‘Green shoots’ appear for HitFM as Kiis boss denies taking eye off the ball in Sydney

Hamish & Andy returned to the airwaves yesterday for a 'secret' week on-air

Hamish & Andy returned to the airwaves yesterday for a ‘secret’ week on-air

The content bosses of Australia’s three biggest commercial radio networks have ramped up the rhetoric and traded jibes as the contest for Drive time audiences heats up across the country.

While Nova cemented its lead in the national Drive market with Kate Ritchie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell Australian Radio Network’s team of Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek had a mixed bag of results, posting a heavy drop in Sydney and a decent rise in Melbourne.

Meanwhile Southern Cross Austereo saw all of its stations on the TripleM and HitFM networks post audience increases, with chief content officer Guy Dobson describing the results as “green shoots” for the troubled HitFM network, which welcomed star duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee back to the airwaves in Drive yesterday.“Better days are ahead for the HitFM network,” Dobson told Mumbrella. “Any day you see ten of your stations rise in the one day is good and there are some nice green shoots for the HitFM network right around Australia.”

HitFM’s owners have been in damage control in recent months pleading with media buyers to reserve judgment until Hamish & Andy returned to a national Drive shift, which SCA expects to boost both its audience and revenue share.



However, today Dobson was more upbeat about the prospects for HitFM, which has seen SCA rebrand well known stations such as 2DayFM in SydneyB105 Brisbane, FoxFM in Melbourne and SAFM in Adelaide.

“We are not even in phase two of what we started in January. Remember most of our stations are only 12-18 months old,” he said.

“All the stations in the HitFM network went up without Hamish & Andy so we can all stop saying they drove the revival of the Hit Network.

“Hamish & Andy are part of our second phase – the music is broadening out, they are coming on board and we are recycling their audience into Breakfast etc.”

Dan & Maz lift

In Sydney, SCA said it was pleased to see Breakfast duo Dan Debuf and Maz Compton post their first positive audience result of the year with a 0.9 rise to 3.3 per cent.

The result comes after the last survey saw the once market leading 2Day Breakfast show slump to a 2.4 share, with some media buyers expressing concern about a “talent problem” at the Sydney station.

Dan & Maz enjoyed their first audience rise in Breakfast

Dan & Maz enjoyed their first audience rise in Breakfast

Asked if Dan & Maz had bottomed out Dobson was reluctant to promise no further declines, noting the volatility of radio ratings between surveys, but said he was confident the HitFM network was on an upwards trajectory.

“I thought they hit the bottom a few surveys ago and then they went down again,” he noted. “All our research is telling us we hit the bottom a while back we are now seeing growth in most if not all the HitFM stations around Australia.

“Our indicators are we bottomed out a while ago and we are very excited about the next phase. ”

However Duncan Campbell, ARN’s national content director, pointed out the rises for Hit “have been off a very low base,” adding: “Those rises have had no impact on ARN or Nova and there is still a long road ahead.”

Dobson responded saying he was “under no illusions”  admitting “there is loads of work to do in all the geographies but we have a plan and are rolling it out”.

“I’d rather have incremental increases and do them slowly rather than a massive hit where we could then lose it in the next survey,” he added.

“We haven’t taken our eye off the ball in Sydney”

Campbell’s flagship Kiis Network enjoyed a mixed bag in the latest survey, picking up share in Melbourne, but dropping to third place overall in the Sydney FM market with Breakfast duo Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson suffering a large decline to tie for top spot with sister station WSFM’s Brendan ‘Jonesy’ Jones and Amanda Keller.

“We have been very focused on Melbourne and it is great to see the work that has gone in there by the whole team has finally started to show movement, said Campbell, hailing the performance of Breakfast duo Jane Hall and Matt Tilley who increased their audience share by 1.2 points.

Asked about the performance of the station in Sydney, which dropped 1.3 share points to fall behind SCA’s TripleM, he said: “We haven’t taken our eye of the ball in Sydney at all. It’s less about the numbers in Sydney for us than about the position that the stations hold.

“They are still very strong Kyle and Jackie O are equal number one and we have been here before with WSFM as a duopoly – it is a great position to be in.”

Battle for Drive

Nova’s Paul Jackson was more reluctant to be drawn on HitFM’s ratings and broader strategy but focus on the new contest in drive with HitFM’s Hamish & Andy now facing off against established national shows of Nova’s Kate Ritchie, Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell and KiisFM’s Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek who launched at the start of this year.

“Hamish & Andy are strong performers but so are Hughesy and Kate and so are we,” said Nova Entertainment’s group programme director. “I think the battlelines are drawn and it will be very close between all three.

“We have a loyal audience and I think they are going to stick with us.”

ARN's Duncan Campbell

ARN’s Duncan Campbell

Campbell too predicted a tight contest.

“You have two very strong Drive shows with Nova and ARN around the country,” said the ARN boss. “Hamish and Andy have a lot of work to do and they will have to deliver significant share in Drive to have any impact on the overall share.

“That remains a statistical fact that they can’t escape from. The numbers will speak for themselves.”

Dobson acknowledged this, but said he was optimistic about what Hamish & Andy would do in markets such as Melbourne.

“Drive will be a bit weird for a while once Hamish & Andy get their claws into it. The dynamic is going to change, especially in places like Melbourne,” said Dobson.

“Yes the landscape is more competitive we understand all that, but frankly others are more concerned about it than we are.

“We are under no illusions.”

Nic Christensen


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