SCA’s Guy Dobson tells Nova to ‘look at the scoreboard’ after latest radio ratings

Southern Cross Austereo’s chief creative officer Guy Dobson has hit out at the Nova Network, saying they should “look at the scoreboard” after SCA experienced its “best book of the year” in the latest round of radio ratings.

Dobson’s comments come after Nova’s group program director Paul Jackson suggested SCA’s Hit Network was a “disaster around the country” and would struggle even more once the network loses Hamish & Andy at the end of this year.

Dobson explained it was simply the “good Australian way” to check the scoreboard when these kinds of battles take place.



“Best book of the year” for SCA, says Guy Dobson

The fourth survey saw the Hit network gain 0.7 ratings points to capture a 4.5% audience share in Sydney; grow 0.1 ratings points in Melbourne taking it to 9.9%; and increase 1.1 share points in Adelaide, giving it a 10.1% audience share. In Brisbane, SCA’s Hit Network grew 0.4 points to 11.4%. In Perth, SCA’s Hit remained stagnant with an 11.0% audience share and Mix fell one ratings point to 13.7%.

In cumulative audience numbers – the total number of different people who listen to a station for at least eight minutes during any time period  – SCA’s 2Day FM in Sydney was up 9,000 listeners to 638,000, Melbourne’s Hit cumulative audience fell to 1.181m and Adelaide reported a 13,000 audience increase to 259,000.

Perth’s cumulative audience numbers revealed SCA’s Mix audience grew by 22,000 to 542,000 while Brisbane was up 14,000 in cumulative audience, to 479,000 for the network.

In Sydney’s breakfast slot, Hit’s The Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen experienced incremental growth, up 0.2 ratings points after suffering a one point decline last survey, growing its cumulative audience by 22,000 to 274,000.

The latest survey also saw the return of Rusciano to air on June 5, after suffering a miscarriage and also follows the launch of a major marketing campaign for the show.

“It’s our best book this year, we’re back to number one again all people 10+ national, which we lost last survey so we’re very happy about that from the sales perspective,” Dobson told Mumbrella.

“2Day FM’s increase was justified. The station has been selling great all year, and there’s more growth to come. We’ve just started our marketing campaign that’s going to help our breakfast show, which showed incremental increase this book.

The Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen kicked off its marketing campaign last month

Dobson said having a female lead, a great producing team and a new-to-market concept for its marketing campaign will help the show grow.

“Most of our breakfast shows are less than two years old. We are newbies and for us it’s all upside,” he said. 

Cumulative audience numbers for Sydney breakfast shows 2dayFM’s growth, while Smooth, WSFM, Triple M and Kiis all fall in the same slot. Source: GfK

In Sydney, 2Day FM’s Hamish & Andy jumped 1.7 ratings points and grew its cumulative audience from 260,000 to 290,000, but Dobson isn’t concerned about their departure at the end of this year, arguing the audience creeps in at 3pm with Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little.

“Those boys are awesome, and I think they were severely underdone as the year started, given at the beginning of the year they were playing the best of.”

He said he was grateful for the work Bickmore and Little had done so far. 

“Our drive commences at school pick up at 3pm and that’s where the arrow points north.”

He said the network still yet to decide who will replace Hamish & Andy.

The latest survey also marked the end to the Rove & Sam Show, which was moved to 7pm at the beginning of this year.

Dobson said the network was still talking with Rove about a completely different project for the network which would be revealed soon.

It was Melbourne however, which achieved the best results of the Hit network, with Fox FM becoming the top station, even when the AM bandwidth was added in.

Hamish & Andy grabbed a 12.9% audience share in the latest survey, with the network achieving a total share of 12.7%, putting 3AW in second place.

In cumulative audience numbers, Hamish & Andy’s audience grew by 54,000 to 670,000 in the drive slot.

Melbourne Radio Ratings’ cumulative audience for breakfast and drive shows FoxFm’s domination across both slots. Source: GfK

“It’s awesome for Fox to be one of the highest cumulative radio stations in Australia. Fifi and the team down there have a terrific job in breakfast, where are on with marketing now for the first time in a long time so that’s only going to help us.”

Melbourne’s total cumulative audience numbers. Source: GfK

Asked what they had done to beat 3AW to the top Melbourne spot, Dobson said: “I think it’s more what AW hasn’t done. We just program for our FM audience, and if we get the cume and the time spent listening then we are happy.”

Dobson: “It’s awesome for Fox to be one of the highest cumulative radio stations in Australia”

While he was a little disappointed with Brisbane – which saw Triple M fall 0.4 ratings points in the breakfast slot, and its overall share slide slightly from 10.2% to 9.9%, Dobson said he’d take steady “any day of the week”.

“We were probably a little disappointed with Brisbane, if there was any market I reckon we should’ve gone up again it was there. But I’d take steady any day of the week.”

“I think there’s more growth to come there at some stage this year as well, so it’s a tight race. It’s two flies on the walls – who’s going to win the race type market.”

Dobson believes Triple M’s recently announced national drive show with Mick Molloy and Jane Kennedy, which will launch in 2018, will only help Triple M grow.

“I think Mick and Jane are going to be an exceptional drive show for Australia. Certainly for men and I think women are going to find the show incredibly appealing as well.

“Whatever we do with drive on the Hit Network will complement it very well.”

He added Triple M’s three-month long Chaser series has also helped the station’s national success.

In Perth, despite SCA’s Mix falling out of the top spot, losing to Nova for the first time in 14 years, and Hit remaining stagnant, Dobson was optimistic.

“Steady in Perth with Hit after climbing a few books this year we can’t expect that we’d go up every book.

Mix’s Clairsy, Matt & Kymba fell 1.4 ratings points in the breakfast time slot

“Mix, we got beaten for the top spot there by Nova this time round but even Bangladesh win the one day cricket game every now and again.”

Nova’s Jackson conceded the network “probably won’t” be able to hold the top spot in Perth, but he was still incredibly pleased with the result.

“Today I sit here very happy with the number one radio station in Perth for Nova, first time in its entire 14-and-a-half year history that we’ve achieved that.

“It’s never ever happened before. Mix has never ever lost a book. Number one cume and breakfast show by a gap.”

He said he was pleased with all of the network’s results nationally and would not be criticised, despite Smooth FM’s 2.2 ratings point drop in Sydney, which brought its overall share below 10%.

The latest result for Smooth also saw its cumulative audience drop by 99,000 in the Sydney market, to 854,000.

Sydney Radio Ratings Survey 4: Cumulative Audience shows growth for 2Day FM, Triple and WSFM. Source: GfK

“All we have to be is number one, nobody tells you what number it’s got to be. All that matters is the position you’re in at the end of the day.

Paul Jackson: ‘All we have to be is number one’

“Doing an 11+ share, in our five years we’ve done that once. 

“From a Sydney point of view, it’s a really strong set of numbers for us. As a network as a whole, it’s been one of our best days, we are pretty much equal with the previous book actually and across the country we’ve also done really well.”

In the Sydney market, Jackson’s goal will be to keep Smooth at the top alongside Nova.

“I’m not complacent at all. Everyday you come in and go ‘Gosh it’s hard’ and you are sort of re-inventing it as you go. But we’ve got great people here and we have been really stable, we haven’t had much change over the last few years and I think that reflects in our numbers as well.

“It was one of the most extraordinary results of all time and people accepted that and celebrated it in the media industry and beyond. We are not going to be criticised for still being number one, even if we are not number one by the same gap.

“All we can do is have a number that’s biggest than your competitors.”

Smooth FM’s drop and ARN’s WSFM’s 0.9 ratings point growth have brought the two close together once again.

“They did do better in this round,” acknowledged Jackson.

“They have spent, I believe millions on their more recent marketing campaigns so right through this survey period, they were marketing very heavily and I think that’s likely to get a response and people will probably the station again.

“I would never be blasé enough to say we would win the book going into it, and I felt it would probably be pretty close between these two radio stations.”

Jackson added: “It’s not inconceivable that Smooth, Nova, Kiis, or WSFM could win any given book and it’s a hell of a battle.”

However, he said listeners shouldn’t be concerned about whether Nova Sydney’s breakfast show with Fitzy & Wippa, which climbed 0.9 ratings points this survey – would end.

Commenting on their contract, which is set to expire within the month, Jackson said: “I don’t think it’s my place to confirm anything but I would be very confident in saying ‘Expect them to be here next year’. Why would they want to work anywhere else?”

In Brisbane, Nova lost its top spot to 97.3FM in breakfast, falling 2.2 ratings points to 12.6%, while in drive, Kate, Tim & Marty fell 3.1 ratings points, to 18.6%, after a staggering Brisbane win for the trio last survey.

Kate, Tim and Marty fell 3.1 ratings points in the latest survey

The cumulative numbers indicated a decline of 28,000 listeners from an audience of 608,000 to 580,000 for the network overall.

Competitor 97.3FM grew its cumulative audience by 38,000 to 517,000, putting it slightly behind Nova in audience listeners.

Brisbane’s cumulative audience results show growth for Hit 105 and 97.3 FM but Nova still has the biggest audience. Source: GfK

Jackson commented on the results: “It’s a very competitive marketplace, lots of activity, lots of talkability for these stations. It’s almost too close to call. And when you’re one way or the other really – I think we’re happy enough to be in the game.

“We respect the competition and are happy to be number one overall.”

He said he was confident the station could win back the breakfast slot.

ARN’s national content director, Duncan Campbell, said 97.3FM’s breakfast show win was a “return to normality”.

“We’ve always been totally confident in the Bianca, Terry and Bob combination. What’s played out today is exactly how we said it would play out.

“We are right on the money there and that breakfast show will continue to be a very strong number one breakfast show.

Campbell: “What’s played out today is exactly how we said it would play out”

He said Triple M’s breakfast show, which now includes former 97.3FM host, Robin Bailey, was “never going to grow”.

“It was a tactic to employ Robin and the strength of that breakfast show in 97.3, we always knew that we would get back to a number one station and a number one breakfast position.

“We are a number two station and a number one breakfast show, so let’s see what happens next time round.”

It was a positive book for ARN in Sydney as well, with the gap between WSFM and Smooth returning to more “manageable levels”, he said.

“I think Sydney’s a very tight market actually and you’ve got a combination of the slightly more adult formats with Smooth and WSFM and to some degree the top end of Kiis 106.5.

“We’ve got confidence that WSFM is a strong station and these sort of numbers are on the money and the issue with Kiis106.5 is not breakfast, it’s just that we have a very competitive contemporary hit radio market so the battle for the work day listening, 9 to 4 is fairly intense and I think that’s where stations will either grow or dip,” he said.

“[SCA’s] Hit104.1 for example, they’ve had some good growth across the workday, which is primarily music driven. Kiis has softened a bit there and Nova is a mixed bag and obviously we are seeing TripleM across the workday as well. It’s going to be an interesting second half.”

He said WSFM beating Nova96.9 to take the second spot in Sydney was “well and truly on the cards”.

“Really the duopoly should be Kiis106.5 and WSFM in number one and two, that’s where we have modelled it based on our research and that’s the goal.

“WSFM should definitely be ahead of Nova in terms of breakfast.”

Campbell: WSFM beating Nova96.9 “well and truely on the cards”

“We had a lot of confidence in our strategy, and sometimes we don’t necessarily have the firepower in terms of marketing dollars that the others might have but at the end of the day a strong format and a solid strategy will always win.”

While Jackson argues WSFM’s growth could be attributed to its marketing campaigns, Campbell said that suggestion “underplays” the show’s format.

“Smooth have had a very good first half. I think it’ll stop further in the second half and it’s our job now to make sure WS maintains its strength and ideally grow from where it is now.

“We’ve spent some money on marketing but that would pale in comparison to the level of marketing spend that Smooth had in the first half of the year.

“Let’s just talk apples and apples here. If that’s the case, then the inference is that WSFM’s growth is purely based on marketing and that can also be said of Smooth’s growth. I think that underplays the format,” he added.

“Smooth is also a strong format and so is WSFM and marketing does impact the results by raising awareness levels, and we did market WSFM but not on the same level Nova marketed Smooth in the first half of the year.”

He congratulated Nova on its Perth result, noting ARN’s local focus would be to make double figure shares in the city.

Nova’s cumulative audience in Perth fell by 18,000 to a cumulative audience of 577,000 however it managed to beat Mix for the first time.

ARN’s 96FM grew its cumulative audience to 313,000.

“Nova has a heritage breakfast show as does Mix, so congratulations to Nova. It’s a tremendous result. I perhaps would be more confident about Nova hanging in there,” Campbell said.

“The growth today indicates we are going to move into double figure shares next book which is really good,” he added.

He said the results positioned the station “very well” for the second half of the year.

“A great finish for us would be to have WSFM and Kiis in Sydney at number one and number two FM, Brisbane number one FM station, Adelaide number one, Gold ideally another number one FM station or just behind Fox, and Perth in double figures shares which would be great for us, and cume levels on Kiis holding at around 900,000.”


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