Nine Radio’s Greg Byrnes on 3AW’s rise and a historic survey for 4BC

Yesterday saw Nine Radio deliver its second survey results since the pause earlier this year, in which Melbourne’s 3AW experienced another boost and Brisbane’s 4BC had its first number one show in 40 years. Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston spoke with Nine Radio’s head of content Greg Byrnes following the result to find out what the plan is for survey eight.

It was a great day to speak with Nine Radio’s Greg Byrnes yesterday. Melbourne station 3AW had its best result since 1959, while Brisbane’s 4BC had its first number one show in 40 years. Understandably, the content boss of the station was delighted with the result.

“It’s absolutely remarkable what breakfast has done in Melbourne. We made a change when Burnso [John Burns who retired in July] left us and we were always confident that Russel Howcroft was the right fit, but the last two surveys are just remarkable. Overall, it’s the best result on 3AW since 1959 when the station recorded 23.4% and now, overall, it’s 20.6%. And that breakfast result has been reflected right throughout the day, all parts up considerably,” said Byrnes.

Greg Byrnes from Nine Radio.

Howcroft and co-host Ross Stevenson climbed 2.3 percentage points to land a 28.4% share in the breakfast slot, while the station overall climbed 3.7 percentage points to land on 20.6%. Howcroft and Stevenson have more than double the score of their closest rival, ABC Melbourne’s Sammy J.

After a stellar climb in the previous survey, it wasn’t guaranteed 3AW could continue the trajectory. But, points out Byrnes, the current situation in Melbourne is almost tailormade for talk radio.

“When Nine Radio took over it was local voices, companionship, news you can trust and that’s what we tell the audience and we like to think we deliver. It would appear that the listeners agree and they’ve embraced 3AW. At a time like the last six or seven months we would expect the audience to come to 3AW, that is what we do, trusted content. The numbers though are very, very impressive,” he said.

The hope is, of course, that that success will continue. Now that audiences are here, they’ll stay.

“We think COVID has seen more people sample our product, they’re obviously liking what they hear. They’re being informed, they’re hearing all the news, they’re hearing opinion. But they’re also getting a chuckle as they delve into other people’s lives and lifestyle. Off the back of that, there’s no real reason to leave us. So I would think in survey eight its more of the same. Our hosts are the sort of people you’d want to sit down in a pub with and have a beer. And that’s the companionship that is at the core of everything we do.”

But it wasn’t just Melbourne that performed well. 4BC in Brisbane recovered from last survey’s slip and became the top AM performer in the market as well as second in breakfast for Neil Breen. It was only six months ago that he joined the station, replacing syndication of Alan Jones from Sydney, and six months ago that the station moved to a local drive show. It’s more of what Nine Radio says it does best – local content, local news, shows run by people who know and love the area. But there was even more happening at 4BC during survey seven.

“Ray [Hadley] is number one across the board in Brisbane and the best figure we’ve seen so far, that’s the first time 4BC has had a number one program in 40 years. If we’re bookending the day with strong local voices in Breeny [Neil Breen] and Scott [Emerson] it just strengthens the product of Ray and Deb [Knight]. The time spent listening (TSL) in Brisbane is fantastic and as more and more people know what we’re doing and hear and sample and enjoy listening, I’m sure that’s going to get even stronger.”

It wouldn’t be a Nine Radio story without a throw to Sydney golden boy Ben Fordham. “It’s the hardest gig in the country, there’s no doubt about that” said Byrnes, but nobody would deny Fordham has worked incredibly hard to make his replacement of Alan Jones work. While he has slipped slightly in the surveys, he’s still holding a very commanding survey result and Byrnes is confident Fordham’s show is resonating with the 2GB audience.

“Over the moon for Ben, they’re working very hard. It’s the hardest gig in the country, there’s no doubt about that. Ben was quite open in saying that he had no real desire to take over from Alan. He accepted the challenge and this is back to back surveys, he’s making that shift his own. It’s all about our listeners and they’re liking what they’re hearing. For Ben to secure 16.1%, in Sydney, in breakfast, it certainly signals a new generation.”


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