Radio’s revolution: Why today is the day that everything changes

tim burrowes landscapeToday marks one of the most extraordinary days Australian commercial radio has ever seen, argues Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes.

If, like me, you never sleep well on a Sunday evening as your brain returns to work mode, spare a thought for the insomnia experienced last night by most of Australia’s radio community.

The back to work blues of the 4am alarm call after a long summer break will have hurt.

But now we’re back in survey territory. And this is the year that everything is going to change.

With an unprecedented number of presenter changes, a brand new ratings provider and a new radio brand in Sydney, the revolution has actually arrived.

The reason today is so important is that it marks the first Monday of 2014’s Survey 1.

In Australia’s most valuable radio market of Sydney in particular, the line up changes have been unprecedented.

Kiis fmAs has been well documented, we see Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O (’Neil) defect from Southern Cross Austero’s 2Day FM to Mix 106.5, which rebadges as Kiis 1065.

They’ve just had their first morning on air at the new station, with the opening minutes comparing the relaunch to the likes of the creation of radio, the erection of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the building of the Sydney Opera House. Too much modesty was never Kyle’s problem.

2day fm sydneyThen of course we’ve seen 2Day FM backfill with the yet-to-settle-in four-way lineup of Merrick Watts, Jules Lund, Sophie Monk and Mel B.


They’ve been on air for a week so far.

From what little I’ve heard of the show so far, they’re still working out the dynamic. First impression is that Watts is the engine. The spontaneously funny moments I’ve caught so far were driven by him. but it’s too early to say.

But retaining the number one FM slot of more than a 10 per cent share of the breakfast audience feels like a big (impossible, actually)  ask.

Equally, given that the Kyle & Jackie O Show inherits an audience share of just 3.3 per cent from their predecessors Sami Lukis and Yumi Synes, there’s little doubt they will deliver a significant improvement for owner the Australian Radio Network.

Whether that will be enough to get straight to FM number one is much more uncertain.

wsfm logoThe greatest competition may actually come from the heritage lineup of their stablemates Jonesy & Amanda on WSFM.

The more grown up duo of Brendan Jones and Amanda Keller – with more than eight years together – have room for growth on their 6.2 per cent share. Demographics and stability are both going their way, but one question will be whether ARN’s marketing dollars – vital to win the recall-based diary war of radio ratings – will be diverted in Kyle & Jackie O’s direction.

Nova rtadio logoThe other major potential beneficiaries of the shakeup are Nova’s likeable duo of Ryan Fitzgerald and Michael Wipfli – Fitzy & Wippa. The duo have been in the Sydney breakfast slot for more than two years now. Sitting on a share of seven per cent, currently second in the FM battle behind Kyle & Jackie O, this could also be their moment.

It will also be fascinating to see what the changes do to floating listeners – and whether SCA’s second network Triple M picks up any growth for its Grill Team of Mark Geyer, Matty Johns and Gus Worland. It also feels like there is further growth to be had for DMG’s fast-establishing smoothfm breakfast show with Bogart Torelli.

While Sydney’s AM battleground is less competitive, it’s also going to be fascinating.

Alan Jones shows little sign of being unsettled from top slot (across either AM or FM) with a share of around 17 per cent, unless he one day chooses to move on. Or new survey provider GfK’s sample delivers a radical change.

Where it gets interesting in AM is, first, for Fairfax’s talk station 2UE, which launches yet another new lineup. It’s gone back to the old school with 26-year 2UE veteran John Stanley for breakfast and paired him with Fairfax’s tough news boss Garry Linnell.

It can’t do any worse than last year’s disastrous pairing of Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson and Sarah Morice. While the fault may well have laid with their production team, some of the shows I heard last year made for astonishingly dull radio. Meanwhile, this morning, Stanley sounded as assured as you’d expect, even if the callers weren’t that special.

Still, everything 2UE currently does feels like treading water until Fairfax can get out of (or spin off) its radio business.

And then we have to throw the ABC into the mix, with local station ABC702 facing the loss of the brilliant Adam Spencer, who never quite knocked Alan Jones off his perch but came close in his final stint, moving up to 13.5 per cent.

Curiously Spencer’s successor Robbie Buck is taking a bit more time off, not coming on air until next week.

There’s a danger that the radical changes in Sydney overshadow what’s been going on in other parts of the country. Melbourne is going through its own revolution.

At SCA’s Fox FM, Dave Thornton and Fifi Box take the breakfast slot vacated by Jo Staney and Matt Tilley.

And Nova ushers in a new breakfast show with Meshel Laurie and Tommy Little picking up the slot vacated by Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek.

But the unknowable variable across the country is the new data provider, with GfK picking up the contract previously held by Nielsen. The methodology – asking a sample of listeners to complete diaries – remains broadly the same. But remember the radical changes when TV ratings moved to a new provider.

With major media changes, afterwards, it’s easy to look back and for the outcome to be obvious.

But right now, nobody really knows.

For what it’s worth, my guess is that in Sydney’s FM battle, the initial fight for top slot will be a two-way one between Jonesy & Amanda and Fitzy & Wippa. You’d be an idiot to predict a winner between the two of them though.

I suspect it will take longer for Kiis to establish itself, but that will be the growth story of 2014. And I reckon that 2Day FM will initially see a big drop before it gradually pulls (at least some of it) back.

In Melbourne, I wonder if Triple M’s Hot Breakfast, led by Eddie McGuire might turn out to be the major beneficiary of the changes. Nova and Fox may dip, but not horrifyingly – both Laurie and Box are familiar to audiences, with both making the same move from drive.

The Survey 1 report will be released on March 11.

Don’t expect anyone in radio to get a good night’s sleep on March 10.

Tim Burrowes is Content Director of Mumbrella.


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.