Getting breakfast right ‘sets you up for the day’ says Greg Byrnes of Nine Radio

Nine Radio's director of content - radio, Greg Byrnes speaks to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan following GfK radio ratings survey seven, about how the continued success of talkback, building foundations across the network and a perfect example of Nine's 'Live and Local' strategy.

Radio ratings survey seven for 2021 delivered yet again, a standout performance for Nine Radio’s flagship breakfast shows, not just in Melbourne and Sydney where stations 2GB and 3AW have continued to dominate, but the numbers have started to rise in the Perth and Brisbane markets too.

Nine’s director of content – radio, Greg Byrnes plays up what he says is a “really good breakfast” across, saying that “if you get breakfast right, it really sets you up for the day”.

He adds: “Then, off the back of some really strong morning shows in Liam (Bartlett), Neil (Mitchell) and Ray (Hadley), it positions us very nicely.”

Nine’s director of content – radio, Greg Byrnes

When Byrnes talks of the strong breakfast showing, he is referring to Russel Howcroft and Ross Stevenson’s 24.3% share in Melbourne on 3AW, Ben Fordham’s 19.8% on 2GB, which is the best station result since Alan Jones’ 20.3% in survey one 2010, Gareth Parker’s 0.9 point rise to 9.3% in Perth and Neil Breen’s 1.2% rise to 9.1% overall.

Byrnes says that “it’s only off the back of the remarkable survey seven last year”, which the 3AW duo delivered a 28.4% share, that we are not talking about this result being “the best in 30 or 40 years”.

While it is now approaching 18 months as an on-air pairing, Byrnes continues to call it “new”, with Howcroft only having been at the station for “five to ten minutes, in a radio sense“, comparing him to stalwarts of the airwaves, “Neil, Ross and Ray being in talk for 30+ years”, and Fordham doing ten years in the drive slot before moving to breakfast.

“In the scheme of things, 18 months is nothing.”

Nine Radio’s on air talent

As mentioned though, Howcroft and Stevenson experienced unmatched success a very short time into their time together, with the former, an already established figured in Melbourne, and the latter a mainstay on 3AW for some time.

“Russel is a proven media performer, which is why we put him in there. But he’d never done anything like this, and talk radio is tough. Breakfast radio on top of that, it’s a slog.”

He says, when asked about the plans for how far into the future he sees the partnership extending to, that Nine Radio is “building the foundations” of what it hopes will be “another long term successful duo”, and that 18 months in, “it’s everything we wanted it to be”.

Russ and Ross

Sister station in Sydney, 2GB’s breakfast host also put in his best result since the move to the key slot, and has seen consistent increases in the last three books, after Byrnes backed his man in June following a dip to 13.5%. 

The station was down overall slightly 0.7%, “coming off a very strong survey six”, which Byrnes says he puts down to nothing more than “coming off extraordinary highs”.

Hatched’s managing partner Stephen Fisher sung the praises of Nine Radio’s ongoing performances, saying that clearly it “is doing quite a lot of things right across 2GB and 3AW at the moment”.

“The breakfast shows in both markets are absolutely humming, especially after a bit of a bump in the road earlier in the year for Ben Fordham; audiences are definitely backing the show now.”

iProspect’s national head of investment, Ken Lam, also said that Fordham is going from “strength to strength” at the moment.

Fordham eclipsed any numbers posted by his predecessor in his final decade on 2GB this book, and Byrnes shut down any chance of a return for recently available host.

2GB’s Ben Fordham

“Alan left us when he retired 18 months ago. He was great for Ben and really assisted him in the changeover. We wish him all the best. We wish him nothing but the most success.”

6PR and 4BC both saw overall share rise, the former rising 0.8 points to 8.3% and in Brisbane 0.3 points to 7.9% with Byrnes calling the stations “challenger brands” in their markets, where he says talk has traditionally been a lot tougher.

“But we’re building lineups and sounds that we think will resonate, provided we keep it in that direction, it is very pleasing.”

Byrnes spoke last month about how the local agenda in Perth was dominated by the national COVID agenda, which was “very tough”, yet he says that things are looking on the up now.

He highlights the “remarkable” way the station responded to the Cleo Smith story last week, when she was found by authorities in Carnarvon.

Gareth Parker deliviered a solid book on 6PR

“It was just marvelous what Gareth and the team did. They threw out the day’s content and just took calls all day. There were news breakers and decision-makers came on and spoke about Cleo, but otherwise it was just all talk back. People just wanted to ring up and talk about it and say how happy they were.”

Byrnes says: “That’s our live and local that I keep banging on about. It was a perfect example of it.”

Finally, Byrnes was pleased to see 4BC rise overall, “keeping in mind that in the middle of the survey we moved the frequency to 882”, which he says was always going to be risky, but “it would appear the audience came with us”.

4BC’s Neil Breen is finding some form with the local audience

Byrnes says that it is great to see “Breeny back up challenging there in those top breakfast programs,” and the station overall, as the frequency switch was always going to be a “further disruption for an audience that doesn’t like disruption”.

Moving towards the end of the year, Carat Melbourne’s Steph O’Donnell anticipates that the talkback trend will continue into the final survey of the year, and early 2022, given the South Australian and federal elections on the horizon.

Like last time out, Byrnes says that it is still not the time to celebrate the results, as a lot of the audience is still “doing it really tough”.

“A lot of work goes on away from the show and we’ll get to the end of the year and we’ll all take a big deep breath and have a beer or two.”

Yet when the regular line up winds down for a break over the summer period, he said the line up will still remain “prime time”.


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