What five years’ worth of radio data tells us about the industry: Brisbane

Mumbrella has been crunching five years’ worth of cumulative and average audience data from radio stations across the five metro cities. So what do the results show? In a third piece as part of this series, Zoe Samios investigates the Brisbane market.

Eight times a year, Mumbrella, other news outlets, and the radio industry, sit down in front of a series of numbers, which define the success of a respective station or program.

The results are dependent on respondents who complete a paper or online diary for GfK.

This week, Mumbrella has been breaking down some of the GfK’s findings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth between 2014 and 2018.

In each graph sits five years’ worth of average audience and cumulative audience data, which has been broken out into total, breakfast and drive.

Sydney and Melbourne are already in. Today, we take a look at Brisbane.

Did the tweak of a brand and the loss of a breakfast host impact Hit105?

In 2015, one of Brisbane’s oldest radio stations, B105, rebranded to become aligned with the Hit Network, owned by Southern Cross Austereo.

What might have been a tweak to a logo for some, marked the end to a heritage brand for others. In years prior, it had been the highest rating Brisbane radio station, a title which it is slowly winning back. But that 2015 change was coupled with another major tweak for the station: the departure of long-standing breakfast presenter, Jase Hawkins, who now works on Kiis FM Melbourne.

Hawkins had been on air for seven years, departing for a gig in New Zealand.

Five years on, his co-hosts from that breakfast team remain: Abby Coleman and Stav Davidson. In the last three years there have been a few changes. Osher Gunsberg was on the show from 2016 to 2017, while current co-host Matty Acton joined the team in 2017.

But the impact of Hawkins’ exit was telling in its first year, with the breakfast slot falling to a cumulative audience as low as 217,000 mid way through 2015, while average audience fell to 25,000.

Slowly, things began to change.

Gunsberg, host of Ten’s reality shows The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and now Bachelor in Paradise, helped the station recover, moving towards an average audience of 47,000 in early 2017, while cumulative audience grew to 309,000.

His departure in late 2017 appears to have impacted the breakfast figures slightly, but in 2018, Acton, Coleman and Davidson achieved some of the highest results for the station since Hawkins’ departure.

The number chipped away in the back end of the year, but the average audience, which takes into account ‘how much’ listening was done, is the highest it has ever been. What will happen in the absence of Coleman – who is currently on maternity leave – is yet to be seen.

But loyalty to breakfast has proven vital for the station, particularly due to the changes in drive last year, with Hamish Blake and Andy Lee being replaced by Carrie Bickmore, Tommy Little, Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes and Kate Langbroek.

Unlike Fox FM in Melbourne, Hit105’s drive show is not as familiar as other drive time programs, namely Nova’s Kate Ritchie, Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold, given Blackwell and Sheargold are former breakfast presenters in Brisbane.

The impact of a heritage breakfast show

From 2010, Nova’s Blackwell, Sheargold and former co-host Meshel Laurie, worked together in breakfast, before they were placed into the drive time slot, to replace what is now Nova’s Sydney breakfast, with Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald and Michael ‘Wippa’ Wipfli. Drive time is still run by Blackwell and Sheargold, who were joined by actress Kate Ritchie in January 2014.

For the last five years – the span of data Mumbrella is looking at – the show has remained consistent, from both a cumulative and average audience perspective, with the occasional spike.

Kate, Tim and Marty produce some strong results in Brisbane

The success of the drive show in Brisbane has helped the station overall. The breakfast time slot, with hosts Ashley Bradnam, Kip Wightman, David “Luttsy” Lutteral and Susie O’Neill, has not been as consistent. The show with Bradnam, Wightman and Lutteral has been running since 2012, with O’Neill joining the team two days a week in 2014, before extending that to three and then four days a week.

Unlike drive, the station ended the year with an average audience of 40,000, its second lowest result in five years. Cumulative audience bounced back from the previous survey’s 297,000, up to 355,000, but it was still one of the lower results of the last few years.

One of the biggest skips for the breakfast slot came in 2015, during the period when Bradnam was suspended from Nova following a drink driving charge. He was absent from the breakfast show between survey three and survey eight of 2015.

The struggle in breakfast has affected Nova’s overall average audience slightly. Average audience sits at 26,000, compared to 30,000 the year prior. Cumulative audience, however, has slowly climbed over the last few years. The numbers, which are some of the worst in five years, suggest the audience is moving elsewhere, not sticking around to listen to the long-standing breakfast hosts. But the spikes in cumulative audience suggest people continue to give Nova a listen.

97.3FM an all time low for the station

Nova FM isn’t the only station owned by Nova Entertainment in Brisbane: it also has a 50% stake in 97.3FM, which is programmed by its other owner, ARN, and is part of the Kiis network.

In the last few years the show had undergone a large amount of change, particularly to its breakfast line up.

Between the years of 2014-2016, 97.3FM breakfast was run by Terry Hansen, Bob Gallagher and Robin Bailey. But in late 2016 Bailey was axed from the show, before quickly getting picked up as breakfast co-host at Triple M Brisbane. Hansen and Gallagher were both joined by Bianca Dye, before Hansen departed the show due to “debilitating fatigue” in 2018. The show now runs with comedian Mike van Acker, Gallagher and Dye.

Five years’ worth of data reveals 97.3FM is suffering in the absence of Hansen and Bailey, with a steady decline in breakfast cumulative audience, and a decline in average audience since Bailey’s departure in late 2016.

Before Bailey’s departure, Hansen, Gallagher and Bailey’s average audience sat between 45,000 and 50,000. That number fell as low as 35,000 in late 2018. Cumulative audience, when Hansen, Gallagher and Bailey were on air, climbed as high as 352,000, but sat around 320,000 for a couple of years. As of the end of 2018, with the absence of Hansen, cumulative audience was 274,000.

Robin Bailey joined Triple M after being dumped by 97.3FM

The result, combined with the efforts of drive show hosts Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw, puts 97.3FM at a five year low in terms of average audience: 22,000. Fortunately, it seems as those some new audiences are listening to the show, with cumulative audience at 499,000, up from survey eight of 2017, which was at 482,000.

Like breakfast, drive time in Brisbane has suffered in the absence of Hughes and Langbroek, who now run a drive show on Hit Network. Average audience and cumulative audience are also some of the lowest results in more than five years.

The healthy rise of Triple M

Bailey’s exit from 97.3FM is a blessing for her new station, Triple M Brisbane, according to new figures. While the low-cumulative audience station, targeted at men, is struggling in Sydney and Melbourne, its growth in Brisbane is something to be admired.

The show made more changes in 2019, replacing Lawrence Mooney with Nick Cody on the airwaves. Mooney, who took over from 2DayFM’s Ed Kavalee in October last year, has since commenced a new show in Sydney. Kavalee ran the show from 2014 with Greg ‘Marto’ Martin, and Michelle Anderson. After Anderson’s exit, Martin and Kavalee ran the show together for a year and a half, before Bailey came on board in January of 2017.

With every change the audience appears to grow. As the years progress and talent changes, more and more listeners began to trial the station, while 97.3FM – which is often compared to Triple M Brisbane – started to fall off.

Survey eight of 2018 was the highest result for the station in more than five years. In survey eight of 2014, the breakfast slot had a cumulative audience of 185,000. That number, as of survey eight, is 273,000. And while average audience was 33,000 for survey eight of 2014, four years on form the same survey, it sits at 57,000.

But the drive time slot, which has delivered some of its biggest growth in cumulative and average audience over the last year, is about to change in 2019. For the last two years, Triple M Brisbane has run a program with Luke Bradnam – Ash Bradnam’s twin – and Ben ‘Dobbo’ Dobin. In 2017, they were joined by Libby Trickett, and in 2018 Trickett exited and Margaux Parker joined the team. SCA axed the show at the end of last year., replacing it with the national syndicated drive show. Bradnam and Parker are now running The Rush Hour on Gold Coast station, Gold 92.5.

The launch of a national drive show on Triple M, with Mick Molloy and Jane Kennedy has seen grown in both cumulative and average audience data, in Brisbane. The first year of the show has produced some of the highest results of the last five years for Triple M Brisbane’s drive time slot.

At the end of 2018, cumulative audience was at a five year high – 226,000 – as was average audience, at 32,000.

Magic’s collapse not so magic

In the last five years, Macquarie Sports Radio Brisbane has had many names: 4BH, Magic 882, Talking Lifestyle and as of last year, Macquarie Sports Radio Brisbane.

In that time, it has also lost more than half its audience.

At survey eight of 2013, the station’s total cumulative audience was 150,000, and its average audience was 13,000.

By survey eight of 2018, the numbers were 31,000 and 1,000 respectively.

What is apparent from the five years is that every change from 4BH resulted in an eventual drop off in audience.

When 4BH was still owned by Fairfax Media and rebranded to Magic 882, it came with a new positioning: ‘the songs you know and love’, as well as changes to the line up. Moyd Kay came into breakfast and Ian Keenan joined from 4KQ. Greg Victor moved from mornings to drive.

That first year the number held, but by year two, breakfast and drive both began to fall off.

In 2015, after the merger of Fairfax Media’s radio arm and Macquarie Radio, a number of staff were made redundant, and the decision was made to use content from Magic 1278, Victoria.

The demise began and then fell further when Brisbane’s Talking Lifestyle format launched in 2017. In Brisbane, the fall began to plateau once the new Macquarie Sports Radio format was introduced in early 2018. But it isn’t saying much.

Survey eight of 2013 – when 4BH still existed in its previous form – drive time’s average audience was 9,000 and cumulative audience was 67,000. Those numbers now sit at 1,000 and 10,000 respectively.

Breakfast average at survey eight of 2013 was 22,000 and cumulative audience was 84,000. The numbers are 3,000 and 13,000 respectively.

The result for Macquarie Sports Radio is almost the complete opposite to the network’s sister station, 4BC, which has seen growth in both cumulative audience for the station, and Alan Jones’ breakfast show, which is syndicated from Sydney.

This is the third feature as part of this series. Tomorrow, Mumbrella will be looking at five years’ worth of radio data on the Adelaide market. 

See the other markets so far:


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