FLASH: Virgin Radio 999 to hit airwaves today

In a surprise announcement this morning, Astral Media revealed that Mix FM will disappear today at 4 pm, when Sir Richard Branson's latest Canadian brain child is born.

Astral Media Radio made a surprise announcement this morning: Virgin Radio will begin broadcasting this afternoon at 4 pm EST on Astral Media’s 999 FM Toronto frequency, replacing Mix FM.

No prizes for guessing that the name of the new station indicates it’s a licensee with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Radio International. This is the entrepreneurial multimillionaire’s first North American commercial FM radio station. VRI currently operates counterparts in the UK, France, Italy, India, Thailand and Dubai.

Will the rebranding result in a significantly better ad venue? ‘We believe this move is a strong and innovative one that will strengthen the radio marketplace,’ ZenithOptimedia president/CEO Sunni Boot tells MiC. ‘New dollars do not necessarily come to a medium due to a format change. But share of dollars against a target will occur as listeners give the new station a try, and ultimately some will stay.’

Zig developed the creative for a marketing campaign for the rebranded radio station with the tagline ‘It’s On.’ Explains Rebecca Shropshire, director of branding & communications for Astral Media Radio: ”It’s on’ as a tagline speaks to numerous aspects of what we’re doing with Virgin Radio 999.

”It’s On’ is a simple and clear launch message,’ she adds. ‘It’s now On, the beginning of something great; whatever you want, it’s on Virgin; wherever you are, Virgin Radio is always on; and it’s also a bit of a challenge to other stations and the industry at large: ‘It’s On! We’re shaking it up and doing things differently.”

Media buys are being handled by Toronto-based VPM Marketing and Media.

Info about programming is sketchy so far. But MiC has learned that morning programming, including Mad Dog & Billie (pictured at left, with Taylor Kaye and Chris Biggs), will be retained. And new shows will include On Air With Ryan Seacrest, hosted by the American Idol celeb, plus an afternoon-drive show called The Rush, co-hosted by Biggs and Kaye.