smoothfm to go national with local content expansion through DAB+

Smooth FM 91.5

• Nova’s Adam Johnson explains the local content driven move

10 years after launching smoothfm Sydney and Melbourne, Nova Entertainment has announced that it is taking the brand national with live and local content in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – supported by a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. The new stations and advertising campaign will start on 5 September 2022.

Mediaweek spoke with Nova Entertainment’s chief growth officer, Adam Johnson, about why now was the right time to expand the smoothfm brand.

There is this feeling that unless you’ve got an AM or FM licence you can’t exist in people’s lives. That has been debunked,” said Johnson. “When you look at the growth of listening via DAB+ and digital, the product has clearly got appeal. It’s not appeal based on it being a Sydney station or a Melbourne station, it’s a genuine human need to feel good and listen to the music that evokes the best memories and the greatest feelings from presenters that you know and love.

“The product is good and the brand is strong having grown so strongly over the last 10 years in Sydney and Melbourne. If you can listen to these stations in other cities, why would we not tell people about it? That was the penny drop moment.”

Adam Johnson

smoothfm: The message to advertisers

This move will now provide advertisers with a national platform to reach more listeners, and Johnson said that it will give access to localised advertising across the whole Nova Entertainment network.

“When we announced this to the wider business there were literally cheers in the Perth boardroom from the sales team, because they were so excited to have another brand they can take to market. At a local level, more options for advertisers can only be a good thing. Particularly in Brisbane with 4KQ winding down, another music-based commercial radio station with great local personality is only a good thing for advertisers.

“We have a genuine national sell now. We will build audiences in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth but we’re starting from a pretty good base already. Therefore having the ability to do a smooth five-station buy or dare I say a Nova Entertainment 10-station buy across the country is compelling given the kind of demographic spread of Nova and smooth when combined can deliver.”


smoothfm originals still on air: Richard Wilkins, Mel Doyle, David Campbell and Cameron Daddo

smoothfm: The appeal to listeners

smoothfm has attracted a highly engaged audience across broadcast with 2.4 million listeners in Sydney and Melbourne, a 291% increase in cumulative broadcast listeners since launching in May 2012, and a further 76% increase in audiences accessing the station via streaming from March 2020 to July 2022.

smoothfm is programmed based on a mood rather than an era or genre. smoothfm’s playlist is curated to make listeners ‘feel good’ with announcers picked to complement the music format. The new markets will now have live breakfast shows hosted by broadcasters, Kate Mac in Perth, Nick Michaels in Brisbane and Kellie Golding in Adelaide, providing a local connection and content for listeners in these states.

Kate Mac smooth FM

Kate Mac

Kelly Golding smooth FM

Kelly Golding

Nick Michaels has worked across multiple radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane including 2Day FM, TTFM, Gold 104 and Mix 101.1 and most recently spent 15 years with 4KQ in Brisbane.

Nick Michaels

Kellie Golding has over a decade in commercial radio, Golding got her start in radio as an announcer at 3HA in Hamilton before moving to Fox FM in Melbourne. Following a stint overseas she returned to Adelaide to work for SAFM and Mix 102.3. 

Kate Mac spent nearly 10 years with Nova 93.7 Perth, was heard on Nova 96.9’s Fitzy & Wippa breakfast show in 2015 and hosted Nova’s national Summer Breakfast that same year. Mac also has TV experience and is currently a presenter for Destinations WA and the new series Everything Outdoors for Channel Nine In Perth.

Johnson said that there was an internal debate on how local this expansion needed to be, but Nova’s research helped them make the final decision.

“We went around the house on this, if I’m completely honest, on what is the right level of local news for these stations. We did a lot of work and a lot of research in these three markets. I did a lap of the map, doing focus groups, both with people that were aware of smooth in those markets and people that had never heard of it to understand what would they want from a new radio station in their market. The most important thing was what is your expectation around localness? And what came back to us was that from a utility point of view they expect weather, traffic and travel to be localised.

“The good news is that we’ve got a great foundation there to deliver that with journalists on the ground and partnerships with news and weather networks along with the technology to deliver that in the stream. From a feeling point of view, people want to feel the person talking to them is from where they live. You can’t fake this stuff. That means a greater investment for us in terms of not just the marketing, but also the presenters, the producers, the studios, those kinds of things.”

Partnering with Amazon

Smooth is partnering with Amazon Alexa to assist listeners in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in discovering the brand. An integrated partnership will see the smooth stars promotion delivered nationally for the first time and with Alexa on air, listeners will learn how to engage with their Amazon device whilst listening to the station. Johnson said that this fits in with Nova’s distribution approach of being everywhere.

“We are hitching the success of smooth outside of Sydney and Melbourne on the growth of DAB+. From a listening point of view from an availability point of view but beyond that, the level of comfort our audience has with listening over a connected device. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the smooth listener might be more reticent, we actually see as much uptake of our smooth player app as much as our Nova player app. Smart speakers are also a huge growth area for us. We want to be available everywhere and assuming that we won’t ever get an extra FM licence because I’m not even sure we could from a regulatory point of view, it comes back to if the product and the brand are strong enough people will find it. DAB+ gives a lot of people a way to find us.”

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