Breakfast radio competition to heat up as stations tweak next year’s lineups

With two radio surveys remaining this year, it looks like there'll be room for movement in the breakfast time slot, particularly in Melbourne. Mumbrella's Zoe Samios rounds up programming bosses' views on each network's performance, and why consistency will be key for the breakfast shows in 2018.

The breakfast time slot is unarguably the most important show for a radio station. It sets the tone, and kick-starts the audience for the rest of the day.

And while there’s still no news on some of the expected changes to radio talent with just two surveys left this year, programming bosses are revamping their breakfast shows in the hope of growing audiences ahead of the new year.

Macquarie Media remains a firm leader in Melbourne and Sydney with no likely changes to the line-up. But the FM bandwidth will see a shake up over the next few months which could set a precedent for 2018.

Across the five metro markets on the FM bandwidth, ARN and Nova have been the most consistent, with ARN’s Mix102.3 taking the top breakfast spot in Adelaide at 12.4%, and Kiis106.5 and WSFM neck and neck in in Sydney, with a share of 10.3%.

Meanwhile, Nova won Brisbane and Perth FM breakfast, with shares of 13.4% and 14.2% respectively.

In Melbourne, SCA’s FoxFM breakfast show won the FM battle with a share of 9%.

But there’s change due in Melbourne, the most imminent the addition of Wil Anderson to Triple M Melbourne’s breakfast show. He starts on October 23, taking over from Mick Molloy.

Triple M’s Hot breakfast with McGuire, Molloy and Darcy was 4th this survey, with a share of 7.1%.

Triple M’s head of content Mike Fitzpatrick admits that while the Melbourne survey wasn’t “great”, he was confident the station remains in good shape.

Mike Fitzpatrick says Melbourne breakfast needed a shake up

“We’ve got Wil Anderson starting on the breakfast show in two weeks, we’ve got Mick and Jane starting on drive in two weeks so there’s no concerns about Triple M Melbourne,” he tells Mumbrella.

Fitzpatrick admits the show, which has been running with McGuire for the last eight years, needed a shake up despite its consistent ratings.

He added he was confident that Anderson, McGuire and co-host Darcy will gel.

“This has not happened overnight, we’ve been working on this since late last year and Eddie and Wil get on brilliantly,” he explains.

“Any breakfast show that lasts this long will start to find their listeners start punching around. So being able to split the difference, being able to put Mick into drive and have Wil as an exciting new offering in breakfast will certainly buoy the Triple M Melbourne ratings in coming months.”

Meanwhile over at Melbourne’s Hit network, Dave Thornton has departed FoxFM breakfast.

The show, hosted by Fifi Box, Brendan Fevola and Byron Cooke, climbed 1.1 ratings points in the latest survey, putting them comfortably ahead of the competition with a share of 9%.

Hit Network’s head of content Gemma Fordham describes the show as a “market leader.”

Fordham was most pleased with Melbourne’s results

“The show has consistently delivered this year and that hasn’t changed,” she says. “We had one book throughout this year so far where it dropped a little lower than we would have liked but it bounced straight back up.

She adds: “It’s a juggernaut in the city, and people love that show. Fifi, Bev and Byron which has obviously been with Dave has a great show and they work hard at it.

“They show immense passion for radio and the show and that comes through the speakers.

“I’m confident that Fox will overall average out at being number one majority of the year. I am very confident that the lineup we have for next year will continue to have dominance.”

Last survey, Fordham told ARN’s national content director Duncan Campbell to focus on his own breakfast show in Melbourne – Matt Tilley and Meshel Laurie – after he said there were too many breakfast hosts over at FoxFM.

Matt and Meshel, on ARN’s Kiis, were sixth this survey, down 0.3 ratings points to 6.1%.

But Campbell remains adamant the FoxFM’s show was “too busy”, suggesting Thornton’s departure is an illustration of the problem.

Campbell won’t comment on what plans he has for Kiis in Melbourne

“With Fox you have to factor in the brand and it’s probably one of the few radio stations where the brand is incredibly strong. And really for Melbourne, tends to be the default,” he says.

“The breakfast show did have an uplift, but part of that would be a correction because 7.9s, Fox breakfast is not the norm. The station has returned to normal levels but I still maintain four or five people on a breakfast show is too much. They are obviously taking in steps to reduce that, with the announcement Dave Thornton is going.

“Less is more. It was just too busy. That was my personal view and I think that was vindicated by the decision to move Dave on.”

But it doesn’t appear smooth sailing for ARN, with Campbell suggesting changes for Kiis in Melbourne are imminent, which could shake up the market and ratings.

“Kiis has been very consistent and has had very good cumes (cumulative audience), but just trying to create a level of stickiness is terms of time spent listening has been a challenge for us, but there’s certainly a foundation there,” he says.

“There are plans we are going to roll out for both stations (Gold and Kiis) but particularly for Kiis. When we’re are ready to announce those we will. It’s going to be exciting and it will really make us a lot more competitive in 2018.”

Campbell declined to comment whether his plans meant talent changes in the market. Speculation has mounted that New Zealand drive show hosts PJ Harding and Jase Hawkins could take over the Melbourne breakfast line up.

“You might think that but I can’t comment,” he says.

However, he adds: “When we do make the announcements it’ll be seen as very positive and progressive in many ways.”

Like Melbourne, other metro cities shifted in favour of long-standing breakfast show hosts in this week’s survey.

In Sydney, Macquarie Media’s 2GB breakfast show with Alan Jones won its 107th consecutive survey, with a 12.6% share.

For Macquarie Media’s chief operating officer Adam Lang, the success comes from the show being both a news talk format, combined with an opinionated presenter.

Lang’s 2GB is an ongoing success

“It’s very stimulating listening,” he says.

On FM, Brendan ‘Jonesy’ Jones and Amanda Keller, who recently renewed their contract for another three years, tied as the top FM breakfast show with Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O – FM’s leading breakfast show in Sydney – with a 10.3% share.

Both shows were ahead of their nearest FM competitor Triple M’s The Grill Team with Gus Worland, Mark Geyer, Matthew Johns and Chris Page, which had a breakfast share of 7%.

Campbell says it is the second time ARN’s two networks have tied in Sydney breakfast, the first being the first survey of Kyle and Jackie O’s time at KiisFM.

“It’s almost like a duopoly dream, except we’d like the station to be number one and number two or equal number one as well really, but certainly breakfast wise you can’t ask for much more,” he says.

One of the biggest breakfast declines in Sydney was Nova96.9’s Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald & Michael ‘Wippa’ Wipfli, which dipped 1.2 ratings points.

But Paul Jackson, Nova’s group programme director is optimistic about the duo’s future, with a marketing campaign set to commence.

Paul Jackson says he’ll review the breakfast show

“We’ll keep working on all the things we do with the breakfast show and with dataroom, and live events and Smallzy. So nothing in essence changes,” he says.

In fifth place for FM breakfast was 2dayFM’s Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen, with a 3.3% share, a dip of 0.3 ratings points.

Despite the poor ratings, Jackson still views them as a competitor.

“I see everyone as a competitor, everyone that has an audience always has a chance,” he says.

“It was only five years ago we started Smooth. We had audiences that were lower or about the same as 2dayFM right now, so ultimately anything can happen.”

Fordham is optimistic about the future of the program, but says she is realistic with measurement.

Sydney’s cumulative audience figures. Source: GfK (Click to enlarge)

“When we’ve looked at the numbers it hasn’t lost that much cume so we’ve got a little work to do around how long people are listeners for. But we continue to market the show.

“We are very much aware that it is going to be a long term gain for awareness and we know that the show is going better and better,” she says.

“There’s not a hell of a lot of faith in the 2day brand because we’ve been through four breakfast shows in four years. We are aware of that and we certainly aren’t going to be making any changes.

“We have the marketing plan rolled out through until next year so it’s just about trial, and trial comes from awareness.”

Brisbane breakfast saw Nova 106.9’s maintain its lead over other FM stations, with Ash Bradnam, Kip Wightman and David ‘Luttsy’ Lutteral rising to a 13.4% audience share, just behind ABC’s 13.5%.

Ash, Kip and Luttsy’s success were just behind the ABC

The Nova trio managed to knock 97.3FM’s Bianca, Terry and Bob out of contention for breakfast leadership, after they fell 1.9 ratings points to a 10.1% audience share, coming third with Triple M’s Greg Martin, Ed Kavalee and Robin Bailey.

Fitzpatrick is particularly pleased with Brisbane’s results.

“Brisbane was excellent. Our breakfast show in Brisbane is number two, despite all of Duncan’s crowing last survey than 97.3FM was back on top,” he says.

Brisbane’s cumulative audience figures. Source: GfK (click to enlarge)

“I am really glad to see Martin, Robbo and Ed at number two in Brisbane. It’s a strong show.”

Campbell however, was quite disappointed, saying he wasn’t happy with the breakfast position.

“We’d like 97.3 to be further ahead than they are at the moment. I don’t really know what has gone on there,” he says.

“I think there’s still a bit of settling going on but we aren’t happy with that position there. We want it to be stronger than it is and we’ll take a look at that over the next few days.”

Amid much speculation, SCA and ARN remain tight lipped on changes to their drive time programming.

There’s still no news on Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes & Kate Langbroek, who are still in negotiations with ARN, but at least the announcement of Hamish Blake & Andy Lee’s replacement is imminent, with names of the new hosts to be revealed shortly.

Hughesy & Kate are still in negotiations with ARN

Across the five metro cities, Nova Entertainment dominated once again, with Nova’s SmoothFM with Byron Webb taking out FoxFM’s Hamish & Andy, and winning the top spot in Melbourne an audience share of 10.8%.

In Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, Nova’s Kate Ritchie, Tim Blackwell & Marty Sheargold won the FM drive slot with audiences shares of 17.6%, 14.4% and 14.6% respectively.

In Sydney, according to the Monday – Friday 4pm-7pm audience share provided to Mumbrella, Nova’s Kate, Tim & Marty lost out to KiisFM’s Hughesy & Kate.

Jackson tells Mumbrella according to the 4pm-6pm ratings, which is the duration of the drive show programs, Nova remains number one.

However he admits Hughesy & Kate are doing well at the moment.

“Obviously though, Hughesy and Kate benefit from a big number from Hughesy’s breakfast show and therefore they do well overall,” he says.

“They’ve done better in that market than elsewhere and obviously they’ve got it going at the moment in Sydney.”

But Campbell says the result has put them in good shape for 2018.

“That’s the first time they’ve got the number one FM drive slot in Sydney which is great, and they actually had quite a good book around the country so it’s a good result for them,” he says.

“I think the halo that was around Hamish & Andy is fading as people tend to anticipate who is going to be replacing them. But our discussions with Hughesy & Kate are ongoing so it’s a good result today for those guys.

“From an ARN perspective, this sort of resurgence and realignment is really positioning us well for 2018 so we are in good shape.”

Hamish & Andy did not win the sixth survey in a single market.

Jackson says it will be “really difficult” for a new show to compete in Sydney.

“You’ve basically got two big entertainment drive shows in Kate, Tim & Marty and Hughesy & Kate, and they are the leaders.

Hamish & Andy to depart by the end of this year

“And I think we’ve seen this year Smooth be number one in drive, WS have been close to it, but predominantly it has been Nova and occasionally it’s Kiis.

“It’s very difficult when you have that dynamic going on for a fifth or a sixth station to really get in there and Triple M do a good number with a different type of audience, looking for a different type of output.”

In Melbourne, SmoothFM knocked FoxFM from the top FM drive show spot, which was unprecedented given Hamish & Andy’s popularity in their hometown.

Melbourne cumulative audience figures. Source: GfK (click to enlarge)

Jackson says the result wasn’t just a reflection of Byron Webb’s effort but the whole Smooth FM station in Melbourne.

“The whole tide rises for the Smooth product and it will all come down together or rise together and I think we have a breakfast show doing its best numbers ever, and it just feeds through the rest of the day,” he says.

But Fordham is extremely confident the new show will perform.

“We do have replacements organised and we will be announcing them imminently,” she says.

“I am very confident that the lineup we have for next year will continue to have dominance.”


Byron Webb has helped SmoothFM’s rating success in Melbourne


Looking at Smooth FM’s Melbourne result, Campbell believes the overall result, not just drive, is “overinflated”.

“I am not saying it doesn’t deserve to be the number one station, but it’s a pretty big figure. It’s interesting that it happened and Gold held its own, and obviously Fox did as well,” he says.

“Gold is a real sleeper, I think it has a real amount of potential. It has a cume of nearly a million – 957,000, and strong numbers particularly across the work day.”

In the Monday to Sunday 10+ audience share, ARN’s WSFM took the top Sydney FM spot with a share of 9.8%, while in Adelaide Mix102.3FM took the win with its 12.4% share.

However according to the cumulative audience figures, Kiis came out on top in Sydney with 967,000, followed by Nova’s cumulative audience of 949,000.

In Adelaide, Mix’s cumulative audience was 331,000.

Adelaide’s cumulative audience. Source: GfK (click to enlarge)

In Brisbane and Melbourne, Nova Entertainment dominated, with Nova winning Brisbane with a share of managing a 13.5% share and a cumulative audience of 587,000 and SmoothFM in Melbourne conquering FM stations with a 10.5% share.

SmoothFM’s cumulative audience was behind FoxFM’s 1.117m and GoldFM’s 957,000 in Melbourne, at 947,000.

Over in Perth, Triple M’s Mix94.5 took the top spot with a share of 13.7% but didn’t beat Nova in cumulative audience, with an audience of 495,000 – slightly behind Nova’s 558,000. Fitzpatrick attributes Mix94.5’s ongoing success to the brand.

“The brand is very very strong. It’s a safe brand for parents to listen to with their kids in the car and it’s been a consistent performer for years now,” he says.

Perth’s cumulative audience. Source: GfK (click to enlarge)

“You know what you are going to get. While it’s part of the Triple M stable it’s its own station, it’s not as male-skewed, it’s not called Triple M, but people in Perth know what they are going to get when they turn on Mix.”

But in Perth, Macquarie Media is hoping to eventually take the top spot, according to Lang.

With a new lineup, he hopes one day Macquarie Media’s 6PR will dominate overall, like 3AW and 2GB do in Melbourne and Sydney respectively.

2GB’s share was 12.6% this survey while 3AW’s Monday to Sunday share was 16.2%.

Their cumulative audiences were 579,000 and 686,000 respectively.

“We’ve done a lot in Perth in the last twelve months including building brand new offices and studios which will officially open next week,” he says.

“Having a strong station format is vital and the news talk format is that. The next part is having a breakfast show which gives you a solid foundation to lead through the whole day. It’s true in radio across the board, it’s just as true if not more true in talk radio,” he says.

“It’ll take some time. It usually takes around three years to build a habit with the audience.”

But he says it’s 6PR’s performance, which saw a modest 0.6 rating point climb, was good sign at the 12 month mark.

In Melbourne, Macquarie Media’s 3AW which took the top gong in Melbourne once again, creating its biggest lead in more than a decade.

Lang says while pleased with the results, it’s important to “never be comfortable” despite being in the lead.

“Ross Stevenson while he is now delivering over 20 share, that’s one in five Melbournians listening, he is wondering what the other four in five are doing,” he says.

Lang says events like the recent AFL finals help build new audiences for the station: “We tend to find audiences come to 3AW for the first time, often for an exceptional news event when they know they should tune in. But often because they’ve tried our sport coverage and they like it so they stay for longer.”

For ARN, the strength of the sixth survey’s result is due to the company’s strength of strategy.

Campbell says: “It’s sort of testament to the strength of strategy we deploy into these radio stations and at a time when competition has never been fiercer really we have a good set of results, and obviously there’s some challenges within that but overall ARN continues to punch well above its weight.”

But with ARN and SCA still with changes to their lineup to announce, Nova’s Jackson believes consistency will give them a strong 2018 start.

“Play the long game is really what we always say in here,” he says.

“If we can get the start of our year right, and the marketing and the positioning and everything right, and events and so on, with the same group of presenters – that familiarity whilst other people are starting new shows, you’ve got to have a chance.”


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.