Hit Network set for biggest overhaul in half-decade [exclusive]

Managing Editor

Southern Cross Austereo will today unveil a number of major changes to the Hit Network in metro and regional markets (July 27), Radio Today can exclusively reveal.

It’s the biggest network overhaul since the Hit brand was first introduced in 2014 and marks the beginning of a major play by SCA to reclaim their duopoly leadership position in key markets.

As part of the changes that roll out from today, Hit107 Adelaide and Hit105 Brisbane will return to their heritage brands of SAFM and B105. Each station confirmed the switch on-air this morning.

In Adelaide, Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann returns to the radio station that launched his career, joining Rebecca Morse and Andrew Costello in a bid to lure back listeners in breakfast.

On the Gold Coast, Bianca Dye arrives at Hit90.9 to join the Brekkie Crew with Dan Anstey and Ben Hannant. Radio Today confirmed Dye’s departure from Australian Radio Network on Friday.

Talking exclusively to Radio Today, SCA content chief, Dave Cameron, and Hit Network boss, Gemma Fordham, said the new strategy represents a broader product and content approach.

“We are moving from being an under 40 network to a 30 to 54 demo, still a female skewed network but broad enough for all. It’ll still be a pop-based format,” Cameron told me on Friday.

“This is a direct reflection of where we see advertising money and briefs come through, which is to an older, broader audience. And we feel like we have a really strong point of difference here.

“You will see and hear us take a different approach to the way we’re putting our music together, to our messaging on-air. It’s a broader appeal to what we have done in the last five or six years.”

Cameron also revealed that Hit96.1 Mount Gambier will rebrand today to SAFM.

Photo: Head of the Hit Network, Gemma Fordham, returned to SCA in 2016.

On Hit’s all-new mood-based music strategy, Fordham said it will be a combination of big pop hits of now and familiar songs from past decades that listeners can “fall back in love with”.

“Everything that you’ll hear from Monday is a really uplifting, joyous, joyful, happy tone,” Fordham told me. “It really is about lifting people’s spirits, brightening their day.”

The Hit Network now has a brand new logo, created inhouse under the watchful eyes of SCA’s chief marketing and communications officer, Nikki Clarkson, and her creative team.

“The logo is more sophisticated and less bubblegum, but really refreshing and aspirational. And it’s got strong iconography and grey colours, but certainly less bubblegummy,” Cameron explains.

“Our logo didn’t match our sound,” Fordham added. “Nikki Clarkson and her team have done a terrific job working with Dave and me to get it right, to get our vision.”

Photo: The new Hit network logo, developed in house by the SCA creative team.

The backflip in Adelaide and Brisbane is timely. This year the once-unstoppable SAFM celebrates its 40th Birthday and the history-rich B105 its 30th Birthday.

“Lehmo is synonymous with SAFM and has obviously led the number one show there before,” Fordham told me. “So he was really chuffed and loved the idea of returning the brand to SAFM.”

Cameron confirmed today’s changes marks “a new starting line” for the Hit Network, with further announcements expected over the next six months. And yes, that includes 2DayFM.

“It’s certainly not the finishing line for us, this is a new starting line for us,” Cameron said.

“The only market that is not changing at this stage is Perth. We’re having a good look at the market. And we’ll have other announcements to make around Perth in due course.”

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Ronnie Stanton
27 Jul 2020 - 8:05 am

Totally smart. The national Hit rollout made sense in a boardroom and to sales but not for audiences.
Good move SCA.

David
27 Jul 2020 - 8:21 am

Looks like the poor wifi signal.

exRadio
27 Jul 2020 - 8:31 am

It has to be said. The amount of good workers that lost their jobs because of this stupid decision that hit (no pun intended) revenues hard was rediculous and hard as an industry to watch. The empire fell but not a lot of the decision makers did – which is always the way. Now they have just made many redundant again due to Covid but will spend $$$ fixing a mistake that should never have been made.

I feel sorry for those who lost their jobs over this and Covid. I also feel sorry for those who will now have to push it uphill to get rebranding done on skeleton staff.

I’m glad management have woken up, finally, but maybe listen to your staff in the first place. When they oppose the changes, it’s usually cause they live and breathe the station.

Alecia Brown
27 Jul 2020 - 8:36 am

Is the money used on the re-branding come from the savings they made from the 90 odd staff that lost their roles late last year?

B
27 Jul 2020 - 8:42 am

“It will be a combination of big pop hits of now and familiar songs from past decades”

So like … “Hits and Old School”?

Loz
27 Jul 2020 - 9:02 am

That’s a better way to start survey than losing your key drive member.

Breakfast with Steve Jacobs
27 Jul 2020 - 9:05 am

Brisbane already gets that feeling and those colours from 4BH

Grant Bilton
27 Jul 2020 - 9:06 am

In Perth they need to bring back the great PMFM, such a great station and was very much Perth going way back to its 6PM days. A powerful station.

Simon
27 Jul 2020 - 9:22 am

Ladies and gentlemen, SCA…where everything old is new again.

What a fun, costly journey it has been.

Petey
27 Jul 2020 - 9:32 am

Love it.

Next step – “PMFM” returns to 92.9.

Golden opportunity
27 Jul 2020 - 9:39 am

You could not get a better opportunity for Nova to target under 30s. Make the music a mix of Triple J/CHR whilst continuing the red Rooms. Get some younger shows in and make content more edgy.
Perhaps a new approach to advertising could even be considered, people in this demo dislike consuming ads in their current form.

BC
27 Jul 2020 - 10:50 am

Great to see B105 back.

Now all we need is FM104 back as well.

Gazman
27 Jul 2020 - 11:01 am

Really smart move SCA. This is a move that Nova Entertainment should be really worried about given this is the overlap demo of nova and smooth. And with a lot of Nova’s strategic smarts across programming and marketing no longer in the business, I see some very anxious months ahead for NE who have been riding on free kicks for a while now.

Brian
27 Jul 2020 - 11:09 am

And just like that Nova and smooth look like the stale brands in the market.
I can hear the words ringing out in their office now, “Why haven’t we got a new logo and a TV ad and some posters like they do”

Andrew
27 Jul 2020 - 11:25 am

Lehmo lives in Melbourne right. And he does The Project in Melbourne right. So he will no doubt be doing the SAFM 107 breakfast show from Melbourne right.

Dan
27 Jul 2020 - 11:41 am

If they don’t bring back PMFM in Perth, I will riot!

Mary James
27 Jul 2020 - 11:45 am

Lehmo in Adelaide and the heritage branding of SAFM is going to make Nova look really immature and young. And that demo will not work for Nova locally or its contribution to broader national ratings.
This will show the strategic cracks in Nova’s programming strategy instantly. I just hope more middle management at Nova will not lose their jobs over this.

Write This Down
27 Jul 2020 - 11:45 am

Logos, names and colours don’t mean much if the shows continue to be stale and predictable.

Lucy
27 Jul 2020 - 11:52 am

It’s great to see SCA and ARN investing in their brands post COVID. The industry needs it. I can’t remember the last time I saw any marketing for any of the networks.
I hope both networks get a good result from it

Gary
27 Jul 2020 - 12:21 pm

Good on you Nikki. Make hay while the sun shines. The competitor programming teams can’t blame marketing now they don’t really have stand alone capable marketing teams to respond to this. More Dua Lipa on rotation and an Ed Sheehan Red Room isn’t going to be enough here

ex-staffer
27 Jul 2020 - 12:56 pm

For a company taking every government subsidy they can find, laying people off, forcing pay cuts and reducing hours, the logical next step was, of course, to re-brand a bunch of stations to their original names from 5 years ago in the middle of the biggest economic and health crisis we have seen in 100 years.

When are the back scratchers going to be held accountable for destroying Australian media?

Ed
27 Jul 2020 - 1:36 pm

I hear that Lehmo will be streaming his show from Melbourne, that’s no good.

Dave fan
27 Jul 2020 - 1:44 pm

I don’t understand the logo? Is that a marketing matter!?
I am not sure music tweaking is enough in this world… Dave needs a new team of people around him who can focus on show content.

Simon
28 Jul 2020 - 2:06 am

As others here have noted, the timing of this is disgusting. But I understand their thinking as they’re now skewing older so why not resurrect some brands the people they’re now targetting grew up on. However, brand affinity only works if the consumers/listeners have maintained a relationship throughout, otherwise they’ve moved on to something else. And what happened to national synergy with things like the Hit app? Surely on-demand has never been more important, even for the older folk? This also just raises more questions for (now) off-brand shows like Hughesy & Ed, Ash London Live, Tom & Olly, and Weekend Breakfast. Are they also bringing back major market brands like, PMFM, FM104.7, Triple T, NXFM, and SeaFM? And what’s happening with the wider regional Hit Network? I guess time will tell…

Radionerd
28 Jul 2020 - 10:27 am

Very good decision. It was crazy to abandon decades of branding and it just confused the listeners. Personally I grew up in Adelaide going to SAFM discos at school and waking up with the Morning Zoo, so there’ll always be that nostalgic link to the brand. And targeting an older demo is smart as most millennials are streaming their music now. Radio no longer breaks music and the Top 40 format is going down worldwide.

West is Best
28 Jul 2020 - 11:24 am

Thoughts are that the Perth stations will change network affiliation. Mix moving to the hit network as its format is already close to where the network is heading and SCA can maintain the valuable mix94.5 brand. This leaves 92.9 to become a Triple M, then that network is complete.

Dan
28 Jul 2020 - 12:23 pm

@West is Best – that would just be confusing! They’d have to flip breakfast and drive shows and you’d be taking established branding, already associated with 94.5 and putting it on 92.9 (the Mix/MMM Club, Triple M Footy, etc). They’d be much better off pushing 94.5 to Triple M, shifting the music more male skewing.

Only then would it clear the path for 92.9 to join up with the new sound of the the Hit network. Whether than means reviving the PMFM brand (I wish!), calling it just 92.9 again, sticking with Hit 92.9 or going with something new, who knows. If they’re targeting females from 30 to 54, they would have known the PMFM brand. 30 year olds were born in 1990, which means they were 11 when PMFM disappeared. People older than that would be familiar with PMFM. They knew about the Morning Crew, the PMFM Skyshow, etc. Yes, PMFM has been gone for 20 years, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be revived if they’re chasing nostalgia.

PJC
28 Jul 2020 - 12:24 pm

Interesting that 96.1 in Mount Gambier also rebranded to SAFM. Could this be an indicator of what SCA might do in other states with their heritage metro brands.. ‘from Mildura to Moorabbin, Werribee to Wodonga – get that feeling on The Fox..’?

Also, I’m calling it here now – it won’t be PMFM that’s coming back to Perth, but Triple M will take over 92.9, with Mix 94.5 joining the Hit Network. Obviously, not a simple switch given the impacts to on air talent, etc (hence the delay), but possibly early 2021 ahead of new ratings year.

Brian
29 Jul 2020 - 5:16 am

Is it true that Lehmo won’t relocate to Adelaide ? Poor form.

Andi
3 Aug 2020 - 11:27 pm

Please change HIT106.9 back to NXFM.

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