More programming shake ups to come as radio bosses flag Drive as key battleground for 2015

Future of MixFM breakfast show with Chrissy Swan and Jane Hall remains in doubt

Future of MixFM breakfast show with Chrissy Swan and Jane Hall remains in doubt

The bosses of the big three radio networks have said the Drive time shows will be a “definitive battle ground” for their fortunes next year, with all three signalling an increase to their marketing activities as the battle for eardrums heats up.

The last month has seen a slew of programming announcements coming out from the different networks, with more yet to come. The most notable are in the national syndicated Drive shows where one of the most successful radio duos ever, Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, will reprise their role for the Today Network from next July, and Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek will take up the challenge for the Kiis/Mix stations, and Merrick Watts and an as yet unnamed co-host in the chair for TripleM.

All will be vying for the crown currently held by Nova’s syndicated show with Kate Ritchie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold which has dominated competition this year.

Australian Radio Network’s national content director Duncan Campbell told Mumbrella their focus next year will be on the Melbourne market, where Mix will rebrand under the Kiis banner, with the proven combo of Hughesy and Kate will step in to run the national Drive show in place of Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross.

“There was an opportunity that presented itself, and while I rate Tim Ross very highly it comes down to available slots really,” he added. “I think particularly in Melbourne where we are focussing next year they are really well known to that market.”

However, he would not be drawn on industry speculation that Matt Tilley is coming to the network from Southern Cross Austereo’s TripleM, where his One Percenters Drive show was recently cut to be replaced by Merrick Watts, to replace Chrissie Swan partnering with Jane Hall, saying there were “ongoing negotiations”.

The rebrand in Melbourne is aimed squarely at challenging the dominance of Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) FoxFM, which leads the FM pack in the talk-radio dominated city, and has a 2.5 share point lead over Mix in the current survey.

However SCA’s executive director of metro operations Guy Dobson was unconcerned at the challenge, telling Mumbrella he did not think a combination of Tilley and Hall would be enough to challenge the “established” Fifi Box and Dave Thornton in Breakfast.

“Fox has proven it’s a strong brand in Melbourne this year, and I really don’t think Tilley and Jane Hall are going to be strong enough, but good luck to them,” he added. “Putting two people who have never worked together before on air, creating that magic takes a little bit longer.”

Dobson said its focus would be firmly on turning around the 2DayFM breakfast show, which plunged to its lowest ever share with 2.9, flagging the replacement of Merrick Watts, Jules Lund and Sophie Monk with current national Drive hosts Dan Debuf and Maz Compton as crucial for the station’s recovery.

“Looking at their share in Drive today we’re really happy with that decision, they can bring that same audience to Breakfast at 2Day,” said Dobson. “They will be able to drive the audience share up, they have a low base to work from.”

Dobson also refused to comment on rumours Paul Murray was being lined up to join Merrick Watts in the Drive slot on TripleM, other than to say they had spoken to “a number of people” and he was one of them. But, he said they were “really happy” with the performance of the TripleM network in the current survey, especially in Melbourne where it dropped a little, but not as much as it normally does “when the AFL gloss comes off” after the season has ended.

On rumours of the Hits brand, which was rolled out in Adelaide in October being extended to Sydney, he remained coy: “We will have a look at a lot of stuff, it’s going to be a new year for 2DayFM next year. There’s still some brand equity in it, but we will look at what we need to do to position ourselves next year.”

Nova Entertainment’s two stations, Nova and SmoothFM, enjoyed mixed fortunes in the current survey, but group program director Paul Jackson said they would stick with their line ups into next year flagging that consistency as allowing them to be “really well planned for next year”.

On the battle in Drive he pointed to the number one national position of Kate, Tim and Marty, adding: “We’ve got the network show that’s already number one, and so we welcome the competition it will make it more interesting. It’s going to be fun.”

But he did flag more spending on the marketing  to counter the inevitable blitz from the network’s opponents, but said it would vary in every market.

He also said it was “inevitable” both SCA and ARN would roll out their Hits and Kiss brands to more markets saying “it might not be in the next six months, but in the next two to three years, undoubtedly”.

Alex Hayes


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