SEN-sational! Sports radio kicking goals

Who had Sports Entertainment Network’s SEN 1116 on their bingo cards for GfK Radio 360 Survey 3 with biggest increases in listenership across audiences aged 10+, all days parts and breakfast in Melbourne?

I didn’t.

You can split hairs with me about 3AW and smooth 91.5 having equally impressive gains, or say that the nearly 50% increase in audience is an brief anomaly that will be rectified Survey 4.

I don’t think that will happen. With surveys 4, 5 and 6 all still to contain the AFL and NRL seasons, and their conclusions, plus the Olympics and Paralympics.

The best advice given to me when I was reading the news is that sports updates don’t need floral embroidery as you are already preaching to the converted.

If I told you that ‘the Blues beat the Maroons 64 nil in game one of Origin with a hat trick of tries to Panthers’ winger Brian To’o’, an NRL fan needs no more details than that (and Maroons fans just spat out their soft drink). To anyone else that is a gobbledygook phrase that they tuned out immediately.

My dad has been in hospital for the last week. I spoke to my mum on Saturday afternoon and she was the most upset at the lack of ‘noise’ in the house. My dad isn’t noisy per se, but every Saturday he wanders around the house, and the garden, with his transistor radio, listening to RSN, and all the Saturday horse racing. To mum it is just a comforting and regular ‘noise’. To me it is my childhood. Vicariously I picked up so much knowledge through the ever present:

‘Race 5 at Doomben – they’re up and………’.

I mention my dad because sports radio listeners are a loyal breed, totally different to music or talk devotees in that you can’t catch hold of a new one accidentally while scanning the dial.

Imagine flicking over from 3MP to RSN, from Fleetwood Mac to Flemington Racecourse, and suddenly deciding you might stick around to see who gets up in the next race! It just doesn’t happen.

SEN 1116 isn’t a continuous stream of sporting commentary, but does call itself our national sports radio network for a reason, different to 3AW and its news, talk and sport format. SEN’s Breakfast in Melbourne across the week features Garry Lyon & Tim Watson (Tuesday – Thursday), Kane Cornes & Nathan Buckley on Mondays and Kane Cornes & David King on Fridays. All are ex AFL players.

Mornings belongs to Gerard Whateley, who I’m a huge fan of, who wrote the book on champion race horse Black Caviar (which you won’t be surprised to know I gifted my dad one Christmas) and who does not and has not played any sport of note (other than cheering on the Geelong Cats from the sideline). He is the chief sports caller for the network, won the 2023 ACRA award for best sports presenter, and his podcast, Whateley, usually sits in the top 50 (#47 last month) in the Australian Podcast Ranker. He was up 1.5 to 5.9 this survey and recently extended his contract with SEN for another 3 years.

Whateley, as a trained investigative journalist, has interviewed everyone from Steven Spielberg to Damien Oliver (he’s a very famous jockey for those who haven’t been listening to RSN), Cindy Crawford to Roger Federer and most of the AFL world in between. He, like Mark Howard, interviews beyond the game that their sporting guest represents.

Sports and sporting people are reaching new audiences too.

Think of the Matilda’s recent soccer friendly against China, held in Sydney. More than 76,000 people attended!

With the death of former English rugby league player Rob Burrow this week, from motor neurone disease, I remembered the moment when his former team mate, and best mate, Kevin Sinfield, carried him over the line at the Leeds marathon (watch below – with tissues handy). Sinfield’s marathon running and other fundraising efforts, with and for Burrow, raised more than £15 million for research and funding into the disease. Prince William even sent Burrow’s family a condolence message on social media when he heard he had died.

And tomorrow morning, Thursday June 6 at 4:30am, the very likeable Alex de Minaur, or The Demon as he is affectionately known, plays his first ever French Open Quarter Final, after winning all of our hearts searching for a young ‘lucky charm’ fan who yelled encouragement through several hours and rain delays in the fourth round.

I haven’t even begun on the Olympics, which start in July!

That SEN in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Nine’s 3AW, 2GB and 6PR and Triple M Melbourne and Adelaide all increased in Survey 3 is down to more than just being midway through football seasons. Good news and sports stories (plus smooth music) are much needed in these financially tight and troubled times. Kyle Sandilands, who apparently doesn’t care much for football, might need to embrace this bigger picture to kick some Melbourne survey goals.

SEN however already appear to be on a good track.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and sports tragic for Radioinfo.

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