Radio Ratings: Network programmers on GfK survey #1, 2018

The truth, the whole truth… and a little bit of spin.

Mediaweek’s James Manning spends survey day with Nova’s Paul Jackson, ARN’s Duncan Campbell and SCA’s Guy Dobson. The truth, the whole truth… and a little bit of spin.

• GfK Radio Ratings, Survey 1 2018: Highlights + full results
• GfK Radio Ratings, Survey 1 2018: Network performance roundup

Nova Entertainment: Nova and smoothfm

“It’s going to be a good year… it should be fun,” said Nova Entertainment’s group program director Paul Jackson with a mischievous laugh as he surveyed the results from the first survey of the year.

Nova sets the bar high each year for performance and will need to stretch even further in 2018 if it wants to improve on 2017, which delivered at least one “this is the best day in the network’s history” moments.

While there was lots of change in many metro markets, Nova was the brand that returned all its breakfast shows this year. “Consistency is a word people often use when talking about us and that’s what we want to be,” Jackson told Mediaweek.

Jackson said the brands wanted to reassure listeners and advertisers that the stations are still largely where they were in terms of the 2017 overall results. “I go straight to the big picture of all our demos around the country with regard to what the sales offerings are. We are every bit as strong as we were last year. Survey one, however, does throw a few curve balls for everybody because in part the survey runs through the summer holiday period.”

When pushed about any trouble spots, Jackson noted the fall in Brisbane breakfast but, as Mediaweek notes elsewhere, the summer survey is always the toughest for Nova 106.9. “We didn’t do particularly well in Adelaide, but watch out for the market to settle after the huge audience moves.”

While Jackson hopes for smoothfm to be #1 every survey, he admitted: “You can actually be #2 and have a better result. We are over a 10% share in Melbourne with a great spread of demos and the best we have ever done. That spread of audience is mirrored in both smoothfm markets which means the way we have the product positioned is dead right.”

While many networks have already been dropping substantial marketing funds, Jackson said they have been holding on for smoothfm and its marketing spend will start soon.

“The momentum for smoothfm is all in front of us as we head into winter.”

Jackson said the overall national position of the networks is more crucial than ever for the ad sell. Nova Entertainment has a long list of national claims.

Read here for more on that.

The sort-of-networked morning shows hosted by Greg Burns don’t have spectacular share, but Jackson noted you need to dig into the demos to see the success and he referred us to the numbers of listeners in Brisbane and Adelaide who now hear Burns too.

The smoothfm share in Melbourne was the station’s second best-ever, with Jackson saying, “Any day you get into double figures and you aren’t #1 FM you are very unlucky.”

He also noted in that market, “KIIS has lost so many listeners so quickly that the listeners seem to have gone back to Fox, which was the previous home of Matt Tilley.”

Jackson was not surprised Gold seems to have held most of its share. “It can be into February before people are taking too much notice of who is on where in the new year.”

Southern Cross Austereo: Hit Network and Triple M

The chief creative officer Guy Dobson was very upbeat during his discussion with Mediaweek.

“It has been a great start to year from a company point of view,” said Dobson. “We added 360,000 listeners to the aggregate of all our stations.”

Replacing Hamish and Andy was always going to be a massive challenge, but Hit Network has met that task with the successful recruitment of Hughesy and Kate, who Dobson said delivered an incredibly strong start.

On Triple M he pointed to the strength of its new national drive offering: “Kennedy and Molloy were up everywhere they are on including a massive lift in Melbourne which is their heartland and where the program started.”

Triple M network stations were up in three markets, flat in another with Sydney the only laggard with a fall of 1.3. Dobson shrugged off any long-term implications. “We get one of those books every year for Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide. There is nothing to worry about. The station sounds awesome and we have not considered converting to polka music. It is doing a great job for advertisers and it is now into the NRL season.”

The Hit Network reported growth in all five metro markets. “Sydney was the important one though,” said Dobson. “We launched it six weeks ago and we have grown the cume by 87,000, and 25-39 went up dramatically and it was the only commercial FM station to go up in Sydney this survey. The core audience gets the show big time and the station cume is about to latch on to it. We are very confident where that station is going to be later this year.

“Fox continues to be a very strong brand with a great breakfast show. It is the default station to go to when the others are annoying you.”

He also noted the strength of the other Hit breakfast offerings including Brisbane, which is #1 again for the first time in six years. “Both Perth stations are very strong.”

As to negative industry sentiment about the chance of the latest 2Day breakfast show ultimately succeeding, Dobson said: “We are really happy with our strategy and how we are executing it. The best is yet to come. Knockers are only out there when they are scared and nervous and that is fine.”

There is still a long way to go in 2018, Dobson said: “We fully realise this is only one survey of eight in 2018.”

Dobson said he wished his competitors “every success in the world, but then not too much”.

ARN: Duncan Campbell

With massive change in the Melbourne market causing havoc at KIIS FM and across some of the network drive results, national content director Duncan Campbell carefully explained the broadcaster knew it would be some time before the changes “kick in”.

Despite some carnage, he told Mediaweek the network was resilient. “We are in a strong #2 position just behind SCA from a national perspective. And well ahead of Nova, by the way.

“We only dropped to #2 because those new shows are going to take a bit of time to work.

“I refer back to the strategy we have discussed before. We wanted to bring shows into the market that had chemistry. The early adopters are being very positive about the new KIIS Melbourne Jase and PJ show. The challenge for us is to create levels of familiarity that enable us to realise the full potentials of those shows.

“KIIS has really taken a hit right across the board in Melbourne with less time spent listening. Some people seem to have defaulted back to what was the heritage station of Fox FM. We have to be cautious statistically because some of those movements are large. History indicates they will settle back.

“The reason we still feel very confident about our decisions is that when you listen to Jase and PJ you hear some of the most innovative content that has been produced in that market for some time. That content will get traction ultimately.”

He repeated: “You just have to listen to the show to know it’s going to work. We are working aggressively to build familiarity with above-the-line marketing.”

Campbell didn’t think the new KIIS drive had contributed to a fall at KIIS 1065 in Sydney.

“Breakfast with Kyle and Jackie O came off a huge end to 2017 and is back to its average numbers. The show does tend to go a bit longer than we’d like at times.”

As for competitive analysis, Campbell noted 2Day FM was still well below Em Rusciano’s previous best. KIIS competes most closely with Nova in terms of music.

“Nova is interesting as a network,” said Campbell. “It has sailed through the changes with a small drop in Sydney. But ARN still has the #1 and #2 breakfast shows, which again shows the strength of our duopoly.”

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