Shifts and shuffles: Will next year’s radio tweaks fuel new rivalries?

With one survey left for the year and 2018 lineups almost complete, Mumbrella's Zoe Samios chats with the radio bosses about yesterday's ratings and assesses whether next year's changes could shake up the competition.

The radio year is almost complete and finally the industry has offered up its long-awaited answers on what’s to come in 2018.

It wasn’t long after survey six when ARN and SCA revealed a number of major changes along with some tweaks to breakfast across Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

For drive, next year is about a complete talent overhaul – including brand new national drive shows for Triple M, Hit Network and Kiis Network.

Most notable were the announcements Hit Network’s Hamish Blake and Andy Lee would be replaced by Kiis Network’s Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek and Hughesy & Kate to be replaced by Perth Hit network’s Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw.

Hughesy & Kate are off to the Hit network next year, and will be replaced by Perth breakfast show hosts Will & Woody

But could the switch be ARN’s loss and SCA’s gain?

Looking at the most recent survey Nova’s Kate, Tim & Marty continued to assert dominance across Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, with shares of 17.2%, 14.7% and 13.2% respectively.

Kiis FM’s Hughesy & Kate maintained its dominance Sydney at 9.5% while Fox FM’s Hamish & Andy ended survey seven with a winning FM share of 10.5%.

According to the cumulative figures, Nova’s Kate, Tim & Marty won Sydney with 469,000, Brisbane with a cumulative audience of 309,000, Adelaide with 170,000 and Perth – with an audience of 294,000.

Fox FM’s Hamish & Andy had the largest audience in Melbourne (585,000).

For Gemma Fordham, Hit Network’s head of content, Hughesy & Kate will be a crucial asset to the network next year and yesterday’s ratings were indicative of that.

Fordham is looking forward to having the duo on her network

The duo will be part of an extended drive time offering alongside Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little, who will see their show extend in 2018.

“They’re really excited about taking on the challenge of helping to you know get 2Day performing and I think having them in drive being number one already in Sydney will certainly help bring across some new listeners,” she says.

But Fordham’s Perth-based breakfast radio hosts Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw have been poached and given their first gig on national drive at Kiis FM.

While she’s believes the duo are talented, she admits she would not have put them in drive.

“I really love the boys and I and I truly mean that I wish them well. Would I have put them into national drive? No I would not have. And obviously we had them in our network and we chose not to. So you know that that that I suppose speaks to itself really,” she says.

Fordham confirms she would not have put Will & Woody in drive

She also points to consistency in music positioning, arguing Will & Woody are quite a young drive show in comparison to some of Kiis network’s “ageing” breakfast shows.

But Duncan Campbell, ARN’s national content director, disagrees with Fordham’s comments, arguing it was a missed opportunity: “[Hit] wouldn’t put them in drive but they’re disappointed they are gone so that doesn’t add up for me.”

Campbell: Will & Woody a missed opportunity for Hit Network

For Campbell, the chemistry which he believes Will & Woody possess is more important than familiarity.

“The fact that they’re not initially well known or as well known as Hughesy & Kate, I mean we have to remember when Hamish & Andy came on they weren’t known either and they developed into one of most successful radio shows in history.

“There’s an energy about these guys, enthuse and a hunger which is really infectious and I think that’s going to serve the network well for 2018 and beyond.”

One network which won’t be changing its national drive lineup is Nova – with Kate, Tim & Marty returning to air in 2018.

But Paul Jackson, Nova’s group programme director, doesn’t hesitate to weigh in on the changes for Hit and Kiis, which will become Kate, Tim & Marty’s competition.

In Jackson’s eyes, Hughesy & Kate’s move could cause some confusion – and while they won Sydney national drive this survey, he’s adamant Nova still has the dominant offering.

“It (the change) probably does give us more opportunity next year because there’s got to be some confusion about Hughesy & Kate going to Hit, because Hit’s a younger positioned brand with a different tone,” he says.

“I think possibly Hughesy & Kate were a better fit on ARN, that’s just my opinion. And then you’ve obviously got a new show. I don’t really know Will & Woody but I know they’re younger guys. So it’s probably quite different to where Hughesy & Kate were. So all those things will create confusion whether they’re good shows or not or whatever it’s up to those networks to get them bedded in and settled down as quickly as they can.”

Jackson expresses concern for brand confusion with Kiis’ Hughesy & Kate switch to Hit

Fordham thinks Jackson’s point is valid, but says the network is aware of the potential issue, and adds the last change for Hughesy & Kate – from Nova to Kiis – wasn’t done very well.

“There are markets that have still suffered because the messaging wasn’t very clear where [Hughesy & Kate] were. We have a very strong marketing campaign planned with that in mind. So yes he’s right. And we got it covered. Thank you PJ,” she says.

But Campbell thinks Hit Network will be able to handle it.

“It’s funny because we were concerned about the confusion with Nova and certainly in Melbourne given the history of them being on breakfast on Nova. We branded them with Kiis a lot and I think obviously Hit will do the same.”

However looking to yesterday’s ratings, Campbell argues audiences have been dragged down by Hamish Blake & Andy Lee’s long goodbye.

In Sydney and Melbourne Blake and Lee dipped 0.2 points to shares of 5% and 10.5%, and in Perth they fell by 3.2 points to 9.9%.

But in Adelaide, Hamish & Andy gained 1.9 points, to take 11% of the audience and in Brisbane, the duo climbed 0.8 points to a 12.3% share.

Sydney cumulative audiences, survey seven. Source: GfK

“You’ve got Hamish and Andy which are a long goodbye, I think longer than they would have wanted it to be… They will go down in history as one of the greatest drive duos ever and rightly so,” Campbell says.

Jackson was a little less diplomatic.

“I think the point probably everyone is going to make it that SCA haven’t got any stations going well at all,” he says with reference to the success of other stations in market.

But Fordham hit back, pointing to Nova’s performance in Melbourne – a 6.9% overall share and fourth place across breakfast and drive.

“In Melbourne they continue to struggle. In Melbourne our breakfast show and drive show are beating Nova. His comments are a deflection. I’m looking at 2018 and excited to chase,” she says.

Shaking up the breakfast mix – is it enough to change the game?

In breakfast – while Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth have all experienced some change – for the most part the lineups remain the same.

On the FM bandwidth in breakfast this survey, KiisFM’s Kyle & Jackie O take a Sydney win with an 11.1% share, while Melbourne breakfast was won by Gold FM’s Jo Stanley and Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann – at 8.4%.

A surprise win from Jo & Lehmo this survey, according to Jackson

In Brisbane it was Nova106.9’s Ash Bradnam, Kip Wightman and David ‘Luttsy’ Lutteral which nabbed a win with a 14.4% audience share.

Adelaide FM breakfast was won by Mix102.3’s Jodie and Soda (12.2%) and in Perth, it was Nova93.7FM’s Nathan Morris, Natalie Locke and Shaun McManus had the largest share (14%).

But overall, it was 2GB’s Alan Jones which won Sydney breakfast (13.8%), Melbourne was won by 3AW breakfast with Ross Stevenson and John Burns (20%) and Adelaide breakfast was won by the ABC (14.6%).

Looking to the cumulative audience figures – Kyle and Jackie O had the largest in Sydney at 574,000, Fox FM breakfast with Fifi Box, Brendan Fevola and Byron Cooke had the biggest cumulative audience (574,000) in Melbourne and Nova Brisbane breakfast won in the cumulative figures with an audience of 354,000.

Melbourne cumulative audiences, survey seven. Source: GfK

In Adelaide and Perth, the biggest breakfast cumulative figures both came from Nova – with 170,000 and 324,000 respectively.

However next year, the results could all change.

Looking to Melbourne breakfast, and joining for the first time in 2018, is New Zealand duo Jase Hawkins and PJ Harding, replacing Matt Tilley and Meshel Laurie.

Over on Fox FM breakfast, Dave Thornton has already departed and on Triple M, there’s the addition of Wil Anderson to the Hot Breakfast team with Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy.

ARN boss Duncan Campbell reflects on his decision to axe Matt & Meshel and tells Mumbrella it came down to performance.

This survey, Tilley and Laurie reported a 5.6% audience share.

However he was surprised at the failed success given the strength and experience of both Tilley and Laurie as presenters.

“The chemistry between the two really wasn’t firing as well as it could have been on paper that show really should have worked.

“So sometimes these things just don’t work out the way you had hoped,” he says.

But Campbell is confident Jase & PJ have the chemistry the network needs, and could shake the breakfast landscape.

New Kiis 101.1 Melbourne hosts Jase Hawkins and PJ Harding

“These guys have got the chemistry, they’ve got the hunger as well which is a big factor, very social media savvy and involved and creative and they’re content generators. So they’ve got all the ingredients.”

Fordham, who put the Jase & PJ show together over in New Zealand, believes their biggest challenge will be resonating with a Melbourne audience.

“I’ve never experienced a city like Melbourne where locality and being Melbourne locals has been so important. So I don’t deny that they’re a good radio show but I do think that connecting with the Melbourne audience will certainly take its time to those guys,” she says.

Brisbane cumulative audiences, survey seven. Source: GfK

But it wasn’t Nova, Kiis or Fox that won breakfast in Melbourne yesterday, rather it was ARN’s Gold FM.

Jackson is surprised: “Gold has taken a huge leap – it’s an 8.5 at breakfast but if it’s doing 14 during the day so something is going on there that I haven’t had a chance to pinpoint yet.”

But Campbell feels quite the opposite. He argues the station is strong.

“This is the best result we’ve had for 10 years. And it’s the best practice show results for 10 years. So our goal in 2018 is to make sure that that station realizes its full potential and is a consistently or consistent number one or number two station station in Melbourne,” he says.

Although he admits this year was the year of Smooth.

“The network’s in very good shape. It still faces challenges from Smooth, in the case of the Gold and WS and 2017 would have to go down as probably the year of Smooth, it really it came into its own and we’ve we battled with them and it still remains pretty tight.”

Another network impressed with its Melbourne performance was Triple M.

Mike Fitzpatrick, head of content at Triple M said given the churn he was incredibly pleased with The Hot Breakfast team – with Eddie McGuire, Luke Darcy and Wil Anderson – who joined during the last two weeks of the survey.

Mike Fitzpatrick: Pleased with the results given the end of the football season

“What I am happy about is that the Hot breakfast went from fourth the third and it held steady at 7.1,” he says.

It was a similar story in Sydney with The Grill Team, Fitzpatrick adds: “It’s a really tough book for us. Again to hold at Seven goes back to that consistency of that show for the last eight years.”

For Nova’s Jackson, the Sydney market results were strong, but could be better.

“We’re number one but it could be better. So I guess you know what we deal with it is in a glance. Nova’s numbers are really strong and most books Smooth will be number one in those numbers, I think there’s not a lot to choose between Smooth and Kiis and WS to the overall number and how close they are to each other – it’s 0.1 here and there.”

And while in terms of share Nova and Smooth didn’t collect a win this survey, Jackson commends the efforts of Kiis FM’s Kyle & Jackie O and their 11.1% share.

What Jackson isn’t confident about, is the imminent change to 2DayFM’s Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen.

New 2Day FM show next year: Em Rusciano & Ed Kavalee

Last week it was announced Breen would not be returning to the show in 2018, with Ed Kavalee to replace him.

“I don’t think just changing one person for another that is the supporting cast of the show is going to make a difference,” he says.

But Jackson believes it would be prudent to stick with the show, given the number of times Sydney breakfast has changed its line up.

Fordham inevitably disagrees: “I’ve long been a fan of Ed.”

“He’s been around for a long time in radio and TV but certainly in the last kind of 18 months, I think he’s really risen another level.”

Fordham also alluded to further enhancements to the show and although the GfK ratings aren’t high, she says people have found a connection with the audience.

“It’s the number one or number two podcast for us in SCA,” she says. “They’re listening to the podcast later in the day. So at least they like what they’re hearing.”

Perth cumulative audiences, survey seven. Source: GfK

Another market with multiple changes in breakfast is Perth.

Three weeks ago 96FM’s breakfast show was cut, with Carmen & Fitzi exiting the market. In the sixth survey, the duo had a share of 8.2%.

Despite outrage and over 60 comments on Mumbrella’s website, Campbell is adamant the departure was “amicable”.

Carmen and Fitzi departure ‘amicable’

“Perth is an incredibly parochial marketplace and they take any perceived interference from the eastern states very personally.

“That decision didn’t mean that we didn’t think that Carmen and Fitzi were necessarily were a good team – they are a good team and individually are very talented people. But you know as I say the view we take is a medium to longer term. It’s not just an immediate here and now decision.”

But Fitzpatrick isn’t as sure, given the latest survey indicated one of the best results for 96FM across both breakfast and drive.

“So they’re basically blowing up the book ends that are performing really well for them,” he says.

“We programmers make some decisions sometimes based on research and gut. And they’ve tried hard to rebuild that 96 brand and based on the survey today, it suggests they’re doing a pretty good job, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens next year now they’re changing everything.”

However he is confident in his own decision on Triple M breakfast in Brisbane to replace Kavalee with Lawrence Mooney.

With all the changes on the FM bandwidth underway, Adam Lang, Macquarie Media’s chief operating officer won’t be resting on his laurels. As he sees it, the market has become extremely competitive.

Lang is excited by the tense competition

“In recent years we’ve seen in Sydney and Melbourne Smooth come up as a real contender. And so that changes the landscape for everybody.”

Macquarie Media’s various stations have seen a drop of in share this survey, with 2GB down by 0.8 points and 3AW by 0.7 points.

In breakfast, Jones fell by 1.5 points, while 3AW’s Stevenson and Burns declined by 1.1 points.

He says while they are still number one, he wants to win by a large margin.

Adelaide cumulative audiences, survey seven. Source: GfK

“Certainly the rating position is really important then you look at the gap to the next competitor that’s vital.

“But obviously we’re a bit greedy we always want more. We always want to win but win by a very large margin.”

But Lang himself says he would never make changes to the lineup based on his competitors.

“We would make it if we think it’s going to grow our audience, so that really starts with our own audience first. We look at changes for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s performance related, sometimes it’s because people are coming to an end of their career,” he explains.

“Unless something is broken you should stick with it and try and grow it.”


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