Nova says Smooth will top Melbourne rankings while ARN suggests it’s ‘slightly overcooked’ in Sydney

SmoothFM could be Melbourne’s number one FM station by survey three or four next year, Nova Entertainment group programme director Paul Jackson has predicted.


Speaking to Mumbrella, Jackson said for Smooth “the opportunity is absolutely there” to grab the number one FM station crown from Southern Cross Austereo’s FoxFM and Australian Radio Network’s Gold, which tied for first place with a Monday to Sunday share of 8.6%, while SmoothFM had a share of 8%.

“Smooth is point six off being number one, the margins here are quite slim and it is quite a crowded market place in Melbourne,” he said.

“We’re, of course, in the football period of the year, so to get enough people’s attention for long enough, can be difficult for us.

“We feel the same way about Smooth here as we do about Sydney, we’re about six months behind. We’re really going to go for it with Smooth over the Christmas and January period and as the new year starts.

“If I was predicting now, Smooth Melbourne would get to number one probably survey three or four and then hopefully stay there much the way we have done in Sydney this year.”

Paul Jackson:

Paul Jackson: Smooth is an established number one station

On the lack of movement in Melbourne amongst FoxFM, Gold, Triple M and Nova, Jackson said: “I’ve never seen this before, you’ve four radio stations in the same market and the audience didn’t move at all in terms of share, that’s surprising.”

In Sydney, SmoothFM claimed its third number one spot, with a total audience share of 9.6%, while its nearest competitor KiisFM reported a share of 7.8%.

“The big story of the day is Smooth being number one three times in a row, winning half the books this year. We can start to say Smooth is an established number one station,” Jackson said.

However Duncan Campbell, Australian Radio Network national content director, argues Smooth is “slightly overcooked”, after overhauling his own station WSFM in Sydney.

“Smooth has had a very good year, credit where credit is due. I think they’re slightly overcooked,” he said.

“We took our eye off WSFM a little bit, they came off their two most successful years ever in 2014 and 2015. We’ve counter-programmed very quickly and the next stage of that hits the air on Monday with some music changes we’ve made.

“WS is sounding very focused, better than it ever has certainly for this year. We’re certainly keeping Smooth in check. The next couple of books will be very interesting, we’ll see some further WS growth and Smooth coming back into the pack a little bit more.”

Campbell: wants to be number two in Melbourne in 2016.

Campbell: Meshel & Matt is taking a bit of time to work

For ARN, the focus this year has largely been on KiisFM in Melbourne which had a total share of 5.6%, a breakfast share of 5.8% and a drive share of 6.3%.

“It’s a good station,” Campbell said.

“We know from the research we’ve done that the brand is strong and does resonate with listeners. Unfortunately there’s no music differentiation because the three main contemporary hit radio stations pretty much play the same type of music it becomes very much a breakfast battle to build the cumulative audience that the rest of the station needs.”

On Meshel Laurie & Matt Tilley’s performance in the breakfast slot, Campbell admitted it was a “big ask” to bring them together.

“We put a brand new show together this year and it’s taking a bit of time to work,” he said.

“We continue with both Matt and Meshel, individually they’re incredible talents, a lot of admiration for them both. It’s a big ask to bring them together, so we’re working on the chemistry.”

“They like each other which is a real positive and just working on creating content that really highlights the chemistry and increases the level of fun that show generates.

“It’s very difficult to throw two people together and expect them to work. There’s nothing systemically wrong with that show.”

A focus on breakfast is also key to ARN’s strategy for its “little quiet achiever” Gold.

For Gold to have the edge over FoxFM – with the stations tying in terms of overall audience share in yesterday’s ratings figures – Campbell said the network needs to invest more in breakfast.


“These stations are really content-led, based on either music content or talent content. Gold really has traditionally been a music-led station, taking nothing away from the breakfast show,” he said.

“But for us to get to a tipping point where Gold does become a consistent number one there, we need to invest strategically into that breakfast show because it is a good show and hasn’t received the attention it deserves because the focus has very much been on Kiis.

“Focusing on breakfast on Gold will give us the lift we need to tip us to outright number one. Fox, of course, is a big station, probably one of the biggest brands in Australian radio, it certainly is a challenge.

“Gold has done incredibly well, it’s consistently outright number one FM or equal with Fox. It’s the fourth time this year it’s been one of those. It’s our little quiet achiever.”

SCA’s Hit Network head of content, Gemma Fordham is less concerned about the competition between Gold and Fox.


Fordham: FoxFM is a juggernaut

“There’s no change to be made there, it’s just about making sure we continue to be consistent,” she said when questioned on what Fox needs to do to pull ahead of rival Gold.

“Yes, Gold has a stronger time spent listening so we need to have a good look at that, but overall Fox is a juggernaut. It continues to be a dominating brand there.”

Fordham is similarly nonplussed when it comes to the performance of Hit Network’s 2DayFM in Sydney, in particular the continued performance of breakfast duo Sam Frost and Rove McManus, who delivered a breakfast share of 4.3%.

“They’ve gone up every single survey, you can’t complain about that,” she said.

“Certainly looking at the last survey and this survey, most of the other FM breakfast shows we’re up against have gone back, and for the last two surveys they’re the only one to have grown.

“We’ve always said it’s a long-term strategy with that show and we continue on that journey with them.”

Sydney was not a stellar market performance-wise for SCA with Triple M in particular struggling, delivering a total audience share of 5% and a breakfast share of 5.3%, a worrying result moving into NRL finals season.

Triple M head of content Mike Fitzpatrick dismissed the results as just a “bad book”.


Fitzpatrick: Triple M Sydney was just a bad book

“I don’t know what happened there, I can only put it down to the fact that we’ve changed nothing, our competitors have changed nothing, so it’s probably a bad bounce in GFK. I’m confident it will come back again in the next couple of books,” he said.

“Things bounce around survey to survey. It’s very rare for a station to lose that much share without changing anything. Having done this long enough, I can tell you this is just a bad book.

“The fact that we haven’t changed anything on the station, the fact that they deliver consistent content, it’s one of the funniest breakfast shows any given day in Sydney and no competitor has changed to combat us or launch against us indicates to me it’s probably just a bad book.”

On Triple M’s recent closure of its Classic Rock DAB radio station, Fitzpatrick dismissed the suggestion it indicates the network pulling back from an investment in digital radio.

“I wouldn’t have thought so, no way. We have a lot on the spectrum and we have some interesting plans for digital radio in the future,” he said.

On why it was closed he said there “was a bit of cannibalisation from Triple M Classic Rock digital” of the station’s FM channel.

“It was a victim of its own success. It was growing, it was number one and drawing a big audience away from the main FM channels,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Our music has drifted slightly older and more classic in its sound, it makes sense to pull it out and let people find that music back on the FM channels.”


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