“2DayFM Breakfast is in a holding pattern”: Duncan Campbell on 2018 and what to expect from ARN next year
The final survey of 2018 is done and dusted, and ARN national content director Duncan Campbell has plenty of positives to take from what was, in parts, a testing year.
Chatting with Radio Today after the results came in, Campbell was pragmatic about the challenges ARN faces in some markets.
With no planned changes to ARN’s metro lineups, he’s looking forward to a positive year ahead, but taking the wins as they come.
“It’s always satisfying”, he says, when asked about the continued strong performance of KIIS Sydney Breakfast team Kyle and Jackie O, who finish the year on 10.5% (-0.2).
“Particularly to see them in double figures. I think that’s where we like them to be, and despite a few blips this year they continue to dominate Breakfast in Sydney.
“I laugh every time they take a hit and people ask me if it’s all over,” he chuckles. “It’s not as simple as that.”
Whilst not generally competing for the same demos, Kyle and Jackie O’s WSFM stablemates Jonesy and Amanda managed to knock them off their top rating spot on FM Breakfast in Sydney earlier this year.
The show finishes the year at #2, on a 9.0% (+1.8) share.
“Jonesy and Amanda have really come into their own. They’ve bounced back and it’s a great way to end the year.
“There’s a lot of habitual listening entrenched in that show which is very hard to dislodge.”
Sydney ends the year as a real four-horse race, with all of Nova 96.9, WSFM and KIIS 106.5 within striking distance of smooth’s top spot on FM overall.
Campbell expresses his respect for his CHR competitors on Nova 96.9 Breakfast.
“Fitzy and Wippa are very consistent, this result is higher than they would normally get, but they’ve been consistent throughout the year.
“I think we’ll see the same for Jonesy and Amanda, and Kyle and Jackie O next year. I don’t see much change in the status quo, but there will be some interesting battles.”
But it’s not a race that Campbell can see SCA’s 2DayFM joining anytime soon.
“With 2DayFM Breakfast, SCA need to take a year to get a show right,” he says.
“It’s not easy by the way, I don’t envy them at all, and I do have an appreciation for the challenges that they face.”
At the close of 2018, 2DayFM Breakfast rates 4.6% (flat), with the station overall faring a little better on a 5.4% (-0.1) share of listening.
“I don’t think 2DayFM will be in the battle at all again next year,” Campbell says, matter-of-factly.
“2DayFM Breakfast is in a holding pattern.”
They’ll run that show next year but it won’t be on the air in 2020.”
Moving down to Melbourne, Campbell admits he’s been pleasantly surprised that UK import Christian O’Connell has bedded in with listeners after only four surveys.
“I think we expected it to take longer. For him to generate these figures – an 8.4% in only four surveys, is remarkable.
“The fact is that it’s a very different show, and you can’t imitate Christian O’Connell.”
“It’s not a morning crew or a “zoo”. You can’t mix and match. It’s centred around one individual with a series of sidekicks. For him to get this traction this early is very impressive.
“It’s an acquired taste, there’s no doubt about that, but he becomes very addictive.
“That gamble has paid off, we’ll see further growth in 2019 for Christian and Gold’s performance will be strong.”
Unfortunately for ARN, new KIIS FM Melbourne show Jase and PJ hasn’t proved as sticky as O’Connell, who are rating 5.7% (+0.2).
It’s one of a number of shows that ARN is giving more time to, with Campbell citing “unfamiliarity” and the strength of the CHR competition in that market as key roadblocks to success.
“We believe we have a very strong product. The content that those guys generate is consistently strong.
“If you like Jase and PJ you fall in love with the show.”
“It’s a duo and it’s similar to Fox and to Nova. With the music foundation, there’s very little music differentiation between Nova, Fox and KIIS and we were the third CHR in that market.
“So there are some unique challenges to KIIS, but we’ve seen the early signs of a turnaround. If we can consolidate that next year it will validate the decision to bring those guys across.”
While he’s got the top two Breakfast shows in Sydney, and an improving Gold station in Melbourne, smoothfm ends the year as top dog in both cities among People 10+.
The music-driven format ends the year with 9.1% (+0.3) in Sydney and 10.6% (+0.8) in Melbourne.
“We share a lot of audience with smooth, and they’ve done a really good job of improving their product,” Campbell says.
“Paul [Jackson] used to have a chuckle when I commented about counter-programming, but he’s done a very good job of counter-programming against WS.
Campbell puts down smooth’s good year to a strong marketing campaign and remains sceptical that they’ll be able to hold both markets in next year.
“Part of the smooth growth historically has been around marketing. They tend to ebb and flow down there.
“We will be back on next year with marketing.
“I believe that Gold will be the #1 station in Melbourne next year.”
“Christian O’Connell will be there as the #1 or #2 Breakfast show.”
Brisbane is another market where ARN will hope to see better results in the new year.
Campbell cites 97.3FM Breakfast changing two-out-of-three of its members since the end of 2017 as a hurdle that the station hasn’t yet fully overcome.
It’s currently rating 9.7% among People 10+ as Triple M, Nova and Hit105 all sit in double digits.
“We changed Robin, and unexpectedly we lost Terry – that caused disruption. Hit105 had a new Breakfast show, but they were very clever in that they marketed Hit and Triple M together.”
He doesn’t believe that Triple M’s 13.3% (+1.7) is a true reflection of that station, and says the departure of Lawrence Mooney from the Breakfast show will definitely be felt in 2019.
“I don’t believe that the numbers Triple M have at the moment will be sustained.”
“I think they’re higher than the norm, but hey you take the numbers when they come your way.
“The fact that Lawrence is leaving will cause disruption and movement. We know that 97.3 is a strong station overall, we just have to build that Breakfast show and create familiarity around Bianca and Mike.
ARN’s Breakfast show on Mix102.3 in Adelaide is experiencing polar opposite results to its Brisbane counterpart.
Jodie and Soda are a heritage show, and end the year with 12.8% share (+0.4). It’s the 11th consecutive #1 for the show and 21st for the station overall.
“Tony Aldridge is doing an amazing job down there, one of their best years ever,” says Campbell.
But the final book of the year saw Nova’s Kate, Tim and Marty knock Will and Woody out of top spot on Drive.
“I look at trends there, and there’s not been a trend yet for Nova. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t roll into survey one, so the Nova growth isn’t bad but there’s not a trend to back that up.
“There’s still that level of unfamiliarity with those guys [Will and Woody] but I think they’ve improved a lot. They’re smart individuals and they want to succeed.”
Perhaps still ARN’s biggest obstacle across the country is getting Perth’s 96FM to rate meaningfully, though it did experience an upswing to 8.6% (+1.0) overall and on Paul and Lise’s Breakfast show on 7.7 (+1.1).
Campbell insists that ARN are ready to “give it a good crack” in 2019, but appears resigned to some difficult results in the coming year.
“Perth is a tough market. We’re up against a very broad mass-appeal station in 94.5 which is a heritage station.
“It’s been rock solid for many years, and the KIIS of Perth is Nova with their heritage show there. So trying to wedge 96FM in there is difficult.”
Looking ahead to 2019 more broadly, Campbell is playing the waiting game on some talent changes to justify themselves, having given many a year to bed in across various markets.
“2019 going up against new shows that aren’t familiar, will be the year that we want to see these results start to come through. We want to see the work we put in year one come to fruition.”
“We haven’t come this far just to come this far.”
“It’s an ongoing battle and eight times a year we get marked on our performance.”
“The quality of radio just keeps on getting better and there’s always surprises around the corner.”
Radio Today’s year-end chat with NOVA Entertainment’s Paul Jackson can be viewed here. SCA head of content Gemma Fordham was not available to be interviewed.