SCA to back Em Rusciano breakfast show with Sydney marketing push

Southern Cross Austereo’s Hit Network head of content Gemma Fordham has said the network is set to put marketing dollars behind its Sydney’s 2DayFM new breakfast show The Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen.

Rusciano and Breen – first survey delivered slight audience rise without marketing support

The network ditched Sam Frost and Rove McManus at the start of the year, shifting the duo to a later 7pm timeslot, and opting for a new show fronted by comedian Rusciano.

Speaking to Mumbrella following the results of survey one radio ratings which saw Em Rusciano and Harley Breen report a boost of 0.2 share points to take the struggling station’s breakfast audience share to 4%, Fordham said the network will now start to market the show.

“It’s obviously very early days with the show but we want to see those green shoots and we’ve certainly seen that with the show and subsequently for the station overall,” she said.

“What’s encouraging is the station is rating the highest it has since 2013, we obviously recognise we have a long way to go, but it’s heading in the right direction.

“To see the breakfast show up and subsequently all of our workday figures go up quite substantially to put us closer to our competitors is really encouraging.

“This is all with zero marketing, we have not marketed the show at all and that was on purpose because we wanted to let the show find its feet first. We’ll now start putting a campaign behind it, it’s only going to get stronger and stronger. To my ears the show sounds fantastic.

“It’s fresh, it’s unique to Sydney, there’s no other show quite like it and I think the audience is going to grow as the year progresses.”

Gemma Fordham: Lack of marketing so far was deliberate

While the show did deliver a small growth in audience share, it’s cumulative audience – that is the total number of different people who listen to a station for at least eight minutes during any time period – was down slightly from 310,000 to 293,000.

Rival Australian Radio Network’s national content director Duncan Campbell argued a show’s cumulative audience is an indicator of program health, saying it was “very premature” to talk about growth for the 2DayFM breakfast show.

Duncan Campbell: Cumulative audience is a key indicator of a station’s health

“The cume is a key indicator of the station’s health and when you get a decline in cume, certainly that becomes a trend, you’ve got some issues there,” Campbell said.

“The pure number of listeners listening declined and that’s not a good sign from a health-check perspective.”

However, Fordham was not concerned by the figure. Fordham said the Em Rusciano and Harley Breen show fits into the 2Day and Hit Network’s audience strategy which saw the two broaden out its target demographic a year ago.

“We were previously targeting a younger audience of say a bullseye of a 24-year old, we moved the bullseye to a 30-year old about 12 months ago and with that means having a broader content offering so we’re targeting a stronger 25-54 but a core of 18-39 demographic,” she said.

“It really is that mother-daughter combo we’re targeting with the show. It’s the same audience our advertisers are after.”

Ahead of yesterday’s results, Rusciano took to Facebook saying she would be “happy if we just hold steady”.

“We may even drop (which usually happens when there’s a changing of shows) but either way I’m proud of what we’re doing. Look, if we go down expect to see a lot of dooms day shit in the Sydney press. It’ll mostly be aimed at me and my boss Gemma because: Strong, determined women doing something different,” she wrote on the social media platform.

Rusciano’s boss Fordham wouldn’t be drawn on if the Sydney press were targeting Rusciano because of her gender.

“What she’s trying to say, the Sydney press obviously have a vested interest in the Sydney breakfast shows, it’s easy headlines and it’s had a lot of changes throughout the years. I certainly understand that,” she said.

“What Em is trying to say is at the end of the day she loves what she’s doing and she’s also realistic about how long it will take her to make headway. She’s done breakfast radio before – she did it for our station in Perth and very successfully but it did take her three to four years for her to get to those successful numbers.

“More than anything she’s trying to say she knows the press will go hard on her but at the end of the day we believe in the product, I believe in her and absolutely have her back 100%.”

When pushed on the issue if Rusciano does have a target on her back due to being a “strong determined” woman, Fordham said “I certainly hope not”.

“I don’t think we put targets on people if they’re a strong determined man. I can’t answer that question but I certainly hope we’ve come as far as a society to not be behaving that way,” she said.

Fordham compared Rusciano to the likes of Wendy Harmer who co-hosted 2DayFM’s breakfast show The Morning Crew for 11 years from 1993.

Wendy Harmer co-hosted 2DayFM’s breakfast show for 11 years

“She was very unique to the market at the time and Em is very similar to that. Em is very different to any other show in Sydney and I don’t believe that has anything to do with the fact that she’s a strong female. I get frustrated when people say she’s opinionated because you don’t hear anyone saying that about a male,” she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a great show and it resonates with its audience for a reason. She’s doing relatable content that absolutely targets our demo and lets just hope it continues in that direction as the year progresses.”

Moving onto the Melbourne market where Fox lost its FM ratings crown to SmoothFM, Fordham said she expects the performance to “correct itself as the year progresses”.

SmoothFM posted a share of 9.4% while FoxFM grabbed a share of 9.1%, with GoldFM claiming third place with a share of 8%, and Nova and Triple M tying for fourth place with a share of 7.3%.

Paul Jackson: SmoothFM is number one in Melbourne

Paul Jackson, Nova Entertainment group programme director, said: “SmoothFM is the number one FM radio station in Melbourne for the first time ever, it’s a special time.

“And we also had the number one breakfast show in Melbourne with Chrissie, Sam and Brownie (on Nova). It only began a year ago and they’d never worked together before that point and it’s been a sensational 12 months and now they’re the number one breakfast show in Melbourne. The Melbourne results are head and shoulders above everything else.”

The battle between SmoothFM and rival PureGold looks set to heat up in the year ahead, with ARN’s Campbell saying the network has made some changes similar to what it did with WSFM in Sydney last year.

“We’ve made some programming changes. One of the big impacts with Smooth has been the level of marketing – significant marketing at the beginning of last year and significant marketing in Melbourne at the beginning of this year which has obviously impacted their result,” he said.

“We’ve made some changes to Gold. Even though we quote share, cumes are a very good indicator of where a station is at. You’ve got Gold which normally performs at number one or two FM station in Melbourne, it’s number three at the moment.

“A cume of 925,000 for a station, up 73,000, is really impressive against Smooth’s 885,000, which also went up by the way. We don’t have any real concerns about Gold. We just need to get a better level of performance out of our breakfast show and we’re working hard to do that.”

Sydney: Cumulative Audience (000’s) by Demographic, Mon-Sun 5.30am-12midnight

For KiisFM in Melbourne, Campbell admitted there was “further work” needed.

“From a network perspective that’s the key area of focus, not a competitive focus like WS and Smooth, but making sure the elements of the station are all correct,” he said.

“The brand remains very strong, the cume increased again, these stations are attracting good, solid numbers of listeners. The issue for Kiis is it lacks a stickiness if you like in terms of holding those listeners in terms of getting them to listen longer but we have a strategy for that which will continue to be implemented throughout this year.

“There will be no talent changes this year, it’s more strategic programming changes,” Campbell added.

In Sydney, SmoothFM was beaten by rival WSFM however Nova’s Jackson remains unconcerned, focusing on the station’s cumulative audience of 885,000.

Melbourne: Cumulative Audience (000’s) by Demographic, Mon-Sun 5.30am-12midnight

“They have 120,000 more listeners we do, point one behind in share overall doesn’t concern me. We’re on track for winning both marketplaces at the same time,” he said.

For ARN’s Campbell, it was a “great victory”.

“There’s a lot of audience share between WSFM and Smooth. Smooth had a terrific 2016 and we battled very hard, made some noticeable changes to WSFM to ensure that the great result we had for survey eight would carry forward into 2017,” he said.

“For WSFM to be positioned ahead of Smooth, though the battle is still a tight one, is a great victory for us and the team at WSFM. It’s going to be an interesting year. It’s good to have that victory over Smooth in survey one.”

In the Sydney breakfast battle, Triple M’s Grill Team claimed second place behind KiisFM’s Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson and ahead of WSFM’s Brendan Jones and Amanda Keller.

“If you look historically through Triple M’s results, they have spikes, that will come back, they do historically come back every time. No concern at all and that drop for WS will correct itself as well,” Campbell said.

“WS is well positioned as we strengthen the duopoly and our goal is to have Kiis and WS as the number one and two stations in Sydney and we’re certainly on track to do that this year.”

Moving onto the Brisbane market which saw movement in the breakfast timeslot following on from programming changes, Campbell said it was “important to take an objective view”.

“There’s been a new breakfast show on Hit105, there’s been a change to the breakfast show on 97.3 and there’s been a change to the breakfast show on Triple M. Robin [Bailey] was obviously with us for Ten years and her movement across to Triple M generated a significant amount of PR and that has had an impact,” he said.

Robin Bailey joined Triple M after being dumped by 97.3FM

ARN’s 97.3FM dumped breakfast host Robin Bailey late last year, with Triple M grabbing the jobless Bailey and partnering her with Greg Martin and Ed Kavalee

Hit 105 claimed the breakast FM ratings crown with a share of 11.9% while Triple M had a share of 11.8% in the competitive timeslot while 97.3FM had a share of 11.1%.

Campbell said: “Survey one is not going to be a key indicator in terms of necessarily where these stations are going to end up. There’s obviously been movement which you can’t deny.

“The positive thing for 97.3 is it remains the number one radio station despite a drop in share, it has very strong cume, and the good news for the breakfast show the number of listeners remained steady, so we didn’t decline in terms of audience.It’s very tight, is what I’d say, in terms of breakfast.

“Those numbers for Triple M are well and truly abnormal, you’d have to argue Robin Bailey has had an effect, but it’s too early to tell whether that effect will be sustained. I still maintain that for that format and that radio station, and this has nothing to do with her talent or ability, it’s just not as a natural fit as it could be.”

Mike Fitzpatrick: To have Hit105 and Triple M number one and two in breakfast, that’s the first time that’s happened in I think seven years

Triple M head of content Mike Fitzpatrick shot back at the claim, suggesting it was all Campbell could say in the circumstances.

“I think Duncan should worry about programming ARN. If you’ve just let go of your number one peformer and she’s gone to your competition, why wouldn’t you say that? I’d be saying the same thing,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said he was “very happy” with how Brisbane has performed.

“I’m very happy with that performance, to have Hit 105 and Triple M number one and two in breakfast, that’s the first time that’s happened in I think seven years,” he said.

“The greatest thing for us is we haven’t shed all audience, a lot of our listeners were very vocal about Robin, but we knew she was right to join that team. It was opportunistic of us to pick her up and put her into that show.

“Her leaving 97.3FM has been a win-win for SCA.”


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