SCA Perth GM Linda Wayman on taming the west

How Mix 94.5 and Hit 92.9 managed to top the ratings chart

Linda Wayman

It’s hard to believe that Southern Cross Austereo Perth general manager Linda Wayman has been running the Perth station Mix 94.5 and 92.9 for over a decade. Mediaweek has been speaking with Wayman most years to find out how the stations have performed and on the form they had in survey seven, 2016 will be one of the best ever.

Mid-2012 was the last time both SCA stations were #1 and #2.

“He wasn’t the sort of person you can replace quickly, but we were lucky to have Lawrence Mooney stand in for a time from the east coast”

The biggest challenges that Mix faced recently were internal when the station flipped the breakfast and drive shows three years ago. Fred Botica and Lisa Shaw moved to drive and the show that was called The Big Couch – with Clairsy, Shane and Kymba – moved to breakfast. “That was a very significant thing to do with what were then the #1 breakfast show and the #1 drive show,” Wayman recalled this week speaking to Mediaweek.

“Fred then went on long service leave before he decided to leave after he returned. The whole idea of moving to drive was to try to extend his time and association with the station.”

With Botica gone, Lisa Shaw managed to keep a big audience without her former colleague in drive. “It was good to see the brand was bigger than the person,” said Wayman. Shaw remains #1 in the timeslot, now co-hosting with Pete Curulli.

Mix 94.5 breakfast: Clairsy, Matt and Kymba

Mix 94.5 breakfast: Clairsy, Matt and Kymba

Just as the new breakfast show was starting to make its mark, Shane McFarlane died suddenly from a ruptured stomach ulcer just over a year ago. “Suddenly we were left again without a key member of a breakfast show.

“He wasn’t the sort of person you can replace quickly, but we were lucky to have Lawrence Mooney stand in for a time from the east coast.”

The process of finding a Mix breakfast took time and involved 22 trials with different talent. “We found Matt Dyktynski who hadn’t worked on radio and who was originally from Perth but was then living in Melbourne. He was a busy actor and he’d committed to a number of roles in 2016. However, he told us he loved radio and he thought he would be good at it.”

“The agency side of the business is very strong and our market share is good”

Wayman later visited Dyktynski in Melbourne and asked why he thought he would be good at it. “He told me because he played a DJ in a Foxtel series on TV1 called Shock Jock.”

Dyktynski ultimately got the Mix breakfast job to work alongside Dean Claires and Kymba Cahill. SCA allowed him time to go to rehearsals in Perth when called, although Wayman points out even when he was working onstage until late night for a number of consecutive weeks he always fronted for work in time to start the show at 6am each day. “He takes acting very seriously, he went to NIDA so he’s not just an accidental actor. He’s actually managed to become an accidental radio star. He has embraced radio and he really enjoys being back in Perth where he has family. And he was right…he is good at radio.”

Mix has led Nova at breakfast for two consecutive surveys and Hit 92.9 breakfast is knocking on the door too – trailing Nova by just 0.5 of a point.

“Both stations have steadily been going up,” said Wayman. “The key to Mix is its stability over the years despite a lot of change. Every now and then we take a hit, although we are currently at a high for 2016, Mix has been #1 for 25 consecutive surveys.

“The drive show with Lisa and Pete too continues to be very strong and the key to its success is localism up against networked programming. They are all good shows though, particularly Hamish and Andy.”

Hit 92.2 breakfast: Heidi, Will and Woody

Hit 92.9 breakfast: Heidi, Will and Woody

One of the other notable achievements at SCA Perth is the success of Heidi, Will and Woody in breakfast. “For them to be in striking distance of the Nova breakfast show is fantastic. They put in a lot of hard work and they are different from the other breakfast shows in this market and they offer a real alternative for the under-40 audience.

“They have slowly been building a loyal audience for some time. They are out in the market often and they provide brilliant videos for our digital platforms and we do very well.”

Listening to the show it seems they must work long hours getting some of their stunts organised. “They put a lot of work into it,” agreed Wayman. “They are creative, enthusiastic, with loads of energy and love for what they are doing. Their authenticity impresses their audience.”

Team behind the stars

Erica McGee (née Hodge) is Mix content director and formerly was the breakfast EP.

At Hit 92.9 the content director is Amanda Lee who was formerly Hit’s music director and assistant content director. Lee spent time also with Fox under Dave Cameron before she moved back to Perth for the content director role.

“Both Erica and Amanda are outstanding programmers who are very strategic and very patient and both are good people managers,” said Wayman.

The Mix breakfast EP is Brearne Cavallaro while Hit breakfast EP is Tom Martin who is new to the station. Asked why there is no female EP in that role at a station running on girl power, Wayman laughed.

She explained that Hit 92.9 has two roles. “It needs to do well in the Perth market obviously, but it also has a role as an incubator for talent both on air and off air. The average age of the Hit 92.9 team would be about 25 years old. It is a fantastic young team who are very professional and understand the corporate environment.”

Perth ad dollars

It’s been a challenging year in Perth where the economy has been doing it tough. “The market is very short. Retail is struggling, which means direct is down. For a boom and bust town we are in the bust.

“The agency side of the business is very strong and our market share is good. I would expect our numbers to get even stronger given our ratings performance.” Wayman is a big supporter of how Brian Gallagher has overhauled SCA’s national agency strategy. “There is good opportunity for us there. It is good to be part of a national network.”

If the current numbers hold for survey eight, the business has a strong story to take into 2017. “Our clients have a choice of two really great radio stations.”

Have the challenges at ARN’s 96FM been good for SCA? “They came after us, which ultimately was a help for Mix. We are waiting to see what 96FM will do next.

Wayman acknowledges Nova is still a strong competitor, and a big spender, giving away up to $100,000 multiple times this year. “We never write off any stations as competitors, including 96FM. We are always on high alert.”

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