Paul Jackson on Kate, Tim and Joel’s mixed start and why 2021 will be a ‘reset’ for Melbourne radio

Nova Entertainment had plenty to celebrate in survey seven, but there's also some key areas of focus for the network moving into 2021. Zanda Wilson spoke with group PD Paul Jackson about the continued performance of talk radio amid COVID-19 and the challenges of rebooting a heritage drive show.

After a long, COVID-enforced break, the GfK radio ratings are back in full swing, with the second survey since the restart dropping, and plenty of key areas of focus for Nova Entertainment.

All eyes were on the network’s new national drive show Kate, Tim and Joel, with question marks floating around about whether comedian Joel Creasey would make an able replacement for Marty Sheargold.

Nova Entertainment’s Kate, Tim and Joel

Survey seven turned out to be a mixed book for the show, which claimed the number one position in Adelaide with a 13.4% share (+1.4 points), but fell in Brisbane and Perth (yet remained at the top of the pile rating 13.7% and 14.2% respectively).

Kate, Tim and Joel were down in Sydney, and flat in Melbourne, but Nova Entertainment group programme director Paul Jackson is calling it a “fantastic start” amid the mixed bag.

“It’s difficult for Joel in that he’s replacing Marty Sheargold, and Kate, Tim and Marty was an iconic show for many a year. Joel is very different to Marty and we deliberately cast the show like that,” Jackson explains.

“One thing that you might expect to come into this [survey] is a bit of churn… Where it’s been difficult for Joel is that he’s been in Melbourne in lockdown so he’s doing it down the line. So when you’re just getting your connection and rapport with your colleagues… it’s difficult.”

It’s clear from our chat that Jackson isn’t treating this as simply a minor personnel change, but rather a whole new show, and that’s why Nova didn’t go for a character similar to Sheargold.

“There’s a lot of more good things for them to come in the new year as they get to spend time together. For a new show it’s important to be in the same studio. But I think they’ve done brilliantly,” he says.

“The numbers can be caught up a bit in how each individual station is doing. Overall they’re maintaining leading cumes and shares, which is a brilliant performance considering what some people were telling me coming into this about how different it would be.

“But that’s what you’ve got to do. If you tried to replace that show for a like-for-like show and characters, then you get comparisons to the past and when you look back the past is generally more nostalgic. So you have to re-invent.

“It’s a great set of numbers for them. I would expect it to be a very good year next year.”

Nova Entertainment group programme director Paul Jackson

One market proving difficult for Nova’s drive show, and most other music-driven formats, is Melbourne, where talk radio and 3AW in particular dominated.

But after a year where the status quo has been thrown away, not just with COVID but with long-term FM market leader Fox FM struggling, Jackson sees an opportunity there for any station to strike as lockdowns continue to ease.

“In this period we were totally in lockdown, measuring everything online. We were also in an AFL period which lends itself to 3AW and Triple M,” he suggests.

“It’ll be totally different in Survey 1 next year assuming life is okay, the virus is under control and people are freely travelling. I think that will snap back quite quickly.

“It’s a new year, it’s a fresh start. It’s all up for grabs in terms of a reset, which stations people gravitate to.”

This book saw good results kept up by some of Nova Entertainment’s strongest performers, including Nova 93.7 Perth and Nova 106.9 Brisbane.

But Jackson reserves special praise for Nova Adelaide breakfast pair Ben and Liam, who in just their first year have been tussling it out with the heritage shows in that market.

“Ben and Liam, with 11% and now a 10.7%, that’s the best we’ve ever done,” Jackson said.

“We’ve never been that high before with breakfast and these guys are in their first year. Absolutely exceptional.”

Nova 91.9 breakfast duo Ben and Liam

He also highlights Smooth 95.3 in Sydney, which is again the top FM station and number two overall with a 10.8% share, only now behind 2GB.

“It’s just ‘wow’. I knew it was going to go well, but I didn’t think it would go that well. When you see 13-14% shares in the workday, even I am pleasantly surprised,” Jackson says.

“Especially Bogart and Glenn on breakfast. The old question of ‘when are you going to get a breakfast show’, it’s an 8.5% share and nearly 500,000 cume. It’s giving Kyle and Jackie O a run for their money.”

Looking into next year, Jackson says that Nova is keeping its eye on all-comers. The Sydney market is due for a shakeup, with 2Day FM Breakfast to get yet-another new lineup, and Nova won’t be writing off whatever Southern Cross Austereo decide to do there.

“Never be complacent, anybody can compete on any given day of the week. You’re only as good as what you do on the day and the next idea you’ve got,” he says.

“Often when your back’s against the wall is when you come up with your best ideas. It wasn’t that long ago that we were having this conversation about changing a classic rock or Vega station into Smooth FM and look where it is now.”


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