Grab your popcorn: Nine Radio and ARN face off in battle of the Sydney radio giants

Nine Radio

Ben Fordham in the AM corner and Kyle and Jackie O the heavyweight FM champs

Nine Radio has been the ratings champ with its network AM talk stations for many years. In Sydney, it is a long-time breakfast radio champ first with Alan Jones and more recently Ben Fordham. However, that radio ratings dominance is under threat. Kyle and Jackie O have owned the #1 FM spot in the market for a long time, but now they are regularly pushing for the overall crown too.

As the radio ratings year edges toward a close, ARN FM stations in Sydney, and Melbourne, are sitting on the sidelines where just a small boost to share in the final survey of 2023 could push them over the top of the long-time AM market leaders.

In Sydney, the battle is between 2GB’s Fordham and KIIS 106.5’s Kyle and Jackie O. In Melbourne, no one is close to 3AW’s Ross and Russ, however in the station shares, ARN’s Gold 104.3 has closed the gap as it sits just 1.1 behind 3AW.

Just one survey win, and we are not there yet, won’t upset the buying plans of advertisers wishing to reach the respective audiences for each of the stations. But it will provide some juicy headlines in a market where major ratings upsets are rare.

When analysing the radio ratings for Nine Radio, head of content Greg Byrnes told Mediaweek it should be pointed out Survey 6, 2023 for 3AW was a record result.

Ben Fordham and Greg Byrnes

Nine Radio content director Greg Byrnes with Ben Fordham

The station has come down, but it’s come down from what were pretty remarkable numbers. Ratings results with a bigger move from what is normally a very consistent station tend to iron themselves out over a few surveys.”

The biggest fall at 3AW was in the evening share with the result dropping 5.0. Byrnes noted it’s a volatile time of day and Nine Radio saw a similar move in the evening at 2GB two surveys ago. “It’s always very hard to make [programming] calls on single survey results. We always look for trends and we don’t expect to see one coming from this. Nothing has changed at that time of day at 3AW – it is not doing anything different. Dennis Walter does a very good evening show.”

Nine Radio v ARN Sydney breakfast battle

One ratings move Mediaweek is happy to highlight survey-by-survey is the battle for bragging rights to be Sydney’s #1 radio show. If cume audience was the sole guide it would be game over with Kyle and Jackie O on 1,339,000 to Ben Fordham’s 737,000 at 2GB. However, the statistic used is share which measures the total audience and the time they spend listening.

On that measure, it is a very close contest with Kyle and Jackie O on 16.3% to Ben Fordham’s 16.2%.

Kyle and Jackie O

Can Kyle and Jackie O finish the year #1 overall in Sydney breakfast?

“It is very pleasing this survey that Ben has gone up 2.0,” said Byrnes. “That is where we feel he deserves to be. With Kyle and Jackie also posting a rise it is certainly shaping up for an exciting end to the year. It is a fair recognition of how the year has played out with KIIS winning some and 2GB also taking some surveys.”

While Fordham and morning host Ray Hadley have been recording strong shares across the year, Byrnes noted they have both posted the best cume audience numbers for the year. “Those results flowed through the rest of the station with all dayparts in Sydney improving.”

Elsewhere around Nine Radio

4BC also posted good growth in breakfast which Byrnes noted came off the back of hard work to improve the local content being broadcast across Brisbane on the station.

“When Nine Radio took over 4BC there was only one hour of local programming broadcast. It was a local real estate program broadcast on a Saturday morning. The rest of it was all from 2GB.”

TSL growth

Byrnes explained “time spent listening (TSL) growth has been our focus at 2GB and 4BC this year. The cumes have been very good and we just needed to work out how we could keep those people listening longer. That figure is up over an hour at each station this week.”

Part of that plan was to give audiences the best possible quality broadcasts by converting them to digital radio. We say the future of talk radio is digital.”

Nine Radio streaming leader

Nine Radio is #1 in live audio streaming and #1 streaming in breakfast across the country.

3AW and 2GB are #1 in overall commercial streaming, with a 31.4% and 24.0% share respectively, as well as across all main standard sessions.

Ross and Russ recorded a 52.1% commercial streaming share in breakfast at 3AW, and Ben Fordham was also #1 in breakfast at 2GB with a commercial streaming share of 34.0%.

Byrnes: “Since inception, the Radio360 data has proven talk’s absolute dominance in streaming. Survey 7 shows we remain the clear #1 with connected devices. Our live and local content is the future of audio streaming, with the ease of access ensuring you’re always up to date.”

Nine podcast champ too

The Nine Podcast Network is reaching more listeners with a 15% YOY audience growth in October.

Byrnes noted Ben Fordham Live podcast jumped seven places in the Australian Podcast Ranker, to #25, reaching 178,000 listeners in October (+69% YOY). Nine Radio continues to climb the ranker with several catch up podcasts in the Top 150, including Ben Fordham Live, Mornings with Neil Mitchell, The Ray Hadley Morning Show, 3AW Breakfast with Ross and Russ, Wide World of Sports, 3AW Drive with Tom Elliott and 2GB Drive with Chris O’Keefe.

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