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Dave Cameron on ongoing lockdowns and how 2Day FM breakfast will gain traction

SCA's chief content officer Dave Cameron is able to point to plenty of bright spots across the Hit and Triple M networks in this survey, but in this extended chat with Zanda Wilson, explains that there are some key areas of focus, and admits that it could take two years for Hughesy, Ed and Erin to rate in Sydney.

One of the benefits of having multiple far-reaching radio networks is that there’s usually some positives to take away on ratings day, and for Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), there was plenty to celebrate despite some key stations performing below par.

SCA chief content officer Dave Cameron is rarely phased by stations that may be underperforming , and chatting with Mumbrella after GfK’s fourth survey of the year, he was again unperturbed by where Sydney’s 2Day FM is sitting.

Cameron says 2Day FM’s new breakfast show may take two years to resonate

Hughesy, Ed and Erin have a 3.3% share, as does the station overall, but they didn’t fall further this survey. Cameron reiterates what he told me in December last year, that it’s a multi-year proposition before the show is really expected to disrupt the deeply entrenched habits in the Sydney market.

“We are in a market with a lot of legacy shows with a lot of loyal listening and not much movement. They’ve all got really settled audience profiles.

“So we’re entering this market with a brand new product, and it’s just going to take time. [We’re expecting] it’s going take all of two years plus to be able to get traction in a market where there hasn’t been much audience movement over the past decade. There’s no fast track.”

So what can the show, and 2Day FM more widely, be doing in the meantime while they wait for patterns to change?

“We’re focussed on continuing to deliver a good product that’s getting stronger every day. We will continue to play a consistency game of doing something well for a long period of time,” Cameron says.

Cameron also reveals that Hughesy isn’t yet living in Sydney full-time, which was the plan when the show was announced. He is currently in Sydney in lockdown, and intermittent lockdowns have prevented him getting his family out of Melbourne.

“Ironically he can’t actually get back to Melbourne at the moment. He’s been living between both, depending on when the borders have been closed. He was always going to transition over the course of the year.”

There wasn’t much to write home about for SCA in Melbourne either. Marty Sheargold lost 1.2 points to hit 4.6% in breakfast, and Fifi, Fev and Nick down 1.1 to a 6.8% share.

Multiple weeks of the last survey period took place with Melbourne in lockdown, and Cameron points to the loss of weekday commuters during that period as a factor to why most FM stations lost share.

Cameron says Sheargold is shedding old Hot Breakfast listeners

“Marty [Sheargold] grew his cume in a market where other competitors including Fox went down, during another three week lockdown. Cars [were] stripped off the road for a significant portion of last survey.

‘You’ve seen with us [Fox FM], KIIS, Nova, with Triple M have all lost share in breakfast because that commuter audience was gone again. It was not as severe as the last lockdown but it has an immediate impact when you take cars off roads.”

Cameron says that he’s happy with the way Sheargold is tracking on Triple M Melbourne breakfast nonetheless.

“We are really happy with Marty and we are also changing an audience profile. There is a different audience that is a Marty Sheargold fan compared to what there was on The Hot Breakfast over 11 years. They bring very different audiences and are very different shows.”

He also posits that the most recent lockdown was different to 2020 lockdowns, as it did not result in listeners gravitating towards AM radio and news talk.

“ABC picked up a little bit but there was certainly no growth on 3AW. So I don’t think we saw this huge tsunami over to newstalk like we were seeing last September. All we saw was some at home listening that might have gone to Smoothfm,” Cameron says.

“What that tells me is people are probably a bit exhausted by news, they haven’t been able to get on the road. They’ve probably chosen different options during that home period. We saw that the moment the lockdown ended last year, Fox rebounded really well, and I fully expect that that will be the case this time.

Some of those listeners may have even taken the opportunity to check out SCA’s new home of audio and app, LiSTNR.

“We’re seeing really significant results for LiSTNR over the last month. Can you correlate that to people being at home and not commuting as much? Possibly.

“We need to dig down and understand that a little more to be able to make that direct kind of association. But yes we’ve absolutely seen some great growth in the last month or so.”

Cameron says Melbourne’s lockdowns saw listeners skip their commute and listen at home

There were some definite positives for SCA across other markets as well. In Adelaide, SAFM had an incremental 0.8 point increase to 7.9%, though is still a way-off from competing for top spot. On breakfast, Bec, Cosi and Lehmo have an 8.6% share (also up 0.8).

Among those above them are Roo and Ditts on Triple M, who, after a bumper third book fell by 0.7 points to record a still very respectable 10.5%, making them second on FM only behind ARN’s Mix 102.3.

“[SAFM] had a bit of a negative bump last survey. That’s part of the trials and tribulations of results, you get a few random results,” Cameron suggests.

“It’s bouncing back and we feel like SAFM has momentum again. I think what you’ll see in Adelaide towards the end of the year is a really tight race for breakfast in Adelaide.”

More good results for Mix 94.5 in Perth, which joined the Hit Network at the start of the year and also welcomed Pete Curilli on breakfast as Dean Clairs jumped ship to 96FM.

The breakfast show grew its share by 0.6 points to rate a 12.7%, now outright second and closing the gap to Nova. “It’s great. [That show] it hasn’t missed a beat and they had a really good result for us,” Cameron says.

“Mix is a juggernaut for us and has been consistently over a long period of time. We tweaked the format and the lineup but we’ve been really happy with the ongoing success of Mix.”

As for Triple M, new to the market this year, the station fell to a 7.1% share overall, while the breakfast show, helmed by Basil Zempilas, dipped to 6.9% (down 1.7 points). Cameron is typically upbeat about taking the time to let the new station find listeners in Perth.

“Triple M Perth: We’ve had three strong momentum books, but a pause on that momentum for this survey. There’s no problem for us [there] as we’re still building an audience and it’s a brand that’s only six months old. I think it’s fair to say it is sitting above expectations of where we thought we might be starting in the first year.

“It’s Perth’s first opportunity hearing a true rock station. That’s not a slight on our competitors but it is the first real rock format in that market, it’s still carving out its own audience.”

Mick Molloy is performing for Triple M, even without Jane Kennedy

One of SCA’s best performers this book was Mick Molloy on drive. He grew his share in Sydney by 1.3 points, and also gained audience in Melbourne (up point 0.3) and Brisbane (up point 0.9).

“The first six months was a little bit bumpy given that Jane had just left so we had changed the strategy with that show. You make a change and you’re going to have some turbulence, and we didn’t make that change, it was Jane deciding to do some other stuff,” Cameron says.

“It was a nice one for Mick. It wasn’t a surprise because he’s a great performer and he’s got a great fan base.”

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