Letting Kyle and Jack go was not SCA’s only problem

Opinion from Peter Saxon

Last week, in a column in the Telegraph former 2Day FM breakfast presenter Wendy Harmer suggested that Chairman Max Moore-Wilton and the Southern Cross Media Board of Directors were to blame for letting Kyle and Jackie O go to ARN’s rebranded KIIS-FM.

Mr Moore-Wilton hit back the next day in the Australian to deflect her allegations saying “We have a board meeting coming up shortly and we will have discussions about the management in the board meeting.”

Regardless of who’s to blame, letting Kyle and Jackie O go is looking like the biggest blunder in radio history since 2UE let Alan Jones go to 2GB. And the decision was made despite that well documented piece of history and the damage it caused still apparent at the release of every survey, after more than a decade.

Surely someone on the board or on the management team would’ve argued long and hard against letting them go. Obviously they didn’t argue hard enough. On the other hand there were plenty of valid reasons to let Kyle and Jackie O walk – if they’d been just about any other on-air team in Australian radio. Of course they weren’t. Everyone can see that now. We’re all blessed with 20-20 hindsight.

As Mr Moore-Wilton told The Oz, “They were the circumstances at the time. I don’t look back – there’s no point.

“We’ve got to look forward and convince the market we have top-rating programs.”

He’s right, but the task has been made that much more difficult by the less than spectacular launch of the replacement show, Merrick, Jules and Sophie with Mel B. The reality is that it was a bit scratchy to start with, no question,” admits SCA Head of Content Craig Bruce to radioinfo. “But it’s an improving show that gets better every day.”
Well and good, but If ever there was a need for a new show to hit the ground running, it was now.
If, like every other high profile Austereo presenter before them, K & J had’ve left quietly to do some gardening or ‘pursue personal interests’ then the time spent bedding in a new program may have been taken at a more leisurely gait. But without a non-compete clause to restrain them, they turned up at a competitor’s station effortlessly taking up where they’d left off.

We may never know how many listeners stayed with 2Day willing to give the new breakfast team a fair listen. But if that show did not live up to their expectations from day one or two, then we’ll also never know how many didn’t bother to stick around. Suffice to say that, reportedly, SCA’s expectation was they’d lose about 30% of their breakfast audience while the reality turned out to be more than double that.
Or as Craig Bruce told us, “We knew we were going to lose a large chunk of audience and we didn’t know how big that audience was going to be. Now we know.”
Indeed we do. If there’s any good news, it’s that this is probably as low as it will go. It’s not as if an SCA station hasn’t dealt with a 4.0 share before. Not that long ago the Triple M network was struggling and has managed to reinvent itself in recent times.
With seasoned core talent the quality of Jules Lund and Merrick Watts at the helm, the 2Day breakfast show too will find its own drum to beat and a fresh chunk of listeners to dance to it.  

 Peter Saxon

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