contract, reducing the workforce to around twenty employees (excluding management). “We will rehire based on audiences,” says Emmanuel Hoog. On the air, the share of music has been reinforced, to the detriment of broadcasts and reviews. Time spent on music is now 84%, up from 80%, according to Yacast. “We had to put back a musical backbone that recreates listening comfort for the listener,” relates the general director of Fight. Four hours of air time remain devoted to information and musical and cultural news.

Finally, the musical programming (what Nova calls the “Grand Mix”) has also undergone notable developments, with more hip-hop according to Emmanuel Hoog, but also pieces of French variety – Clara Luciani, Juliette Armanet -, from pop – Dua Lipa, Angela – and rock – Lenny Kravitz, Texas. Choices which disconcerted some of the aficionados, accustomed to more specialized programming.

Change of direction

“The big mix had tightened. Music like hip-hop, of which Nova was a cradle, no longer existed in the playlist,” explains Emmanuel Hoog. The singularity of Nova remains intact according to him. “Yacast credits us with the greatest diversity of titles played in our playlist and an overlap rate of 4% with all other music radio stations, the same percentage as before the summer,” he notes .

After five stormy months, marked by internal tensions related in particular by “Liberation”, Jean-François Latour left his post at the beginning of November. The former director of editorial strategy at Deezer, Frédéric Antelme, was appointed director of the station. An appointment well received internally, according to our information.

“Jean-François Latour continues his mission of expertise alongside Frédéric Antelme who today fully fulfills all the managerial functions of the Combat sound division, made up of Radio Nova and Studio Nova, in accordance with the initial plan to win back our audiences” , specifies Emmanuel Hoog.

Towards a Nova festival?

Certain programming decisions have been reviewed. No more Dua Lipa, Texas or Lenny Kravitz… “If the former director’s choices had been good, they would not have been changed and he would have remained”, estimates a historical collaborator who follows the radio very closely. In his eyes, the programming is again “closer to the historic Nova, even if there is still a little French variety, which is not in Nova’s DNA”.

The new boss of Nova has several projects on the table: calming the atmosphere internally, continuing the transformation of the radio without distorting it and confirming the rebound in audiences in the next waves. The addition of an on-air program would be under study, as would a redefinition of web radios and why not, one day, the creation of a festival Nova.

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