‘Don’t judge HitFM strategy until Hamish and Andy are on board’ says SCA content boss

Hamish and Andy

Hamish and Andy

The head of content for the troubled HitFM network has urged the market not to judge it until later in the year when star hosts Hamish and Andy rejoin to front its national drive show.

Southern Cross Austereo (ASX: SCA) has fallen to third place nationally for the first time ever behind rivals Australian Radio Network and Nova Entertainment, due largely to a collapse in audience share for its Hit stations across the eastern seaboard markets in the latest survey today.

“There is no point in judging the strategy until it is complete,” said Craig Bruce, head of content for SCA. “There is a very important piece of the puzzle that is not on the air yet. Hamish and Andy are not the cure-all and they are not the saviours, but they will add to what we are doing.”

Dan and Maz

HitFM strategy

The drop follows a move to rebrand stations 2DayFM in Sydney, FoxFM in Melbourne and SAFM in Adelaide under the Hit banner.

However the Sydney station dropped 0.3 per cent, with heavily promoted breakfast duo of Dan Debuf and Maz Compton capturing just 2.8 per cent of the audience, while Melbourne was down 0.8 points and Brisbane down 1.1 points, while HitFM’s Adelaide and Perth stations posted only moderate gains (up 0.4 per cent and also 0.3 per cent respectively).

Speaking to Mumbrella this morning Bruce defended the eastern seaboard declines noting many of the breakfast programs were still relatively new: “What does it say about the strategy? It says we have got a new show in Adelaide, a new show in Perth, a new show in Melbourne and a new show in Sydney. We are getting back into the roster in the second half of year.

“We had new or newish breakfast shows around the country and that extra Hamish and Andy support and the star power that comes with it will certainly help in the strategy.”

ARN's Campbell

ARN’s Campbell

The comments come as SCA’s competitors lined up to once again put the boot into the historic radio brand with ARN’s Duncan Campbell describing it as a “two horse race”.

“This survey saw SCA flip to third place for the first time ever,” said Campbell, ARN’s national content director. “If you look around the country it is becoming a two horse race with between Nova and ARN.”

Nova’s Paul Jackson trumpeted their rise to number one nationally saying: “That was always SCA’s lead line in all their press releases around the country for decades, but today Nova has won it and has more listeners than anyone anywhere.

“I don’t know (about SCA’s strategy), it’s certainly a difficult one.”

SCA's Bruce

SCA’s Bruce

Bruce however fired back telling the market to give SCA until August before casting judgement.

“As much as we would have loved to have had (Hamish and Andy) on from the start we will have to wait until Survey 5,” said Bruce. “Come talk to me in August/September and if we haven’t moved the dial by then we will have a different conversation. Right now we have a plan in place we just haven’t been able to execute it in its entirety.

“Let’s not kid ourselves (Hamish and Andy) are as crucial to us as Kyle and Jackie O are to Kiis. Mix as it was, was at a three share and had been for 10 years then Kyle and Jackie O come along and turn it into a nine overnight. That’s what talent does.

“I’m not going to apologise for the fact that great shows and great talent move the dial and are critical for our business.”

Fall in Melbourne FM stations 

The positioning over the national rankings came in a survey which also showed weak results in Melbourne for the FM stations with falls across the board, which ARN boss Campbell attributed to more AM readers being given survey diaries.

“All the FM stations were down in Melbourne,” said Campbell. “It is remaining an unstable market and you have some big cumulative moves as well with all the FM stations dropping and there is still only 1.3 per cent between first and last.”

Campbell noted the fall was surprising given the major marketing blitz in Melbourne as the three FM stations duke it out.

“There has been some aggressive marketing by SCA, by Nova and by us but then you look at the AM numbers SEN went up by 1.1 and 3AW went up 1.8 – it’s looking very much like an AM book,” he said.

“It’s hard to rationalise why the FMers dropped – there is a lot of movement between stations as people figure out where their loyalties lie.”

Macquarie/Fairfax merger

Over in AM-land the bosses of newly merged Macquarie and Fairfax Radio stations have turned down interview requests on the impact of the merger, which has seen at least 50 jobs go, but defended declines in the audiences of both Radio 2GB and Radio 2UE.

“In a State election period, these movements are within a statistical range,” said Adam Lang Macquarie Radio Network chief operating officer in a statement. “Our cumulative reach across Sydney via 2GB a​n​d 2UE is incredibly strong and especially so in reaching the influential audience over 40 years old.”

Alan JonesBrisbane AM station 4BC also posted a surprise 0.8 point rise in its audience in the final survey before it begins networking Sydney shock jocks Alan Jones and Ray Hadley into Brisbane.

“Each networked program in media can potentially have a different effect,” said Lang. “In the case of Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Ross Greenwood, each of them has a national profile, are proven radio talent and cover the issues that matter most to our audience in a very compelling way. In particular, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley are stars of radio and all of them have proven that that they can relate to Brisbane.

“We have chosen to network these shows to 4BC to grow our Brisbane audience.”

Nic Christensen 

Nic Christensen is a former employee of both Macquarie Radio and Fairfax Radio.


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