SCA’s Hit Network ‘a disaster around the country’, says Nova’s Paul Jackson

Despite a win in Melbourne, Southern Cross Austero’s Hit Network is in serious trouble in other markets, Nova Entertainment’s group program director Paul Jackson has claimed, noting the impending departure of Hamish and Andy will only make things worse.

Hit Network’s head of content Gemma Fordham however has said ‘life’ got in the way of the success of the Sydney breakfast show – The Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen –  and the network will recover.

Speaking with Mumbrella, Fordham said Rusciano’s departure, which occurred from May 21 until 5 June, was one of a couple of reasons for the breakfast show’s rating point decline, and it had a significant impact.

Rusciano’s leave crossed over with survey three’s measurement period – which ran from March 5 to April 8 and April 23 to May 27 – for one week.

“Em’s been through a few weeks of having some personal things to deal with, which we were very understanding of but ultimately it meant she was off air for almost half the survey.

“But what can you do? That’s life, and we obviously support her in that. We look forward to getting the next book,” Fordham said.

2DayFM’s breakfast show lost one ratings point from 4.1% audience share in the second survey to a 3.1% share, despite its modest growth in the earlier half of 2017.

The station also suffered a 1.1 ratings point loss in drive time, and an overall Monday to Sunday audience share loss of 0.8 points, to 3.8%.

Commenting on whether the breakfast show would make a strong recovery, Fordham said: “I’d like to think so. There’s a couple of things.

“Obviously Em was off for half the book and we support her in that decision. I would never want anyone on air who was going through a difficult time off the air and I know that it’s been a struggle for her and her family.

“It was the right decision but ultimately we knew that would have some repercussions for our survey numbers.

“I’d also say, we’ve not marketed the show. We are about to launch an extensive marketing campaign from this weekend. We typically see certainly in markets like Sydney, where there is heavy marketing, those brands tend to perform, so we will be thrilled to get that out,” she said.

Despite SCA’s slip in the Sydney market, the network was able to regain the ratings crown in Melbourne, with Fox FM’s syndicated drive time show, Hamish and Andy climbing 2.4 audience share points to 12.7%.

Fordham: “It was the right decision but ultimately we knew that would have some repercussions”

Fox FM’s breakfast show, with Fifi, Dave, Fev & Byron gained 2.2 ratings points, managing an 8.6% audience share.

Fordham said she was pleased, given Fox had been number one consistently in FM for several years.

“It’s a brand that has a lot of loyalty and last book was quite unusual and I believe it was an anomaly and that it would bounce back, and that’s certainly what’s happened,” she said.

“In terms of Hamish and Andy, they’ve had a good book in Melbourne which is always great and the boys are on fire at the moment. They’ve obviously had some commitments with their TV work so it’s great that we’ve got them back on air now and next year is still six months away.”

Fordham stressed that no decisions had been made about who would replace the drive time duo, despite rumours in The Australian’s Media Diary about Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little taking over.

“The truth there is absolutely nothing to say because no decisions have even remotely been made yet. Carrie and Tommy do our early drive show which is 3-4pm and we are very pleased for that show.

“In terms of next year, there’s nothing to say because we haven’t made any decisions and when we have made a decision absolutely we will talk about it,” she said.

It’s a similar situation for Nova Entertainment, with Nova’s Sydney breakfast hosts, Fitzy and Wippa, to finish their contract in August.

Fitzy and Wippa’s contract is set to end in August this year

However, Nova’s Jackson, would not entertain the idea the duo may be leaving the radio network.

“Fitzy and Wippa have been fantastic servants to the brand, not just here in Sydney but also to work in Adelaide initially,” he said.

“We are looking forward to a long and full career with them doing the Sydney breakfast show.”

In survey three, Fitzy and Wippa slipped 0.4 ratings points to a breakfast audience share of 6.9%.

According to Jackson, Nova Entertainment proved its worth nationally in survey three, making it the best survey the network has had to date.

In Brisbane, Nova’s 106.9FM saw their audience share climb to 15.8%.

Nova’s drive time show Kate Tim and Marty, climbed to 21.7%, the highest share of any radio show across the country.

Competitors in the drive time slot, including Hamish and Andy on HIT 105, and 97.3FM showed audience shares of 12.3% and 11.3% respectively.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to get to those heights. That’s the sort of performance that people used to credit Hamish and Andy with eight or nine years ago and we see Kate Tim and Marty doing that now,” said Jackson.

Jackson: “It’s absolutely wonderful to get to those heights”

The network’s Smooth FM proved to be a success in Sydney, climbing 1.6 ratings points in the breakfast slot, and 1.8 ratings points in drive time.

It collected a Monday to Sunday audience share of 11.3%, taking the FM ratings crown.

Asked whether he had hopes for Smooth FM taking over Kiis FM’s Kyle and Jackie O Show – which currently sits 0.8 ratings points ahead in the breakfast slot – Jackson said: “It’s an ambition to have certainly. Every goal we’ve ever set ourselves for Smooth we have achieved and this breakfast show started four and a half, five years ago with a 3% share.

“I’m not going to get carried away but we have our goals of winning as much as we can and to be as far ahead in (people) 10+ as it is, is an absolute joy.”

In Melbourne, Smooth FM dipped 0.6 points in survey three, from 9.9% to a 9.3% audience share.

However, Jackson wasn’t disheartened.

“9.3 is a very strong number and it’s less than half a share point off being number one,” he said.

He added SCA’s Fox FM could attribute their win to Hamish and Andy, who won’t be around next year.

“In this particular book, the only sort of thing might have to talk about is Hamish and Andy in Melbourne, and that’s probably lifted the Fox station.

Hamish & Andy helped Melbourne’s Fox FM re-gain its position as number one

“Other than that it’s been a disaster around the country. It’s that lift that’s stopped us from being number one in this particularly moment and that’s not going to be in our way this time next year,” he said.

Despite Smooth FM’s success, Australian Radio Network’s national content director Duncan Campbell said competitor WSFM shows “positive signs” of recovery.

In Sydney, WSFM indicated slight growth, up 0.7 points to a share of 7.7%.

“The overall picture for ARN is extremely positive and we continue to generate big audiences and we have a strategic focus which means that we are confident in the statements we make when we talk about markets that are recovering.

“First of all, you have to acknowledge the Smooth result is impressive and they have built a strong station there and it continues to hold up which is great,” he said.

Campbell: “You have to acknowledge the Smooth result is impressive”

When asked whether he had concerns after Smooth’s breakfast show growth, Campbell said he was confident The Kyle and Jackie O Show would still lead the Sydney FM market.

“Kiis is still a very strong radio station and certainly in breakfast, Kyle and Jackie O at 9.7 (ratings points), we’ve got confidence in that despite the uplift with Smooth.

“The breakfast show and the content it generates will still lead the FM market in Sydney despite Smooth’s overall success.

“They don’t really share a lot of audience either. The audience share with Smooth is really WSFM so it’s very encouraging again.

“It’s easy to isolate single surveys, but if you look over trends it’s where the real story is.

“WSFM is in recovery mode coming back after the huge Smooth success at the beginning of this year. The difference is Smooth is not coming off necessarily,” he said.

“The competition between Smooth and WSFM, we are recovering well but there’s still a challenge on there.”

In the Melbourne market, Campbell said despite Gold FM’s 0.2 ratings point loss – which brought Gold’s share to 8.9% – the station could very well beat Smooth.

“It’s a tale of two cities. We’ve seen Smooth come off which we thought we would see in Sydney. Smooth is going to start to come off in Melbourne.

“There’s a really tight battle between Gold and Smooth,” he said.

“Tight battle” between Smooth and Gold according to Campbell

ARN’s Kiis FM jumped 0.5 points to an average share of 7%, making it the highest result for the station since 2015.

Campbell said the success came from consistency.

“I’d love to say we’ve done some outstanding stunts but it’s just consistency of product and because there’s the three contemporary hit stations, with Fox, Nova, and Kiis, there’s an awful lot of audience movement between those three.”

Like Jackson, Campbell voiced concerns for the Hit network, following the imminent departure of Hamish and Andy in six months.

“Fox is a very strong brand, one of the strongest radio brands in the country. The Hit network will have issues with the departure of Hamish and Andy, without a doubt, particularly in Melbourne because it is their home market.”

“You’re carrying a 12.7 in drive, without Hamish and Andy there that’s going to have some impact without a doubt.”

“The station has a healthy cume [cumulative audience], to what degree that impact is we’ll have to wait and see.

“There’s greater concerns in Sydney for 104.1. Cumulative audiences are very low, the share’s at 3.8, the breakfast show dipped again.

“You take a Hamish and Andy out of Sydney, which doesn’t deliver huge numbers but still delivers a whole point above station average then you’ve really got issues in stations like Hit104.1.”

The cumulative audience numbers – that is the total number of different people who listen to a station for at least eight minutes during any time period – indicated a Monday to Sunday audience loss of 59,000.

In the breakfast slot, 2dayFM lost 46,000 listeners and 29,000 in drive.

Sydney Radio’s survey three cumulative audience numbers

In Brisbane, ARN’s 97.3 FM lost 0.1 points to finish in second place at 11.3%.

Campbell was optimistic about 97.3 FM’s results, and said the “early halo effect” of former 97.3FM radio star Robin Bailey was “rapidly diminishing.”

SCA’s Triple M dropped 0.6 points but held its fourth spot on the ladder with an overall share of 10.2%.

Robin Bailey joined Triple M after being dumped by 97.3FM

“97.3FM is number two. That market obviously had a lot of churn given the multiple changes across multiple breakfast shows so we are seeing the market return to more normal ranking,” he told Mumbrella.

“Really the significance in Brisbane is the early halo effect of Robin leaves 97.3FM is rapidly diminishing so Triple M has come right back off and 97.3 breakfast strengthening and we have total confidence that that breakfast show will be number one in that market.

“97.3 is in recovery mode given we had to change the breakfast show. All those over-confident statements about the movement and Triple M are now sort of ringing hollow and the market returns to more of a normal positioning, which we knew it would.

“I predict the 97.3 breakfast show will be ahead of Triple M and that will then get its own momentum.”

SCA’s Triple M head of content Mike Fitzpatrick said despite the ratings slip, he was confident the station would continue to grow.

“In Brisbane, there was some early sampling from Robin coming across from 97.3 and that’s starting to settle down a little bit now but I expect to see some growth there.”

Fitzpatrick: Pleased with results as three of five marketers show audience share increase

He added he was pleased with Sydney’s growth.

“Sydney has had growth in the 10+ from a 4.8 to a 5.4. Considering what they were fighting against coming out of last survey, to go up is very good,” he said.

“Everyone that has a male listener is a competitor for us, so we aim to keep growing men in Sydney and do the best we can and create the best product we can for the blokes in Sydney.”


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