Theres no nervousness, panic or concern: Craig Bruce on a future without Kyle and Jackie O

Negotiations between SCA and its most valuable human resource had been going on for months. Head of Content Craig Bruce admits that they thought Kyle & Jackie O would return to the 2Day-FM microphone in 2014. They weren’t expecting negotiations to break down.

“No we weren’t,” says Bruce. “We made an offer… they’re just ready to have a break. I’m just really thrilled for them that they’re going to go out on top and that we’ll get to have a month to really acknowledge and celebrate the show.

“They’ve been with us for 13 years and they’ve been doing breakfast for nine. Nothing ever lasts forever particularly on pop radio. Sometimes you get to pick the end and sometimes it happens to you. Kyle and Jack have picked their own ending – in the same way that Breaking Bad finished on a high and Seinfeld went out on a high. Plenty of good media brands know where the end is and pick it, and these guys have done exactly that and they should be applauded for it,” says Bruce.

While Bruce is not completely clueless as to a replacement show, he hasn’t any firm names either. According to him, “We plan as best as we possibly can for different scenarios. My job is to imagine what new line ups and new scenarios might look like – my job is to be a bit ahead of the game.  And although we’re not advanced in terms of an actual replacement show, I’ve got a fair idea where I’m going to look for a talent replacement for Kyle and Jack’s show.”

While coming up with a new show that might fill K & J’s oversize shoes is one problem, another could be where they pop up next. For the average jock it’s difficult to believe that K & J could turn their back on a seven figure sum without a better offer to go to. Rumours abound as to where that might be. Both Paul Jackson at DMG and Duncan Campbell at ARN have separately expressed their admiration for K & J’s prodigious talent and agreed in various ways that, as Sydney’s ‘heritage’ breakfast show, they have been the big stumbling block to their own stations’ aspirations. Even Singo has told Kyle he should stop playing kids’ music and come to work for him at 2GB.

Craig Bruce would not confirm or deny that there is a non-compete clause in their contract but is nonchalant about them going to the opposition, “We don’t think that’s going to happen any time in the near future,” he says. “But both of them are brilliant broadcasters. If that happens then good luck to them.”

One thing that could work in SCA’s favour, once Kyle has left the 2Day building, is that it will make redundant the ACMA imposed licence condition that could trigger serious consequences for the station should Kyle cause another incident such as the now infamous Lie Detector segment or his rant against a female News Ltd journalist. Bruce rejects that line of thought saying, “I haven’t thought about it in any way shape or form. It hasn’t even entered our minds.”

Another thing that Bruce rejects is the rumour that SCA may lure back Hamish and Andy to a networked breakfast show. “Not in a million years! I’ve seen those blogs floating around that it’s a consideration. It’s not even close to being on our radar and it shows a complete lack of understanding as to what kind of business we are. We’re local broadcast FM at our heart and we will always be that. To think that we would take a show from one market and put it into another is absolutely ridiculous to the extreme. Not while I am here will it ever happen!”

If it was just K & J leaving, SCA could draw on its vast pool of talent to find replacements, either directly or by moving  a number of people up the tree from the smallest regional station to the top job on-air job in the group. But SCA are in the process of farewelling an unprecedented number of  prime time shows.

Apart from K & J, not returning next year is 92.9 Perth’s Lisa, Paul and Baz, KOFM, Newcastle’s David and Tanya, FOX FM, Melbourne’s Matt & Jo, Triple M, Sydney’s Merrick and the Highway Patrol, to name a few.

Craig Bruce remains unfazed, “We’ve got some great talent coming through. We’ve got a new era of talent that you’ll hear over the next 12 months on the Today Network. In the same way that in 2004 when Kyle was in his early 30’s and with Jackie they were just hitting their peak, I think we’ve got a similar bank of talent coming through that we can grow over time.

“We understand how this works. We’re not expecting to create overnight national brands that people love like Hamish and Andy. That took 5 years to build- Kyle and Jack were on Sydney breakfast for18 months before it went to number one. We know that these things don’t happen overnight. But we do know the process and are comfortable with it and its in our DNA to build good shows and we are going to back ourselves to do that and to do it really well. 

“There’s no nervousness or panic or concern about what we’re facing. We are just  simply at the end of an incredibly successful era for the Today Network – Matt and Jo number one for 10 years, Kyle and Jack number one for 50 surveys in a row. Hamish and Andy, the biggest national audience in radio history! All of those shows happened in the one time. It’s been an incredible era. We’ll come back with something just as interesting,” says Craig Bruce.