Australia’s Top FM content directors talk ratings and priorities for 2020
There were plenty of talking points from the first GfK radio ratings of the year, with Kate, Tim & Marty going #1 on Drive in all markets, and a big shakeup in Brisbane among the headlines.
Radio Today has picked the brains of FM’s three content chiefs to get their take on Survey 1 and plans for the rest of 2020.
WSFM is the new market leader in Sydney, but ARN’s national content director Duncan Campbell says he’s “not going to discount smoothfm”, which dominated the market in 2019.
“I think there’s obviously audience sharing between the two and marketing does play a role in that,” he tells Radio Today.
“We’ve done a fair bit of work on the music there and also changed our strategy in relation to contesting.”
“I think Jonesy and Amanda has done very well to give us the number two FM in Sydney… Sydney couldn’t be better for us.”
If NOVA’s chief programming and marketing officer is concerned about the dip for smooth, which recently rebranded, he’s not showing it.
“I’m not concerned at all and we remain on 10 plus share.
“Our mid-morning show, you’ve got a couple of points that are weak,” he adds before calling the survey an “anomaly.”
Jackson also expects to see the next survey better reflect the new Robbie Williams-led marketing campaign and rebrand for smooth. “Just too early for us to say on that one really having the campaigns kind of right in the middle of this moment right now.”
“So at this stage it feels good. It seems to be quite visible and on TV a lot. So, I’m hoping it’s going well.”
SCA’s new content chief Dave Cameron says he’s pleased about how 2DayFM’s music is performing, although he admits the station has some way to go.
“I’ve got lots of things about 2DayFM that I would love to achieve, and I would like to see it get back to its, being the jewel in the crown of the company,” he says.
“Right now we can see that we have defined a music format that is having genuine appeal across the workday. It starts with that, and let’s see where it ends. That’s all I’m going to say.”
So will SCA move back to a talent-driven Breakfast show in Sydney? “My response for that is that I’m pretty excited about where we can take 2Day back to in the Sydney market. Standby.”
With room to grow, Cameron is also excited about Triple M Sydney Breakfast with the Moonman.
“It’s a show that is doing something that no other show in Sydney is doing at the moment, which is putting comedy right at the forefront. And I think it’s a real point of difference in the Sydney market at the moment. And that’s at its very early stages of success.
Melbourne was another market that ARN won, with Gold FM #1 both on Breakfast and overall. It’s a well-deserved result for UK export Christian O’Connell, according to Duncan Campbell.
“It’s a strong station behind that show. It’s a strong show in its own right now and he’s converting audiences quite efficiently, obviously with his content and also there’s been some tune cume increases,” he says.
“Our expectations are that, that’s where that show will now sit, I think rightly so.’
“There were no guarantees of it being successful,” he admits. “I think we just came to try something new and different and shake things up a little bit. Thankfully it’s been successful, but there’s no guarantees in this business.”
Meanwhile, Paul Jackson is celebrating Kate, Tim & Marty reclaiming the position of #1 FM Drive show in Melbourne, as well as a National #1 milestone for the trio.
“Most of our competitors have not made a change here or there to their team over the last few years.”
“It’s really given us a chance with that consistency to become hopefully the number one choice of lifetime in Melbourne.
“That makes it 25 in a row nationally and long may we hold Melbourne in number one, because that’s a really good number, because it’s a decisive win.”
Dave Cameron adds: “I think Fox jumping back up through some really aggressive programming is pretty exciting to see again.”
There is a new #1 station in Brisbane for the second consecutive survey, and this time its SCA with plenty to be pleased about.
Triple M is #1 overall while Marto, Margaux & Nick Cody share the top Breakfast spot with Hit105’s Stav, Abby & Matt.
“It doesn’t get better than having an equal number one Breakfast, with two of your own Breakfast shows, taking co-ownership of the crown, which is fantastic,” says Dave Cameron.
“It’s a Breakfast show on Triple M that has got a genuine comedian on it, actually, for both stations.
“They are both funny shows for their own targets and they’ve been bouncing around the number one spots for the last 18 months anyway. So the stars have aligned there today.”
Despite falling from top spot after bringing Robin Bailey back to 97.3FM, Duncan Campbell isn’t phased by this week’s result.
“To be honest, I expected different results in Brisbane, but I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. I think it’s a good starting point for us. I think that show it’s a very familiar show. They started a week late, and that makes a huge difference.
“We’re in there and we’re going to be competitive this year. We re-built the station last year back to a number one stations.
“We’ve got the talent to do it and resources to do it and then the determination as well. So it’ll be another competitive year and vision for the stations.”
Despite the reshuffle, Paul Jackson is happy with his #1 cume result for Nova in the city.
“So, you break it down, everyone’s winning different dayparts. I mean, it’s so close. I think that’s probably about right for the start of the year.”
Nova 91.9 Adelaide launched one of only a few of new metro Breakfast shows in 2020, as Ben & Liam joined the station.
With most new shows typically going backwards in their first ratings, Paul Jackson was pleased with the result.
“Yeah and that is a wild moment really, because when you’re changing a show like Dylan and Hayley, who were going well,” he says.
“When you tell the audience, right, it’s finishing up now. Kind of an element of surprise for them. So, you get that moment with a surge in audience
“We’re coming from a standing start with relatively, oh, we have local talent but unknown talent [in Ben & Liam].
“I think it is also the number one cume at the station. So, having that fantastic book for Adelaide and we’re absolutely delighted with their start.”
Duncan Campbell certainly expects a stiffer challenge for Mix 102.3 this year, with Jodie & Soda remaining #1 in the first book.
“I probably do because they’re local and they’ve got a protocol. Certainly, we don’t sit back and pay no attention to any changes in shows. We take it all very seriously to be honest.
“And so we’ve done some more research into Adelaide and while we are strong there and pretty much always have been, we don’t rest our laurels at all there.”
Nova is #1 overall and on Breakfast in Perth, but ARN’s 96FM has the most to celebrate this survey, with a big increase in share as Mix 94.5 went the other way.
“I think that one of the big things for us is the wedge we drove through Mix 94.5 really and they had nowhere to go. That was due to taking a lot of time to get that format right. It’s incredibly strong,” says Duncan Campbell.
Campbell isn’t claiming full responsibility though, giving that props to Gary Roberts.
“Gary convinced Fred [Botica] to come out of retirement and I think he was the only person who would be able to do that.
“And I think the most satisfying part of today is that Mix 94.5 is down three and a half points. We knocked the wind out of their silos today, which is good.. And owe our credit to Gary, Fred… those guys who have worked really hard training, creating and keeping that sound very consistently.”
David Cameron admits there’ll always be interest in a returning show like Botica’s Bunch, but thinks the hype will die down.
“You can understand that, there’s some curiosity that builds around that,” he says.
“I think once the curiosity dies down and realises that it’s the show from five years ago, I think that, my hope is that there’ll be a re-discovery of our stations going back to some fresher content that I think we’re pumping out at the moment.”
Gameplan For 2020:
Based on today’s results, each of the three content chiefs shared their predictions and priorities for the remainder of the year.
Duncan Campbell says ARN will be giving its shows time to further embed and establish themselves, with Jase & PJ and Will & Woody to be given more time.
“I think five to 10 years ago you wouldn’t have even given that show like [Jase & PJ] more than a couple of years to work. We believe in them and it’s was great today to see the increase they got.
“It’s about growth for us with Will & Woody, they were the consistent number three for most of last year actually. We’ve worked with them strategically a lot late last year, the second half of last year and we’ve seen lots of improvements in the content they do in the delivery
“It’s a strong day today and we maintain that level of consistency given that the competition is out there. Obviously for us Smooth is a threat to our Gold stations and NOVA remains strong throughout most in Australia. It’s good to provide some real competition for the SCA.”
For Nova’s Paul Jackson, priorities lie in creating strong content at the start of the Weekday.
“All breakfast shows obviously are priorities [and] we’d like to maintain the start that we’ve got with Kate, Tim and Marty at 3:00pm.”
He also says that music remains a key focus, especially with the threat of streaming services.
“And we’re a different period musically. And I think culturally everything has changed in the past number of years with Spotify and Apple.
“We’re going to kill it mostly at how we present our media to our audience. And make sure we’re giving them what they actually want in terms of new music versus familiar music, sing-along music and so on.”
Dave Cameron tells us that getting back to #1 in all markets is his remit in his new gig at SCA.
“Our aim is to have a number one or number two station in every market. I’m quite clear about that for our content teams, and we will programme aggressively to get that result.”
So what’s the main challenge he’s facing?
“Consistency of product for both of the networks, making sure that we are both very clearly defined networks for our audiences.
“My ambition for content teams around the country right now is to inject creativity back into our key shows. I would like to think that, starting with creativity in all of our shows will bring us some greater success.”