Nine’s Greg Byrnes on being ‘relevant’ and the ‘power of talk’

Nine Radio's director of content - radio, Greg Byrnes spoke to Mumbrella's Olivia Kruimel following the final GfK radio ratings survey of 2021, about how delighted he is at the performance of the network, and the power of talk.

“It’s quite remarkable,” says Nine Radio’s Greg Byrnes. “The figures that have been achieved, in recognition of some wonderful work that’s gone on, on air and off.”

He’s speaking of course about the final GfK radio ratings and the continued success of Nine’s hallmark stations 2GB in Sydney and 3AW in Melbourne.

In Sydney, 2GB brought in a 14.5% share for people 10+, which is a little down on the previous book, but not nearly enough to worry the folks at Nine Radio. Similarly, its breakfast program with Ben Fordham remained number one, despite earlier in the year relinquishing the top spot to KIIS 106.5’s Kyle & Jackie O for one survey.

“We started survey one really strong across the network, but particularly strong in Perth. And if you can recall, it was a complete line-up change other than drive on Perth beginning of the year,” explains Byrnes.

While much has come to pass over the course of the year, particularly in COVID lockdown states NSW and Victoria, Byrnes is pleased at the performance of the network, and that the live and local strategy is “making headway”.

As in Sydney, Nine’s talkback offering in Melbourne 3AW is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of audience, with a 22.8% share of the breakfast segment and 16.6% share for people 10+ in the latest survey.

This is despite the fact that the breakfast program featuring former ad man Russel Howcroft and Ross Stevenson is still relatively new by radio standards.

“The boys have said that they feel that they’re starting to click,” states Byrnes. “It does take time to cement a partnership.”

He adds: “It’s a wonderful way for them to finish the year.”

Ross and Russel from 3AW

While Sydney and Melbourne in particular have had unusual years in terms of being in and out of lockdowns, Byrnes says that the role of talkback extends beyond lockdowns.

“The last couple of years has exposed us to a much wider audience as people are seeking news and commentary,” he explains. “A large majority of that audience has stuck around, so we need to hold onto them and continue to grow.

“We’ve gone out after the next generation of talk listener, which also means the next generation of talk hosts, and that means we need to bed-in a lot of the changes that we have made in recent years… to continue doing what we’re doing and bed-in and secure that listener loyalty.”

In Brisbane the network’s 4BC has managed to increase its overall listener result up to 8% from 6.7% at the start of the year, while in Perth, 6PR has remained fairly steady at 8.9% of people 10+, up from 8.2% at the start of the year.

Going into 2022 Byrnes is expecting the network to remain strong, despite the “return to normal” and supposed end to lockdowns.

With a federal election and a state election in Victoria in the new year, he’s confident that the network will continue to deliver audience.

“Whether it’s Gladys [Berejiklian] standing down or a little kid reunited with their family after being lost for 16 days… the news cycle is relentless. There’s no downtime in talk.

“Our guys and girls need to be well read across all the issues, across the policy, because our audience is obviously engaged and that’s what they expect from their presenters. It’s pretty easy for them not to hang around if they don’t like what they’re hearing. They don’t have to agree. They never will agree entirely. But we just want to set the agenda and be part of the debate, and help inform our audience.”

Greg Byrnes

The role of talkback radio in the lives of Australians is something that Byrnes is proud of and something he wants to continue to push.

His strategy is to ensure that the stations remain relevant. “We can get stuff done,” he says. “And we’re continually getting things changed, policies overturned, and bad decisions overturned.”

On the other side of the coin, the network is also focusing on delivering for advertisers.

“We deliver an audience to an advertiser, which is great, and we’re proud of that,” Byrnes states.

The talent on air, the ads between talk and even the sound of the ads are all being tweaked, refined and finessed by the Nine Radio team and the Powered by Nine department to get optimal outcomes, according to Byrnes.

“We did an ad break this year with McDonald’s where we changed the sound of their radio commercials, and we are continually working with the creative arm of the business to look for new ideas and to deliver results for our clients,” he says. “We are continually trying to develop the way that advertising sounds.”

As part of this, expect further developments at Nine Radio in terms of its digital capabilities in 2022 according to Byrnes.

“We’ve out a fair bit of work in this year in relation to launching a digital arm next year. There will be an emphasis on digital at Nine Radio next year.”

He concludes: “We need to be ahead of the curve and spotting those consumer trends, listening trends and city trends, because each market is different, and we must respond accordingly as our listeners expect.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.