GfK survey 4, 2019 analysis: Duncan Campbell on ARN networks

• That import phone call that ARN’s Gary Roberts made to Fred Botica

There were many talking points for ARN on survey day, however our first question for national content director Duncan Campbell was about its Perth station 96FM– and we didn’t really want to focus on its ratings performance.

How did ARN woo back Fred Botica to radio?

“We were obviously not getting it right in Perth and hiring Gary Roberts was an obvious move for us to make,” Campbell told Mediaweek. “He was subsequently able to pull some rabbits out the hat in getting Fred and Lisa to return. Resurrecting Botica’s Bunch is a real coup.”

When Roberts first discussed breakfast options with ARN, Botica was not then part of the plan.

Campbell told Mediaweek that Roberts rang Botica and said they should have a chat. “Fred was heading off to play golf. He said he would play and call him later. Maybe half an hour later Fred rang back, saying he didn’t think he would play golf. He decided he would go and talk with Gary.

“Fred would have only returned to radio for Gary.”

The return to radio was so quick that Roberts and Campbell got the Botica’s Bunch team of Botica and Lisa Shaw back on air pronto, starting during the survey break this week while the opposition stations were all on a mid-year holiday.

“Those first Botica’s Bunch shows were so good it was almost as if they’d never been away,” said Campbell.

The big ratings story for ARN this survey is a turnaround finally at KIIS 101.1in Melbourne. “Both the station and Jase and PJ went up with rising cumes as well. It has always been acknowledged as a good show and the audiences are catching up. I used to answer questions from the staff about the new 101.1 breakfast and I’d say we would give the show the time it needs for the audience to get to know it.

It might have taken a while, but Jase and PJ and now right in the game, outrating The Hot Breakfast and closing the gap on sister station Gold and the Christian O’Connell breakfast show. KIIS is now 0.2 behind the smoothfm Melbourne breakfast show, which just two surveys ago was celebrating being #1 FM.

KIIS breakfast has been 18 months in the making and Jase and PJ and the team didn’t lose faith or focus and it has paid dividends this survey.

Campbell tells Mediaweek often, “It’s a long game played slowly,” but it’s never been truer. “It’s also a game of trends,” something OMD Sydney head of investment Jane Combes also told Mediaweek this week.

Although Campbell knew the Melbourne breakfast show sounded good, he heeded the supporting ratings data. “No one is going to sign off on a $1m brief for KIIS breakfast because the national content director said it sounds good.

In Sydney KIIS 106.5 dipped, something that Campbell noted is all part of ebbs and flows. “There will be a headline somewhere this week about Kyle or KIIS dropping. But down movements are always short-lived.”

In Brisbane, ARN runs two of the three stations battling for second place behind Nova. “I did say in the past that Hit 104 would come off this year and they have after some very strong results last year. Our research indicated those levels weren’t going to be sustainable. Triple M has also softened a little bit, although still doing OK.

“97.3 is now right back in the pack which is where we want to be. Our goal is to be top two.”

One of the stations standing in the way of that ambition is ARN’s AM music station 4KQ which has posted its second 10%+ share this year. “4KQ is a great product and part of the reason for the growth is the quality of the sound on DAB+ and the streaming apps.

While Mix 102.3 is down in Adelaide, Campbell said that can be linked to football attracting audiences elsewhere. “We are pretty confident it will bounce back next book.

“Breakfast is lower than we would like it to be, but that will come back as well.”

ARN doesn’t treat the back half of the year very differently to the first. “The only difference is we don’t put as much investment into survey eight because there is no rolling effect [into the next survey].

“These surveys can be important for agency buying when it comes to contract renewals.”

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