Nine predicts ongoing ratings success, saying Survey 6 was just the beginning
Radio ratings returned last month for the first time since April, with most commercial networks viewing the results with a degree of caution – whether it be because of the move to 100% e-diaries in Melbourne, or changing consumer behaviours as a result of COVID-19 and lockdowns.
Not so for Nine Radio, however, with managing director Tom Malone saying Survey 6 was not an anomaly, but rather a reset in longer-term listener habits.
“We believe what you are seeing with Survey 6 is the start of a reset in radio audiences,” he said at a virtual event yesterday, “because we believe we are giving the audience what they want, and perhaps maybe what they need, today.”
His comments come ahead of Survey 7 next week, and after 3AW in Melbourne saw its overall audience share jump to 16.9% in Survey 6 (up from 13.9% in April prior to the COVID-19 ratings pause). The Breakfast slot also jumped 8.8 points to a share of 26.1%.
Malone said the ratings rewards were the result of Nine’s hard work since fully taking over the remainder of Macquarie Media 51 weeks ago.
“We set about reshaping talk radio, and I say ‘talk radio’ quite deliberately,” he said. “In an increasingly digital age, we define ourselves by our content, not our delivery method – and AM and FM are becoming obsolete terms. As a reflection of broad society, talk radio needs to continually evolve to remain reflective of that society,” he said.
To reflect that broad society, he said, line-up changes were needed.
“First up, we set about refreshing the line-up. We focused on improving the diversity of our line-up very early on – bringing on Deb Knight, Dee Dee Dunleavy, and Brooke Corte into prominent positions on 2GB and 3AW. All successful broadcasters already, and, importantly, women, of varied experience and backgrounds,” he said.
Malone (pictured) says he’s “always been confident” in Nine Radio’s new approach
Then, he said, the group moved to increase its appeal to a “new generation of talk radio listeners”.
“And it’s fair to say we’re pretty happy with the first ratings results only a few weeks ago. Audience growth across the board, and importantly, 20% growth in our core demo of people 25 to 64, and 18% in the traditional 25 to 54 advertiser-friendly demo,” he said.
“Now, while there were some nerves about the short-term response to the changes, I’ve always been confident in our long-term strategy, and that’s because I believe greatly in talk radio. No-one else does what we do. This is why it’s so important.”
Malone’s solid belief that Survey 6 was the beginning of a new trend is in stark contrast to other content bosses, who tended to say it was a “moment in time” with various contributing – and unusual – factors skewing the results.
NOVA Entertainment’s chief programming and marketing officer, Paul Jackson, told Radio Today after Survey 6 that real trends will emerge later in the year.
“I think obviously from our perspective, Melbourne is standalone and in a totally different moment,” he said. “It’s a moment in time. Obviously for people it’s a very unpleasant moment in time, but I think when we add together what the ABC and 3AW are achieving at Breakfast, I think its like an additional 11 share points, clearly coming off music stations, commercial radio….
“It’s just common sense isn’t it? That if we’re living in Melbourne, you’re waking up wanting to know the news of the day, what the count is of COVID-19 that day. You’re waiting for Daniel Andrews’ update and so on. So it’s almost a war-footing in terms of how people are viewing that.”
Jackson predicted the ratings will “normalise” as Melbourne emerges from COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Probably – hopefully – I hope for everyone’s sake that by November, we’re looking at a more normal Melbourne and numbers coming back. When we reach Survey 8 [in December] that will give us a true reflection of where everybody is on a normal day.”
SCA’s chief content officer, Dave Cameron, had a similar sentiment to Jackson, preferring to wait for more data before calling it as a long-term trend.
“I take the very strong view of this being a direct reflection of audience behaviours, and different stages of different states of different levels of this crisis to be honest, versus any real performance reflection. So that’s how I view today,” he said after the Survey 6 results emerged.
“To be honest, I look at Melbourne and go ‘Yep. that reflects exactly how this market is right now’.
“You’ve got new music stations that have gone down 20 to 30%. You’ve also had a situation where we’ve moved to a new situation of data collection with 100% e-diaries that we’ve never had before as well. And then you’ve got everyone that is craving daily, minutely updates on news. And so you’ve seen a migration to that in-home listening to AM, is delivering well through news product.”
Survey 7 results come out next Thursday, November 5. The dates for the 2021 surveys have also been released.