ARN’s WSFM and Nova’s SmoothFM involved in ‘interesting tussle’ for audience

Australian Radio Network WSFM is set to “battle” it out with Nova Entertainment’s SmoothFM in Sydney in the year ahead, with WSFM looking to retain the audience that floats between the two stations.


In Sydney, WSFM claimed a Monday to Sunday audience share of 6.9% while SmoothFM retains an easy lead with a share of 9.7%; however, Duncan Campbell, ARN’s national content director, expects an “interesting tussle” between the two stations in 2017.

Speaking with Mumbrella, Campbell said the highlight of survey seven’s results was seeing the “early signs” of SmoothFM’s ratings figures settle back, with the station down 1.1 share points in people aged 40-54 and down 2.9 amongst listeners aged 55-64.

“I always felt that Smooth in Sydney was slightly overcooked. If this becomes a trend, and I expect it will, that will see Smooth settle back to where it should be, and with the improvements we’re putting in place for WSFM should see that station overall move to a healthier position in Sydney,” he said.

Campbell: wants to be number two in Melbourne in 2016.

Duncan Campbell: Wants KiisFM and WSFM in Sydney to be the top two FM stations

Campbell’s comments follow on from those made after survey six when he argued Smooth in Sydney was “slightly overcooked”.

He said ARN is currently focusing on the “music challenge” with WSFM and Smooth.

“We have a very strong breakfast show, Jonesy and Amanda are a heritage show, they remained steady today on a 7% share, number two FM in Sydney,” Campbell said.

“We’ve spent a fair bit of time fine-tuning the music and working on how that is scheduled and positioning that effectively. That will help us a lot as we try to retain the cumulative audience that moves between those two radio stations. I have a positive feeling about WS as we move into the later part of this year and the early part of next year.”

However, Nova Entertainment group programme director, Paul Jackson, is largely unconcerned about WSFM, arguing SmoothFM is racing its own race as it is quite different to the other stations.

Paul Jackson:

Paul Jackson: Smooth is beautifully well done

Referencing Smooth’s Sydney consistent share, he said: “We’ve had 9.8, 9.8, 9.8 and 9.7 – I would think it is not overcooked, if anything it is beautifully well done.

Jackson said he was not “particularly concerned” with WSFM.

“Their numbers are down .8 – it’s really a 6.9% share compared with a 9.7% share; there’s significant gap between the radio stations,” he said.

“Both stations do a different style of output, the conversation always comes back to WS and Smooth but WS isn’t really my concern anymore than Kiis is or Nova is from a Smooth perspective. Smooth runs its own race, it’s in its own clear water, its own clear space really in terms of what it does. It’s based on mood, emotion, very different to what you would do with WS.”

However while Campbell admits WSFM isn’t competing with SmoothFM “at the moment”, he believes there is a “real battle” ahead between the stations.

“Smooth has certainly had a strong year. It’s over-inflated those numbers and given the audience sharing between the two, it’s taking a little bit of license to suggest Smooth is operating as an island and that he’s unconcerned about anyone else,” he said.

“We are re-grouping and improving WS. As far as I’m concerned there’s a real battle on to retain that floating, cumulative audience that moves between those two radio stations. We want WSFM to be the number two FM station in Sydney, with Kiis number one; that’s our goal and there’s a real battle on.

“Smooth has the edge at the moment. It’s going to be an interesting tussle next year,” he added.

Meanwhile, Triple M is unconcerned about its poor performance in Sydney, confident the channel will recover from its “bad bounce”.


Mike Fitzpatrick: Confident in the Triple M product

Mike Fitzpatrick, Triple M’s head of content, said they had “anticipated a bad survey for Triple M this round”.

“It’s such a low cumulative station, so when we do get a bad bounce it takes a few surveys to trade out of that. The good news is we’ll have a better survey in survey eight,” he said.

Triple M in Sydney delivered a Monday to Sunday audience share of 4.9%, with the the breakfast show posting a share of 5.1% and the drive show Merrick and Australia reporting a share of 5%.

“The breakfast show, The Grill Team in Sydney is sounding as good as it ever has. Those four boys are without a doubt the funniest breakfast show in Sydney on any given day and now we’ve added Emma Freedman into that mix, it’s such a broader sound as well,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I have nothing but confidence that the show will continue to grow, let’s not forget it was the number two breakfast show earlier this year. You don’t go from number two to being where they are when you haven’t changed anything, it’s just the way the books are.

“I’m confident in the product, in the team and I’m confident that we’ll see those great results in the next 12 months.”

On Merrick Watts’ performance in the drive slot, Fitzpatrick said Triple M will look at the show to see how they can improve its ratings.

“Merrick is an interesting one, the show has gone up in Sydney; Sydney is Merrick’s strongest market. It’s a very different show from all the other drive shows in the market. We have some great talent on it, whether or not its consistent enough, we have a new co-host every day and perhaps we need to look at having one regular co-host,” he said.

“I certainly have no problems with Merrick as a performer; the content he delivers is great. It’s a very strong environment when you have Hamish & Andy on one station, you’ve got Kate, Tim and Marty on another and Hughesy and Kate on another – all heritage brands, all great shows.

“Merrick is working away creating great content but it’s very hard to cut–through. We’ll look at that show and see what we can do to help him grow his ratings around the country.”

When pushed on if Watts’ would remain in the slot, Fitzpatrick said: “Yeah, I don’t want to ever get rid of anyone. No major changes. We’ll have a look at it and see what we can do.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.