‘It’s remarkable to add a new element and see it succeed that quickly’: NOVA charts its course for 2024

Smooth is the number one FM station in Sydney, thanks to a strategy rarely seen in the fast-moving world of FM radio: consistency.

Meanwhile, the opposite tactic, throwing Kate Ritchie amongst the long-forged friendship of Fitzy and Wippa, has also paid dividends for NOVA, with the trio pulling the highest-ever audiences seen in the history of NOVA Sydney’s breakfast slot – despite Ritchie only joining the team this time last year.

“Yeah, it’s remarkable to add a new element and see it succeed that quickly,” enthuses NOVA’s group programming director Brendan Taylor.

When he speaks to Mumbrella, it’s the morning after the first radio survey of the year. NOVA’s breakfast team sits second in FM with a 8.5% share and a 629,000 cumulation audience, behind the as-yet-immovable Kyle and Jackie O.

“It was a really great morning being able to deliver those results,” Taylor says. [Executive producer] Tom Ivey and the producing team have worked really hard over the last 10 months to just refine and build the show, and the content in the show.

“Kate seamlessly immersed herself into the team. She’s got a great rapport with the audience already in Sydney, from her time in Drive. And, I think, the connection and the relationship she has with with Wippa, and likewise with Fitzy, it was just a natural fit.”

Taylor notes “the chemistry on air is the same chemistry off the air” which is “great to see” – especially when you are programming director.

Also great to see, from a programming director’s perspective is that Smooth is sitting on top of the Sydney FM radio pile, a result that Taylor credits to consistency. It’s all in the name of the station, after all.

“The consistency is always key with Smooth – and that brand and station delivers.”

Simon Diaz and Byron Webb — both of whom have been on Smooth for over a decade — are holding down #1 in Afternoons and Drive, which Taylor calls “a testament to the product.”

Webb’s Drive show is edging out NOVA’s Ricki-Lee, Tim and Joel, who are second in Sydney, and #1 Drive show nationally.

“I mean, Ricki, it’s been a year for her in Drive,” Taylor says. “You know, Joel is such a performer, and Tim’s such a great radio broadcaster, that the three of them together have a really great connection. You can hear that in their content and their delivery. So, yeah, to start the year in that in that position, we’re thrilled, and it’s something we’re obviously going to continue to work on and build on.”

Taylor says it’s satisfying to see the network’s ‘live and local’ strategy paying off. “It’s a great start to the year,” he says. “You’re always a bit nervous from a standing start to to get the first score card of the year.”

With Nova Sydney’s breakfast lineup locked down, and smooth sailing in the easy listening market, all eyes are now on Melbourne’s Breakfast battleground, which has seen the biggest shake up in years. Kyle and Jackie O’s impending launch over at KIIS saw long-time Breakfast slot favourites Jase and Lauren unceremoniously dumped – and then picked straight back up again by NOVA, who slotted them into Breakfast.

When Taylor spoke to Mumbrella, the duo had just completed a week’s worth of shows – and he is cautiously excited.

“They’re just such a great team,” he says. “They’ve immersed themselves in the NOVA family. And, you know, it was like they should have always been here. They bring a great level of energy and great level of connection, real authentic connection: I think they like to call their audience, ‘The Family’.

“And, after hearing a week’s worth of shows, you can hear why they’re such a great team.”

The feedback when NOVA announced they’d signed the pair was really warm, and welcoming, Taylor said.

“We’re trying to stay grounded by it, to be honest,” he admits, “because the feedback has been really positive. All the social commentary, even the feedback from the industry, it’s just been really nice to hear, you know, that a good show gets talked about and received so well – it’s just one of those nice warm moments.”

There’s also the added benefit of launching a new show with a ready-made audience.

“They’ve built a rapport and connection over the years,” Taylor says of the pair’s time at KIIS. “And you can build that connection with the audience, particularly in those Breakfast day parts. You know, the commute — the heavy commutes for some cities — the audience builds a connection with the talent, and the talent with the audience.

“And, you know, you want to have a bit of escapism, a bit of humor, a bit of entertainment on your way to work in the morning.”


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