|Broadcast area||United Kingdom (digital)|
|Slogan||The Biggest Hits, The Biggest Throwbacks|
|Frequency||103.0 MHz (Greater Manchester)|
|First air date||1 April 2003 (as The Hits)|
4 June 2018 (as Hits Radio)
|Sister stations||Absolute Radio|
Greatest Hits Radio
Hits Radio's flagship station broadcasts on DAB in many parts of the UK, nationally on Freeview and Sky TV platforms and online - a localised version of the station airs on FM and DAB in Greater Manchester.
The network is based at studios at Castle Quay in the Castlefield area of Manchester, with a line up of young and established presenters from various stations within Bauer's radio networks. A separate version of the network provides bespoke programming for Bauer's local stations in Scotland.
The Hits launched on 1 April 2003.
On 19 January 2015, The Hits formed the backbone of a new locally branded Bauer City 3 network of radio stations in Northern England and Scotland. The local City 3 branding was dropped on 31 August 2017, in favour of reverting to using The Hits name in all areas.
Hits Radio rebrand
On 18 April 2018, station owners Bauer Media announced Key 103 in Manchester would be rebranded and relaunched as Hits Radio, a CHR-led music station aimed at 25-44 year olds on Monday 4 June 2018.
The station was merged with The Hits to provide a single national service across the UK on DAB, Freeview and online. In Manchester, Hits Radio continues to provide local news & information, traffic bulletins and advertising on its local platforms - 103 FM, DAB and online.
'Hits Radio' also produces and broadcast off-peak programming for Bauer's network of CHR local stations in Northern England and the West Midlands, which continue to air local breakfast shows.
In Manchester, the Key 103 branding was phased out from Friday 25 May 2018 as the station entered a transition period ahead of the launch of Hits Radio at 6am on Monday 4 June 2018. The first song played on air - decided by an online poll via the Manchester Evening News - was "Greatest Day" by Take That.
The former Key branding was retained by the sister AM station, which rebranded as Key Radio on the same day as the launch of Hits Radio. The following January, the Key branding was retired when the station became part of the Greatest Hits Radio network.
Hits Radio Network
Initially known as the Big City Network, and latterly Bauer Place and Bauer City 1, networked programming on Bauer's local FM stations was initially confined to off-peak night time and weekend timeslots.
In February 2014, the stations adopted a standardised audio identity package, produced by Wise Buddah, while retaining their local station branding. Two networked shows were also introduced across most stations - Old Skool and Anthems and In: Demand - produced from Key 103 in Manchester.
Separate schedules for England and Scotland were introduced in August 2015, followed in July 2017 by two networked mid-morning shows for most of the FM stations, produced from Manchester and Glasgow respectively.
Local weekend programming for most of the English stations was replaced with additional network output in July 2019, followed in September 2019 by the introduction of a networked Drivetime show. The Scottish network of stations was unaffected.
In February 2017, the Free Radio group of stations in the West Midlands began carrying off-peak programming from the Northern England network, replacing most of its own regional output from Birmingham.
Gem in the East Midlands joined the network in July 2019 to carry late night and overnight programming from Manchester.
The launch of Hits Radio in 2018 saw the station added to DAB multiplex transmissions in a number of local areas - mostly those served by Arqiva's NOWdigital multiplexes, as well as being made available on the CE Birmingham multiplex (replacing 'Magic Soul') and in stereo in London (replacing Kerrang! Radio and Absolute Radio 70s, which were removed on 23 May and replaced with a Hits Radio placeholder).
Hits Radio replaced The Hits Radio on Bauer's DAB multiplexes and on the Arqiva-operated commercial Freeview multiplex. In addition, the new network was provided over the Sky satellite TV platform, on a channel previously occupied by Absolute Radio 70s.
Bauer operates two separate Hits Radio networks, one serving Northern England and the Midlands and another serving Scotland.
Most of the stations broadcast their own local breakfast shows from 6-10am each weekday - in most cases, these are produced and broadcast from the originating station's studios. In Scotland, the seven stations also air their own local Drivetime shows from 4-7pm on weekdays along with afternoon shows on Saturdays (2-6pm) and Sundays (12-4pm).
The majority of Hits Radio's programming on its two services are produced and broadcast from the Castle Quay studios at Castlefield in Manchester - both versions carry the same output, apart from opt-outs for local news, traffic and advertising in Manchester.
- In the Midlands and Northern England, most of the network's output is produced and broadcast from Hits Radio's Manchester headquarters.
- In Scotland, bespoke national programming is produced and broadcast from the studios of Clyde 1 in Clydebank, near Glasgow, along with some output from Forth 1 in Edinburgh.
- Overnight shows and The UK Chart Show on Sunday Afternoons are broadcast across all Midlands, Northern England and Scotland stations.
All local stations in the network carry their own news bulletins hourly from 6am to 7pm on weekdays and from 7am to 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Headlines are broadcast on the half-hour during weekday breakfast and drivetime shows, alongside traffic bulletins.
Hourly bulletins on both versions of Hits Radio (national and Manchester) air from 5:55am to 6:55pm on weekdays, alongside headlines at 25 minutes past the hour during Hits Breakfast on weekdays.
At weekends, bespoke networked bulletins air from 2pm (until 6pm on Saturdays and 4pm on Sundays). These are produced by Clyde 1 for all the Scottish stations, while the Leeds newsroom at Radio Aire produces bulletins for the English stations. National news updates also air on the national version of Hits Radio in place of the local bulletins for Manchester.
At all other times, mainly evening & overnight, hourly national bulletins originate from Sky News Radio in London.
Opt-outs and variations
- CFM airs local programming each weekday from 6am-7pm.
- Clyde 1's Superscoreboard airs live football commentaries at weekends throughout the season, alongside a nightly magazine show on weekday evenings from 6-8pm.
- Clyde 1 opts out of Hits Party on Saturday evenings to air an extra edition of The GBXperience from 6-10pm.
- Forth 1 and Radio Borders air Super Scoreboard sports shows on Saturday afternoons from 2-6pm - with the latter providing in-depth rugby union coverage.
- Free airs two separate breakfast shows - one for Birmingham, the Black Country and Shropshire, and a second for Coventry, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
- Gem carries its own local programming, opting into the network for Hits Chilled and overnight shows from Sunday - Thursday, as well as The UK Chart Show and The Throwback on Sundays.
- Metro Radio and TFM simulcast Steve & Karen's Breakfast Show on weekdays from 6-10am.
- MFR and Radio Borders retain their own local daytime shows on weekdays from 10am-2pm.
- Radio City airs local weekend shows from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, alongside the 'Legends Phone-In' on Monday and Thursday evenings at 6.30pm during the football season.
- Bauer City Network 3 launches on local DAB Radio Today, 19 January 2015
- "The Hits to replace Bauer's City 3 network", RadioToday, 2017-08-29
- Bauer to launch new national radio station, Bauer Media, 18 April 2018
- Key 103 to become Hits Radio as part of major rebrand, Prolific North, 18 April 2018
- Key 103 to rebrand as Hits Radio and go national, Radio Today, 19 April 2018
- Key 2 on AM and DAB rebrands as Key Radio, Radio Today, 4 June 2018
- Daytime sharing arrives at Bauer stations, Radio Today, 31 January 2014
- Bauer brings local radio back to Scotland, Radio Today, 28 July 2015
- Networked mid-morning show for Bauer stations, Radio Today, 12 June 2017
- Hits Radio Network stations to drop local weekend programmes, Radio Today, 30 May 2019
- Bauer to network drivetime across 11 licences in North and Midlands, Radio Today, 5 August 2019
- Gem to take Hits Radio strapline and night programmes, Radio Today, 8 July 2019