Survey #1: Duncan Campbell on goals for struggling stations & why ARN must hold its nerve
The first metro survey of the year is done and dusted, so what will the rest of 2019 look like for the major commercial networks?
Radio Today spoke with content directors from the major networks following the release of this week’s survey results, to get their take on the current state of play, as well as to find out how they think the rest of the year will pan out.
ARN national content director Duncan Campbell revealed his game plan to us, commending the good performance of some stations and the realistic goals are for some of his strugglers this year.
Survey #1 delivered results were further proof of the current state of a music cycle that has seen stations like Nova and 2DayFM move away from pure CHR in the past 12 months.
Not even KIIS 106.5 was immune, falling to 7.7% overall among People 10+ (-1.1).
“There’s definitely a shift which is already begun in terms of the current music cycle and its impact on the three primary CHRs in Sydney,” Campbell tells Radio Today.
“The encouraging thing for us is that while we might have dropped share, the cume for KIIS is still above a million and 2Day FM dropped too.
“It’s a real battleground and I think that changing music cycle is having impact and people are trying to find their feet. So, you can’t discount that from these results.
Despite the overall downturn for the station, Kyle & Jackie O remain the #1 FM Breakfast show and in double digits.
“That’s an exceptional breakfast show. It’s got very deep entrenched habitual listening and they had a great survey.
“In terms of CHR there’s really daylight between them and the other two.
“In Sydney to have the number two and number three FM stations, and the number one and number three Breakfast shows, you couldn’t really ask for more.”
As for the new player on Sydney Breakfast, Campbell doesn’t believe that Lawrence Mooney’s Triple M Breakfast will resonate or be a threat to the strong performance of WSFM.
“It depends where he’s broadcasting from,” he says.
“But Triple M hasn’t been on our radar for a long time.
He is, however, wary of another solid year from NOVA Entertainment’s smooth stations, both in Sydney and Melbourne.
“Smooth came out of the blocks with heavy marketing from January but I think WS has done an exceptional job this survey under Scott Muller‘s direction, in terms of making sure that time span listening is strong despite the cume not being as strong as Smooth.
“Smooth has shifted music to be as close to WS as it can. Yeah, they’re playing a very smart game but we believe in our product and we research it consistently and WS is a very strong station.”
Despite a decent second half of 2018, Christian O’Connell’s Gold104.3 Breakfast show dipped this survey to 6.8% (-1.6).
Campbell calls the result “a real surprise” but insists that ARN has a lot of confidence in the show.
“It’s really a survey of two halves, so first half being where music patterns are all over the place and then they do settle down the second half,” he says.
“So the fact that Gold has the second highest audience in Melbourne… It’s number one overall in FM in afternoons and mornings.
“We won’t be making any changes of course there, the show’s very strong.
“It’s times like this you’re happy to hold your nerve.”
While O’Connell has shown promise and has a good chance to turn things around, the story at ARNs KIIS 101.1 isn’t looking quite as positive.
“KIIS 101.1 is a very different story to Gold, I mean Gold has been a very strong station over the last several years,” says Campbell.
“KIIS the third CHR in that market, it’s got other challenges other than just breakfast. It’s up against the biggest radio brand in the country in terms of Fox.”
As always, dislodging habitual listening is one of the greatest challenges for any radio show.
“Our marketing has kicked off and we’re trying to dislodge habitual listening. Again there are no changes planned for that show.
“Jase and PJ are on a station which we’re committed to and we will give that show as long as it needs for the audience to become familiar with it.
“It remains our commitment because the content is strong and it’s just not known, that was always the risk.”
ARN’s 97.3FM had a tough 2018, but early signs this year are that we could see a turnaround.
Overall the station grew this book, rising back to double digits with a 10.4% share of listening (+0.7), even going past Hit105 in the process.
“We always knew it was a strong station and I predicted that the residual effects for Triple M wouldn’t flow into this year,” says Campbell.
However, those good results didn’t flow into Breakfast, which will remain a concern for ARN.
“Our challenge remains breakfast, we don’t shy away from that, but those high numbers, pretty impressive there in terms of the share lifts despite a slight dip in breakfast,” he says.
“I think the key for me is that we understand these markets, we know what the challenges are, we know if they’re real.”
Campbell also flatly denied rumours that he’d taken the extraordinary step of signing off on every 97.3 Breakfast break before it goes to air.
“There is obviously additional focus on that show which is only natural given the fact that we had challenges up there,” he says.
“There are obviously more regular calls in terms of and more emphasis on show planning and stuff like that, but to suggest that every break is pre-recorded and I sign it off is, someone is living in fantasy land there.
“That’s not true at all.”
On Will & Woody:
National Drive show Will & Woody may also finally be seeing the tide turn after a difficult first year.
“I think they performed strongly against the tide,” says Cambell.
“A good result in Adelaide, a good result in Brisbane. Melbourne up a little bit as well despite in fact the station was down.
“Even in Perth, they went up so I think their show is really finding its feet this year.
“We’ve had a bit more focus on just providing those guys with a little more direction which is working out well as it builds its cume so yeah it’s a good result.”
In a result that will surprise few, Mix 102.3 had yet another strong survey in Adelaide. The station currently has a 13.3% share of listening (+0.4) while Jodie & Soda continue to streak ahead of the FM competition.
The key for ARN in that market is ensuring that they don’t rest on their laurels.
“We don’t allow complacency to set in but also we’ve got two of the biggest personalities in our market with Mark Sodastrom and Jodie,” says Campbell.
“He is Mr Adelaide and she’s been on the air for a long time and there’s plenty of chemistry between those two.
“It’s pretty impressive numbers there for Adelaide and very strong station and Tony Aldridge has done a very good job there in not being complacent and driving activity in the market as well which has kept the station front of mind.”
As much as Mix Adelaide has been a consistently strong performer for ARN, 96FM has just as consistently struggled.
Campbell is frank about what ARN hopes to achieve in the west this year, where 96 fell to 7.8% (-0.8) this survey.
“It’s early days obviously with survey one and not the result we wanted,” says Campbell honestly.
“The goals are to get into double figures.
“Its challenges are significant because you’ve got probably the last sort of broad mainstream station in Australia in Mix 94.5, its heritage is long and its numbers are impressive throughout pretty much all demographics really so that in itself is a huge challenge.
“You’ve got the KIIS of Perth in Nova 93.7, very strong station heritage breakfast show, you’ve got Hit 92.9, covering off with Nova at under 40 and Mix dominating over 40.
“We’re confident in the music mix but we’ve got some attribution issues there which we need to work on from a marketing point of view.”