Sydney radio ratings: Ben Fordham retains lead in first survey since replacing Alan Jones

GfK radio ratings were paused in April due to COVID-19. The last survey released was survey two on 16 April. Surveys three, four and five were cancelled. This story covers survey six, which ran from Sunday 26 July to Saturday 19 September. Survey seven will be released as normal.

Ben Fordham has held onto the ratings lead he inherited from predecessor Alan Jones, dropping just 0.6 percentage points to grab a 17.3% audience share in his 2GB breakfast slot and remain ahead of ABC Sydney’s 12.5%.

Fordham stepped into the role with a 17.9% audience share left by Jones, whose last survey in April was released before he announced he would be stepping down after a 35-year radio career, 18 of which were spent with 2GB.

Fordham is on top in Sydney

There was speculation ABC Sydney’s Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck would close the gap with 2GB’s breakfast offering as Fordham settled into his new role – he left his 2GB drive show with a 10.5% share, second in the slot – but a 1.6 percentage point climb, the biggest growth for any station in the slot, wasn’t enough to edge closer to Fordham.

He had a few months in the new job before facing his first survey, but was confident his drive-time listeners would follow him to breakfast.

“I’ve got a loyal group of listeners who’ve been with me for 10 years on the Drive show and they’re a very loyal audience in radio,” Fordham said at Nine’s Big Ideas Store in July.

“They’re sticky. Once they connect with you and once they get you, I think they tend to stay around.”

Nine Radio’s head of content, Greg Byrnes, said the results prove that Fordham is up to the “toughest job of all”: continuing Jones’ ratings success.

The breakfast pile in Sydney. Source: GfK [Click to enlarge]

“Despite significant changes in key shifts on 3AW [in Melbourne] and 2GB [in Sydney] our audience has stayed with us and knows who to trust,” Byrnes said.

Kyle and Jackie O remained atop the FM breakfast pile for the fourteenth consecutive survey with a 10.2% share – the same result the pair scored in the last survey for Australian Radio Network. Their former station, Southern Cross Austereo’s 2Day FM, continued to struggle with its music format in the slot, dropping 1.3 points for a 2.5% share. Nova’s Fitzy and Wippa fell 1.3 points for a 6.4% share, while WS FM’s Jonesy and Amanda fell 0.5 points to an 8.6% share.

Today’s results are the first comprehensive glimpse into the radio market’s performance in months – the industry paused surveys in April, citing the difficulty of performing fieldwork and collecting physical diaries in the midst of COVID-19. The scheduled June, July, and August surveys were cancelled, with surveys recommencing at the end of July as normal in markets including Sydney; modifications were introduced in Melbourne due to ongoing lockdown conditions.

Sydney radio ratings survey 6 2020. Source: GfK [Click to enlarge]

The survey period – 26 July to 19 September – also covered Jim Wilson’s first run at the drivetime slot, replacing Fordham in June. He dropped 1.4 points to land on a 9.1% share, behind Kiis 106.5 (10%, back 1 percentage point), ABC Sydney (10.2%, back 1.5 percentage points), and Smooth FM, the latter of which dominated in drive.

Nova’s Smooth climbed 2 percentage points in the slot for a 10.4% share and the overall lead across both FM and AM channels. Last survey, AM’s ABC Sydney and 2GB and FM’s Kiis 106.5, fronted by Will and Woody, all remained ahead of Smooth.

WS FM was down 1.3 points in the slot to 6.9%, and Nova’s Kate, Tim and Marty remained stable with an 8.9% share, down 0.1 point.

Sydney radio ratings survey 6 2020. Total audience share. Source: GfK [Click to enlarge]

With Fordham’s help, 2GB remained the city’s best-performing station overall in the people 10+ demographic, holding a 14.2% share, a drop of 0.6 percentage points. ABC Sydney was next on 10.5% thanks to a 0.9 percentage point increase.

Smooth also held onto the title of Sydney’s top FM station (it took over from WS FM last survey) with a 9.9% share, while WS FM fell back to 8.4% (down 0.5 percentage points), and Kiis 106.5 secured an 8.2% share. 2Day FM sat on 3.3%, down 1.8 percentage points, the biggest decline of any station.

Ahead of today’s survey results, CRA launched a multi-channel advertising campaign last month spruiking the benefits of the medium that has “no countdown, blocker, fast forward or skip button”. And the data industry body CRA did provide during COVID-19 showed a spike in listening across the board.

Like all media formats, radio revenues have been severely impacted by the pandemic, with ad spend back 29% in July and 30.4% for the year to date. For the period of January to July, radio is faring better than outdoor, magazines, and cinema when it comes to the investment of advertising dollars, but worse than newspapers, TV, and digital.

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