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Chris Evans launches new Virgin Radio breakfast show

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Evans was pictured outside the Virgin Radio studios in south London before his first show

Chris Evans has launched his brand new breakfast show on Virgin Radio.

It’s his first since he exited BBC Radio 2 before Christmas after nine years of fronting the breakfast show there.

“I say, this is very exciting,” he said as he opened the show at 06:30 on Monday morning.

“It’s so great to be back on Virgin and I have to say it’s a real treat, we are blessed, we couldn’t be more grateful,” he added.

Singer Richard Ashcroft was in the studio with Evans to play the first song live – Lucky Man by his former band The Verve.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the first song I’m going to play,” Evans said before he introduced the singer.

“But I press buttons, I don’t play songs, musicians play songs. Why don’t we get a musician to play a song live, how about Richard Ashcroft?”

Fay Ripley, Paul Whitehouse, Romesh Ranganathan and Rob Beckett are also due to make guest appearances on Evans’s first show.

Evans’s new show, which will run weekdays from 06:30-10:00, is unusual for a commercial radio station in that it will not feature adverts.

Instead, the show will be sponsored by Sky, with Evans promoting their programmes during his slot.

Many of Evans’s former team members have followed him to Virgin for the new show – including sports reporter Vassos Alexander and travel presenter Rachel Horne.

But his former newsreader Moira Stuart is not joining them, as she’s instead moving to Classic FM.

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Evans urged listeners to retune their radios to receive Virgin in a promotional advert

The Virgin Radio Evans is joining is not the same one he left in 2001. That station was rebranded to Absolute Radio in 2008.

Instead, he is joining a new iteration of Virgin Radio, which was launched in March 2016. Edith Bowman was the first host of breakfast, where she remained for 18 months.

Sam Pinkham and Amy Voce then took over the slot. Both are now moving to different shows on the station with Evans’s arrival.

Virgin’s other current presenters include Matt Richardson and former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler.

The launch of Virgin Radio was so recent that, as part of the marketing campaign for the breakfast show, Evans has encouraged listeners to retune their radios, as many may not currently receive the station.

Virgin currently attracts around 414,000 listeners a week – but that figure is likely to jump given Evans’s profile.

Evans’s first show on Virgin comes a week after Zoe Ball made her debut as Evans’s successor on BBC Radio 2, becoming the first woman to host the coveted breakfast slot.

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Zoe Ball has taken over the Radio 2 breakfast show, which Evans hosted for nine years

The two will go head-to-head in the battle for listeners for the first time since 1997, when Ball hosted the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show as Evans made his debut on the previous iteration of Virgin.

Last year, Evans was the second highest-paid star at the BBC, earning £1.6 million per year.

There have been reports that he will earn more than that from Virgin but he has denied that his move was about the money.

When he announced his departure and explained his decision in September 2018, he said: “Some of us are mountain climbers [but] if you get to the top of your favourite mountain and you stay there, you become an observer. I want to keep climbing.”

He has also suggested he will take part in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing, which will see him interviewed regularly by his new rival Ball, who hosts the spin-off show It Takes Two.

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