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

In the last few months, 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 the fourth part of this series, Zoe Samios investigates the Perth market.

Eight times a year, Mumbrella, other news outlets, and the radio industry sit down in front of a series of numbers that 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 is breaking down some of the GfK’s findings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth between the years of 2014 and 2018.

In each graph sits a breakdown of five years’ worth of total average audience, average audience in the breakfast time slot and average audience in the drive time slot. The graphs also break down five years’ worth of cumulative data.

Today, we look at Perth. If there is one city in Australia which rewards consistency of programming, it would be this one. While Sydney can be seen as being impulsive and cutting edge, Perth is the opposite.

One of the best examples of what consistency is in Mix 94.5, which is part of the Triple M network. Until 2012, Mix 94.5 was on a 100-survey winning streak, the longest in radio history at the time. But a slip in mid 2012 ruined Mix’s streak, and it lost to ARN’s 96FM. It was the first time 96FM had won a survey in 20 years.

It marked the beginning of a tumultuous 2013 for Mix 94.5, which then lost its breakfast trio, The Bunch, with Fred Botica, Lisa Shaw and Paul Shepherd. Botica and Shaw moved to the drive time slot and were replaced by drive show hosts Dean ‘Clairsy’ Clairs, Shane McFarlane & Kymba Cahill in breakfast. In 2014, audience quickly picked up, growing from 161,000 in the last part of 2013, rising to 196,000 by the end of 2014.

The sudden loss of Mix’s Shane McFarlane in 2015 had an impact on listeners

Things took a bad turn, however, mid way through 2015, when radio veteran McFarlane passed away.   The average and cumulative breakfast audience fell off for the back end of 2015, then climbing slightly upon the arrival of Matt Dyktynski in 2016.

In the last two years particularly, the breakfast show has faced serious competition in Nova’s Nathan Morris, Natalie Locke and Shaun McManus.

Locke and Morris have been working together since 2002, while McManus joined them in 2009. The success of the breakfast show is a testament to the longevity of the show. Last year, the Nova 93.7FM breakfast team finished with a cumulative of 348,000, compared to Mix’s 146,000 in survey eight of 2018. The average audiences were 55,000 and 28,000 respectively.

Nathan, Nat and Shaun’s show picked up in 2017, when they won six surveys in a row from Mix’s Clairsy, Matt & Kymba.

Nathan, Nat and Shaun are a good example of station loyalty in Perth

More broadly, Nova Perth is one of the highest rating stations from a cumulative audience perspective, with its cumulative audience sitting at 588,000, as of survey eight last year. Average audience also peaked in 2018 – climbing to 33,000 in survey eight. Five years ago, that number was 28,000. A look at the cumulative and average audiences for drive suggests most of the by the station has come from the breakfast team.

Meanwhile, ARN’s 96FM continues to struggle, which is a surprise to some in the radio industry. The station is the oldest on the FM dial and has a heritage most of its rivals would desire.

Five years ago, the station was still owned by Fairfax Media. It was bought at the end of the year as part of ARN’s Kiis network, to complete its five capital city offering. But music changes, breakfast changes and ownership changes appear to have broken listenership.

In its first year under ARN ownership, 96FM fell from a cumulative audience of 326,000 in survey one of 2015, to 256,000 at the same survey the following year. Average audience fell from 27,000 to 17,000.

But perhaps the biggest impact to the station came from the sacking of Darren de Mello from drive mid way through 2015, followed by the sacking of breakfast co-host, Ian ‘Blackers’ Blackley.

The loss of Blackley, who hosted the show with Carmen Braidwood and Brad Fitzgerald, resulted in a fall of average audience and cumulative audience. At survey five of 2015, average audience for 96FM breakfast was 36,000 and cumulative audience was at 169,000. The numbers fell to 24,000 and 139,000 respectively.

ARN decided to axe Braidwood and Fitzgerald at the end of 2017, and replace them with Lisa Fernandez and Paul Hogan, who were previously on Hit 92.9’s breakfast show, with Basil Zempilas. 

Shane Lowe (left) is now the anchor for Lisa Fernandez and Paul Hogan

But the decision to axe long-standing co-hosts at 96FM resulted in some of the worst cumulative audience and average audience figures of the new ownership.

Before the departure of Braidwood and Fitzgerald, cumulative audience was 189,000. Now that same number is 146,000, but fell as low as 131,000 last year. Average audience was up for the first time in a year at the end of 2018, but average audience figure hit a low of 20,000. It will be an interesting year for the pair, who are now joined by former Nova Adelaide co-host, Shane Lowe.

In drive, the removal of de Mello in 2015, and the decision to nationally syndicate Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes and Kate Langbroek to Perth, upset listeners. De Mello’s average audience mid way through 2015 was 25,000, and that number fell to 16,000. Cumulative audience at drive time was 168,000 mid way through the year, and fell to 126,000.

Another station to fluctuate over the last few years is SCA’s Hit Network station. At the beginning of 2014, two young radio presenters Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw, now Kiis FM drive show hosts, took a leap from their home-town of Melbourne to Perth. They were joined by former Big Brother star Heidi Anderson, and were replacing hosts Fernandez, Hogan and Zempilas.

It was a difficult first year for the trio, with cumulative audience as low as 204,000 in early 2015. Similarly, breakfast average fell significantly, from 32,000 at the end of survey eight 2013, to 19,000.

But by mid 2015, cumulative audience and average audience began to pick up, and with the exception of a couple of surveys, slowly began to increase. The ratings fell again upon the departure of Whitelaw and McMahon, who returned to Melbourne to lead what the Kiis Network’s drive time show. The pair were replaced by Xaxier Ellis and Ryan Jon. And while audience dipped slightly upon the change, some of the best breakfast results for Hit 92.9 have been achieved in the last year. Breakfast, coupled with the drive time slot’s Carrie Bickmore, Tommy Little, Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes and Kate Langbroek, helped the station to a cumulative audience of 531,000 at survey eight last year. At the end of 2013, that number was 417,000. Average audience is also a little healthier, up from 2013’s 20,000 to 25,000 by the end of 2018.

Over at the ABC, the decision to frequently change talent in both breakfast and drive has affected its results.

But in 2016, veteran broadcaster Eoin Cameron retired from the breakfast program and was replaced by James Lush. Lush was then replaced by 6PR presenter Peter Bell, who joined mid-way through 2016 to host breakfast. He was joined by Paula Kruger in 2017. Kruger left the show at the beginning of 2018, and Bell followed suit, quitting in September of 2018. Former ABC Perth drive show presenter, Russell Woolf, returned to the ABC in breakfast this year with Nadia Mitsopoulos.

Woolf’s departure at the end of 2013 resulted in a new drive show with John McGlue. There were a number of changes between McGlue and current host, Greg Hutchinson, who took on drive from 2018.  It’s a lot of change for five years in a market which begs consistency. Cumulative audience for breakfast hasn’t moved higher than 215,000 since 2016, and average audience has not moved higher than 58,000, which occurred in survey one of 2016.

Drive is also a five-year low according to both cumulative and average audience figures as is cumulative and average audience for the whole ABC Perth station.

This is the fifth feature as part of this series. To hear more about this series, listen to this week’s Mumbrellacast.

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