Mick & Jane, Eddie & Wil: Mike Fitzpatrick on the changing face of Triple M

Fitzy re-engineers the SCA network

Triple M head of content Mike Fitzpatrick faced a dilemma about 12 months ago after a discussion with co-host of The Hot Breakfast Mick Molloy. “This time last year Mick said he would love to do drive again, over a meal at a Chinese restaurant,” Fitzpatrick told Mediaweek.

It was Fitzpatrick who had first tracked Molloy down in India to offer him a role on Triple M breakfast. “He was at a film festival in Goa and I made him an offer over an email. He was reluctant to do breakfast, but he suggested that if he could start at 7am he would consider it. We seem to have started a trend.”

Mike Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick said he really didn’t want to move the Melbourne-based comedian, radio and TV host. “When you have a winning formula with a show, the general rule is you don’t mess with it. Changing your breakfast show is like doing open heart surgery on your radio station.

“We are blessed we have both Eddie McGuire and Mick on the show. While removing Mick from the breakfast show is a massive call, and hard to replace, we still have Eddie, the iconic Melbourne identity there. And we have the chemistry that continues between Eddie and Luke Darcy.”

Triple M national drive

The new show starts in Melbourne on October 23, the same day Wil Anderson joins The Hot Breakfast in Melbourne. The drive show then goes national from 2018.

“Mick and Jane [Kennedy] have been friends for a long time and this is a great chance for them to work together again,” said Fitzpatrick.

The show will go to air live in Sydney and Melbourne 4pm-6pm. “Given daylight saving and time differences in Adelaide and Perth, it can only go live in those markets. The market for the live show is nearly 10 million people,” added Fitzpatrick optimistically.

He confirmed that Triple M has been missing a competitive national drive product in its programming arsenal. “We have had a couple of shots at it. Merrick Watts has had a crack and he is an excellent performer. That show had varying degrees of success in each of the markets. We have really missed a show that is a good fit for our Mix brand in Perth as well. Merrick was very much on brand for males but it was a struggle to fit it in Perth.

“Mick and Jane is essentially like a breakfast show. It is a good, broad, 10+ drive show that can go into every market and it is a great solution for clients who want to buy one show. Coupled with our early drive strategy in each market it gives us an avenue for direct and national clients.”

Fitzpatrick is not yet able to reveal who the executive producer will be. Apparently the prime candidate is completing another job!

Triple M Melbourne’s current drive co-host James Brayshaw said his good ratings might pose a challenge for Fitzpatrick when it comes to finding a place for The Rush Hour with JB and Billy. Not so, according to Fitzpatrick.

JB and Billy will be part of the early drive strategy.” He didn’t want to confirm the exact starting time yet. But he noted they are looking at various options. The program may start as early as 2pm.

“We were the first station to put in a 3pm show for the blue collar knock-off and now there is a proliferation of 3pm shows for various audiences. Everyone has realised drive time runs from 2.30pm to after 6.30pm in terms of available audience.”

The new national drive show could pull audience from all stations, including potentially some of the Hamish and Andy crowd, admitted Fitzpatrick. “The great thing about Mick and Jane is that it will be a cross-generational show. Mick pretty much invented drive time entertainment radio on FM with Tony Martin in the 90s. This is the first time he has been back in that spot and there are people who fondly remember the Martin and Molloy days.”

He added that Triple M would rather take audience from ARN and Nova than cannibalise Hit Network. “We want people who listen to Mick and Jane to leave their radio on Triple M and then get breakfast the following morning.”

The Hot Breakfast refresh

Apart from a detailed reveal that sounded almost like an audio job application on a Mediaweek podcast, Fitzpatrick said Triple M did a good job of keeping secret that Wil Anderson would be joining The Hit Breakfast as Mick’s replacement.

“Wil’s name was probably the first raised,” after the search for a replacement began late last year. “There was a discussion between Eddie and me about how we could replace Mick. There is no one like Mick. You can’t trade him for someone who is similar to him because they might end up sounding like Mick-lite.

“We wanted to look for a comic who would be as funny, but with a different style. We had thought about Jane Kennedy, but she has 17 kids and it is very hard for her to do mornings.”

Fitzpatrick said the final deal was sealed by Eddie McGuire when he was in LA where he took Anderson out to dinner and they discussed the possibly of a partnership.

“Wil Anderson listens to Triple M – the footy guys and The Hot Breakfast. He explained that in your Mediaweek interview and he often tweets both programs. He has probably heard more of The Hot Breakfast than anyone else.

When Wil is talking about the show he is not just spruiking it, he is talking from a genuine place of love and passion for the product. He loves it as a fan and a listener, and now he gets to enjoy it as one of the team members. He enjoys Eddie’s company, he’s been mates with Darc for a long time and he has worked with [contributor] Rosie [Walton] before.

“Wil is not the sort of person who would do something just for money. He has to have a passion for it and it has to mean something to him.”

Fitzpatrick said the show will work with Anderson and his schedule, which next year includes another season of Gruen and live comedy shows.

This is an excerpt of the full article, which appears in the latest issue of Mediaweek magazine. 

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