Radio station 2CH axed! SEN pulls the plug after unsuccessful DAB+ trial


Announcers and management remember a great, Ace Radio swoops on 2CH audience

Close to 90 years and four months since it was launched, Classic Hits 2CH will be silenced forever. Current owner of the brand, Sports Entertainment Network (SEN), shared with staff on Thursday the decision to run off the signal now being delivered only via DAB+ and online streaming.

Mediaweek has spoken with some key on-air and talent who worked at the station recently (see below). While mourning the passing of the station, they were adamant that it is important to celebrate all the station achieved over its nine decades.

2CH axed: SEN to focus on core business – sport

SEN national radio director Sam Thompson confirmed to Mediaweek the 2CH signal will be shut down at 6pm Friday, June 10. An email from Thompson to staff explained:

When SEN purchased the 1170 AM frequency in 2020, it was an honour to continue the 2CH legacy for an additional 18 months with the station moving to a digital-only platform on DAB+ and the SEN app.

However, as demonstrated by SEN’s recent purchase of 4KQ in Brisbane, which will soon become 693 SENQ from July 1, Sport Entertainment Network’s core business and focus is sport.

SEN would like to thank and acknowledge the passionate 2CH audience for listening, to everyone at SEN who has contributed to the station over the last 18 months, and to all former hosts and team on and off the air who were part of 2CH’s 90-year journey. SEN would also like to recognise Tim Webster for his dedication and commitment to the station.

$11m investment was for licence, not brand

There wasn’t much love for SEN amongst the remaining 2CH audience and staff who worked with the station in recent years. SEN bought the 2CH licence from EON Broadcasting for $11m to give its AM sports brand SEN access to the Sydney metro audience. There has been much comment about the size of the SEN GfK radio share, but that doesn’t account for the way radio audience have splintered over recent years. SEN can monetise its smaller niche audience better than 2CH could with a bigger, older audience.

2CH and SEN size of the audience

Cume audience as measured by GfK in Survey 3, 2022
SEN 68,000 (AM and DAB+)
2CH 66,000 (DAB+ only)

SEN also recently acquired the 4KQ audience. That too will probably see the traditional linear radio audience for the Brisbane 693 frequency plunge in the ratings as 4KQ rebrands to SENQ. In the Brisbane market, SEN is not offering the 4KQ audience the chance to keep listening on DAB+.


Cherie Romaro and Trevor Sinclair in happier times when they worked at 2CH

Farwell 2CH: Cherie Romaro and Trevor Sinclair

One interested onlooker is Cherie Romaro. Most recently the 2CH general manager as SEN took over, Romaro (now a media consultant and the recipient of a Doctorate of Radio), explained to Mediaweek it was always going to be hard for the AM station to move to DAB+.

The majority of DAB+ stations form part of a major network strategy, and the support is given within those networks, is utilised to ‘grow their audience pie’,” said Romaro.

“For example, Triple M Classic Rock, Triple M 90’s from SCA, ARN’s Cada, or Smooth Relax from Nova.

Classic Hits 2CH was not a part of SEN’s National Sports Network strategy and would have been costing more to operate than the dollars written. The move to DAB+ was evidence that SEN hoped it would drive solid revenue to support the resources, but this was not the case.”

Recent 2CH announcer Trevor Sinclair was another who was sad about the passing of the station this week. As to if there was still a market for the 2CH format, Sinclair reminded Mediaweek about 2UE, where he now works hosting breakfast. “Ace Radio runs 2UE and other AM cap city music stations along the east coast – 4BH and 3MP.”

It is believed that 2UE will be telling its audience that it is now the home for an audience wanting classic hits.

Sinclair noted that although it can be hard moving an audience to DAB+, they are not likely to move away in a hurry. “The audience just love the music and they can’t easily get it elsewhere. The listeners are unlikely to go to somewhere like YouTube and track down their favourite songs.”

What made the 2CH format successful?

Romaro talked about what made 2CH successful in recent years.

“This format originally was a hybrid of classic hits and nostalgia and the blend of both music genres, combined with experienced good communicators and a strong creditable news and information service, did have a place in Sydney radio, as there was a very loyal audience base. The move to DAB+ was always going to be tough to survive.

“The DAB+ 2CH team lead by Tim Webster in breakfast was passionate and proud of their work, but this heritage oldies format needed more than passion and pride.

“The music needed to be carefully crafted and programmed to appeal to a discerning educated music adult audience.

“It needed to be supported by a strong presenter line-up, great imagery and the backing of a music network which would have the resources required to drive success.”

Romaro with Bob Rogers. The radio great gave up his weekday show in 2018 and then retired from radio in 2020.

What did 2CH need to survive?

On the sound of 2CH recently, Romaro noted: “The music sounded computer-driven, and some very unusual tracks broadcast which did not fit the format. This indicated a lack of knowledge of what was required to drive a decent rating on DAB+. It had to stay true to the heritage.

“CADA [rebranded The Edge] launched with its first rating of 100,000 listeners finding the gap in the market and supported by solid network resources.

“A Classic Hit music universe is the bricks and the mortar is the presenters.

“Tim Webster is one of the best in the country, but he had limited support. Apologies to those who also gave it a go, but Tim was a cut above.

“The available audience diminished dramatically over the past couple of years, partly because of the move to DAB+ and partly because of the lack of resources. Without the revenue you can’t support it with the artillery required to succeed.

As to how the 2CH community of former staff have reacted, understandably they weren’t happy.

“There has been an outpouring of sadness,” said Romaro.

“The past and present teams have been shocked by this news because 2CH is an iconic brand in Sydney and I suspect the legend Bob Rogers will be mortified.

“I know Tim Webster is going to get Bob on air on the last day of broadcast to say goodbye to his loyal listeners.

“Since the news broke, I have had many messages lamenting the demise and the ultimate death of Classic Hits 2CH but without a music network strategy and support behind a music format it would have been a miracle to survive on the competitive commercial radio spectrum.

“Audience’s demand quality and with so many choices they can switch off when they are not being satisfied.”

Celebrating 2CH’s success

Romaro said the passing should also be a time to celebrate.

“There have been so many success stories over the past 90 years…so much talent, heritage, wonderful memories and unprecedented successes.

“Everyone who has been involved past and present should raise a glass and celebrate.

“I was privileged to be the general manager when EON Broadcasting owned the station. I certainly have very fond memories of this time including working with the late, great legendary Glenn Wheatley as one of our board members and John Williams my CEO. Our great announcers also included Rob ‘the duck’ Duckworth and Ian Rogerson.”

“We will all raise a glass to good times and great memories. That team we put together was one of the best.”

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