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Fox FM aims to keep Melbourne Talking

Head of content Adrian Brine on getting the balance right with four breakfast hosts

Fifi, Dave, Fev, Byron

Southern Cross Austereo’s Melbourne station Fox FM ended 2016 on a high note. The station was the #1 FM station in the market and the #2 commercial station overall, trailing only longtime leader 3AW.

For the station’s head of content Adrian Brine, the focus this year is going to be about staying consistent.

“We had a great strategy last year to get it to that point,” he told Mediaweek, “keeping breakfast as busy as possible, getting them out of the studio as much as possible and making as much noise as possible.

“We started the year with Undercover Dating with Fifi [Box], which was really big for us. If we can play in more of those things into the year, it just gives us more of a reason to be talked about. That’s all we can really do in this game – stay talked about.”

Adrian Brine

Three new breakfast shows were launched in Melbourne in 2016. While Fox FM didn’t go down the same path, it introduced two new members to the existing team of Fifi Box and Dave Thornton.

“With the injection of Fev, it was about how we can create better conversations in this show. I am a big believer in a three-person show,” Brine said, on signing former professional AFL player Brendan Fevola. “Fev got his life back together, got into the jungle [in Ten’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Of Here!], then came out a winner. People love a good story of someone turning their life around. He was a perfect fit for this show.”

Having a three-person breakfast show is not unusual. However, having four presenters for a breakfast show is not a normal practice in the industry today. Fox FM was one of SCA’s first stations to trial this with the addition of Byron Cooke. He had been a part of the show since late 2015, but his name was added to the title of the show just this year.

“Four people are a challenge,” Brine said. “It’s a challenge to get the balance right. It’s a challenge to get the share of voices right on the show. But with the right amount of feedback and content programmed around the right talent on the show, having four names to a show is not an issue these days. As long as they are all playing their role and bringing their strengths to the show every day, it will generate great conversations.”

The station broadcasts local content until 3pm, which is when Hit Network’s new national show fronted by Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little takes over. That is then followed by drive with Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.

Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little

Brine said having local shows during the day is important for Fox FM as it helps the station connect with the audience during the workday better.

“From 7:30am onwards, our biggest opportunity for growth is getting people as soon as they get into the car,” he said. “If we can do that, then that flows into our workday.

“There is nothing more important than being as local as you can be in a workday shift. You are speaking to an audience that is at work, so it’s about connecting with what they are doing at a particular time.”

The eighth radio survey for 2016 revealed a happy ending for Fox FM. The station’s breakfast show dethroned Triple M’s The Hot Breakfast as the #1 FM commercial breakfast. Along with this, the afternoon and drive shows were #1 in their respective slots as well.

“Hamish and Andy are finding a whole new generation of listeners,” Brine claimed. “They [the younger listeners] may have grown up with them but they probably didn’t hear some of that early stuff.”

Hamish and Andy’s popularity is also used by SCA when it comes to the events space. The duo are often seen hosting The Hit Network’s live events such as the World Famous Rooftop, which has started with a bang this year thanks to English singer Ed Sheeran.

Hamish and Andy

“It’s almost at the top of the list for me,” Brine said. “Experiences are what are going to set the station apart. Everybody can play Justin Bieber, but it’s really about what experience are we going to give the fans that is unique to us. For example, RnB Fridays Live is something only we can do. We want to do more of those experiences, because that is something that our listeners will go away and tell their friends about – that is how we can build the fan base of this radio station.”

With Fox FM becoming the #1 FM commercial station in Melbourne at the end of 2016, would Brine like it to become the #1 commercial station overall?

“That certainly does not enter my mind when I get out of bed each morning,” he said, laughing. “I have been lucky to have been handed a station that was in such great shape from Dave Cameron [former Fox FM content director, now SCA’s national head of content and development].

“So one day, would that be nice? Probably. But we are certainly not setting out to achieve that any time soon.”

The new 3pm show

In mid-January, The Hit Network announced that it had signed The Project’s Carrie Bickmore and comedian Tommy Little to host a new national live show starting at 3pm.

Bickmore and Little are both based in Melbourne and are well-known names in Australia and the city.

The new show, Brine said, will provide a good lead-in to the drive show.

“Carrie is a huge personality and is someone who wants to stretch her legs. Radio gives her that opportunity.

“Her connection with Tommy is pretty obvious. They have worked together on The Project quite a bit.”

The Sam Pang danger

The success of a radio network in Melbourne and Sydney plays an integral role in determining a broadcaster’s overall success in any given radio survey.

Melbourne witnessed the introduction of multiple breakfast shows in 2016, one of which Brine recognised as Fox FM breakfast show’s biggest competition.

Sam Pang is brilliant,” Brine said. “That is a great breakfast show over the road at Nova. They have put it together really well and they have branded it really well. The chemistry is great and it’s certainly one to watch. Sam Pang is a standout.”

Asked if Pang would be Brine’s dream signing, he said, laughing: “Let’s not say that.”

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