Radio battle ground: Ratings claim first breakfast victim before Survey 1, 2024 release

Jase and Lauren

Melbourne FM radio wars: Gold & Fox the incumbents, but focus now on Jase and Lauren v Kyle and Jackie

Jase and Lauren have inadvertently triggered a blow-up in Melbourne radio with a move to Nova 100.

The former KIIS 101.1 breakfast co-host Jason Hawkins and his on-air partner Lauren Phillips were quietly going about their business last year hosting a radio show that ratings indicated was performing quite well. (It ended 2023 the #2 FM show in the market!)

Then bang – ARN revealed its plan to take over the Triple M Network. Part of that bold expansion was a plan to network Kyle and Jackie O outside Sydney. First into Melbourne, and then perhaps other markets too.

The Kyle and Jackie syndication plan is connected to the ARN-SCA takeover because SCA shareholders would receive ARN shares as part of payment for their stock. The performance of Kyle and Jackie O as a national breakfast brand is one of the things that impact the ARN share price.

With Kyle and Jackie O going into Victoria there was no need for the Jase and Lauren show on KIIS 101.1 Melbourne.

Jason Hawkins and Lauren Phillips were taken off air and available to talk to other potential employers. Or were they?

jase & lauren

Despite having a year left on his ARN contract, Jason Hawkins signed with Nova

Domino effect

Nova Entertainment’s announcement last Friday that Jase and Lauren would be joining the broadcaster to host Melbourne breakfast has set off a chain of events.

The biggest question surrounding the new signing is when Jase and Lauren will start at Nova. It was unusual there was no mention of a start date accompanying the trumpeting of their arrival at Nova 100.

There have been reports that ARN had let Jason Hawkins out of the remainder of his contract. It now appears that may not have been the case. Lawyers representing ARN are now thought to be involved after it became public on Friday who his next employer would be. There could be a non-compete that needs to be honoured.

Jase and Lauren did a secret photoshoot for Nova 100 earlier in the week.

As to when Ben, Liam and Belle learned of their fate, that happened shortly before their replacements were snapped in a Nova studio.

Surprisingly the trio are remaining on air until the start date is sorted.

Ben, Liam and Belle continue hosting Nova 100 breakfast, but for how long?

Why Nova pounced

Ratings. Radio is all about breakfast. Jase and Lauren had a Survey 8, 2023 breakfast share of 9.1%. Ben, Liam and Belle were on 5.0%. Jase and Lauren were looking for work.

Who pulled the plug on Ben, Liam and Belle?

After Survey 8, 2023 Mediaweek reported in its summary of the Melbourne radio market:

[Nova 100] needed to get back above 6% to end the year and the recovery did happen. Breakfast too needed a lift, but that didn’t happen. Share slipped to 5.0% which is a new low.

When interviewed about the Nova 100 end-of-year result, network program director Brendan Taylor admitted to Mediaweek: “We always knew it would take time bringing in Ben, Liam and Belle to what is the most competitive market in the country.”

That time has now run out with the show moving to an unusual 6-8pm timeslot.

While Taylor is the group program director, he works alongside former group PD Paul Jackson, who continues to consult to Nova after stepping away two years ago.

Jackson is thought to have been the person to break the news to Ben, Liam and Belle about their move.

One reason Ben, Liam and Belle have stayed with the station is that they are talented broadcasters. Another reason is that Nova has contracts with each that need to be fulfilled.

fitzy & wippa with Kate Ritchie

Fitzy & Wippa with Kate Ritchie lose their national 6pm daily Best Of package

Collateral damage: Smallzy, Fitzy & Wippa

Solving the breakfast problem has caused some other issues for Nova.

The very popular Smallzy’s Surgery loses its important first hour and is believed to now run for just two hours from 8-10pm.

An even bigger loss, perhaps, is the Best of Fitzy & Wippa with Kate Ritchie. That daily show, broadcast at 6pm weekdays, has been popular across the network.

It’s not yet clear what the existing drive team of Ricki-Lee, Tim and Joel think about Nova having a second drive show.

Long-term it would be very unusual to run “early” and “late” drive shows. Remember when there was testing of early and late breakfast shows? That didn’t last long.

What now for ARN, Kyle, and Jackie O?

If it wasn’t already, the ARN-Anchorage deal to acquire SCA is starting to look shaky. That’s not a widely held view, though, with many thinking it is virtually a done deal.

After nearly four months since the deal was first floated, Anchorage Capital has so far not shown any public indication it’s about to acquire seven or more metro FM licences. SCA and ARN have not updated the market about any progress toward a deal. SCA and ARN’s last ASX updates were both on December 19 when both warned: “There is no certainty a transaction will take place.”

Further news might be forthcoming this month when ARN gives their full-year results on February 22 and SCA its six-month figures on February 29.

The move of Jase and Lauren to Nova is a blow to KIIS breakfast networking ambitions. Ideally, Kyle and Jackie O would have started on air in Melbourne in January. Networking challenges apparently have kept them off air. Really? If ARN can network Will and Woody around Australia, surely Kyle and Jackie O’s entry into Melbourne should have been possible. Another delay was the Sydney show wanting to be networked from ARN’s new North Sydney facility.

It’s in ARN’s interests to keep Jase and Lauren off air as long as possible. Despite comments about it welcoming all competition, the last thing it needs is that show taking the KIIS audience across the dial to a new home especially before Kyle and Jackie start in that market.

The first radio ratings won’t be released by GfK until Thursday, March 14. It will be the start of a fascinating radio year. Grab the popcorn; it could be a wild ride.

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