‘Consistency’ is the word at Nova Entertainment, as Paul Jackson hails ‘big shows’

With #1 stations in Brisbane and Perth, a new national drive show trending upwards, and consistent results elsewhere, Nova Entertainment's Paul Jackson is more than pleased with the network's end to the year. He recaps 2020 with Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson and explains why changes at other networks are an opportunity for Nova in 2021.

Nova Entertainment is the only of the three major FM networks not to announce any changes to flagship metro shows ahead of 2021, and with relatively strong results across the board in survey eight, chief programming and marketing officer Paul Jackson is very comfortable with where things sit.

“We’re at a different stage to some of the other networks… we’re not building new shows and hoping they’ll connect,” he tells Mumbrella. “We’ve got the consistency, we’ve built the big shows. We’re very loyal to them and we are to our audiences as well.”

Nova Entertainment chief programming & marketing officer Paul Jackson

Last time we spoke, Jackson told Mumbrella he thought many of the major networks would be looking to use 2021 as a reset after a coronavirus-affected year, which saw a string of cancelled GfK ratings surveys.

His predictions have come to pass, largely at Southern Cross Austereo who are launching multiple new shows. But Jackson is happy that Nova continues to run its own race.

In Sydney, Nova’s Fitzy and Wippa end the year rating a solid 7.3%, and with Smoothfm still rating just under a 10% share, Jackson is happy where things are, and isn’t concerned about fighting KIIS FM’s Kyle and Jackie O for top spot.

“We’ve got very strong stations in Sydney, a very big loyal audience. At breakfast time the cumes [cumulative audience] are actually very close at times between all those stations.”

Melbourne will be one market that Jackson is keeping a closer eye on. While still performing consistently well on cumulative audience, Nova 100 could probably be performing better than a 5.6% share, and while Smoothfm had an excellent book gaining 1.3 points, it is still off the pace behind Gold on FM overall.

“You see 3AW still up around the 20 share mark. In Melbourne, it’s now finally not mandatory to wear a mask, but you can still feel the anticipation, the nervousness, still around which is perfectly understandable,” he says.

“So I think we’re still in that kind of moment coming out of a lockdown. In terms of habits, it’s very transitional. Nobody’s back at work in the office, til the new year. So you can see that reflected in the numbers.”

So if Nova won’t be making any changes to flagship metro shows in the new year, perhaps it’s worth casting an eye over how the few changes they’ve made in 2020 are going.

Ben and Liam reached #1 in their first year

Former Triple J pair Ben and Liam arrived at Nova Adelaide this year amid reasonable fanfare, and although the end the year in fifth overall with 9.7%, and third among FM breakfast shows, Jackson is pleased with the progress they made in their first year back in the market having previously been the #1 show on FM.

“It was spectacularly quick for them to carve out the #1 position this year [on FM breakfast]. If you measure it for listeners under 50, Ben and Liam are the clear, dominant radio show.

“You’d be hard pushed to say Ben and Liam haven’t had a fabulous year, and their product isn’t going very well.”

Australia Radio Network is yet to announce a replacement for Jodie Oddy on Mix 102.3 breakfast. She departs the station after 13 years and many, many #1 ratings wins. Like any good programmer, Jackson believes his talent can seize an opportunity that naturally comes when a heritage show comes to the end of its lifespan.

“It’s a market where there’s a bit of transition going on, which means there’s an opportunity for these guys [Ben and Liam],” he says. “They’ve had one year in Adelaide and they’ve integrated themselves brilliantly. We’re thrilled to have them on our network and they’ve got a long, big future ahead of them.

The other major change Nova made in 2020 was to shake up the lineup on national drive, after the departure of Marty Sheargold from an utterly dominant Kate, Tim and Marty show forced the network’s hand.

In came Joel Creasey, and with him, a couple of survey dips. But in survey eight, Kate, Tim and Joel grew share in every market except Adelaide, where they remained the clear #1 drive show regardless.

“So many people said to me that they expected us to do something different, and they weren’t sure if Joel would work in that slot. Others said Marty fans won’t like this new dynamic. But I suspect not much of that is very true, because when you listen with your own ears you get drawn into the theatre of what they’re doing.

“It’s a great show, probably more upbeat than it previously was. It’s probably changed the dynamic of Kate and Tim a bit too, so it’s like having a brand new show again in drive time, so a whole new lease of life.

“I would think the coming 12 months for them will be outstanding and we will probably get our highest every drive numbers.”

Kate, Tim and Joel finished the year strong

Meanwhile, Nova Entertainment’s consistency at #1 in Perth and Brisbane feels so predictable, but the network recorded #1 survey results for Nova 93.7 and Nova 106.9 respectively.

Jackson reiterates that the network’s strategy will be to keep up the consistency as things change around them.

“We’ve got no change on Nova, got no change on smooth. So I think that’s probably the greatest strength for us that you can see that reflected in the numbers.

“And Brisbane were absolutely dominant this year. And then at the end of this year we had some of our best performances ever there and it is our best performance ever in Perth.”

He summed up: “When you’ve got enough of people coming through our radio stations, you just gotta keep engaging them, understanding what they want.”


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