The Three Wise Men of FM

It’s not often that a network program director experiences the joy of having all their stations go up in the same survey. For DMG’s Paul Jackson, Survey 6 wasn’t quite that day, but it was close. “It’s one of those days where there’s pretty much no bad news, no issues,” he tells me.

All of the network’s FM stations went up or at least held their ground. The only significant drop occurred in Adelaide where DMG’s sole AM talk station, FIVEaa shed 1.5, but that would hardly matter in the big scheme of things.

So, Jackson was already in a sparkling mood when I called him to discuss the results. But that was before someone handed him the figures from Perth where Nova973 had leapfrogged 96FM and 92.9 to squeeze into a share of second place with ABC720. “Perth is absolutely outstanding!” he says.

Settling down a tad, he beams, “I’m delighted with all of the Novas.

“And then on smooth, we’re ahead of our expectations at this stage. I’m not going to get into the minutia of it, but we’ve put on 100,000 in cumes in this book alone in Sydney – which represents a hell of a lot of people trialling the station.

“It would be remiss of me not to point out that smooth (in Sydney) is ahead of Triple M – which is quite an achievement and only point three behind Mix,” says Jackson.

SCA’s Guy Dobson doesn’t see any comparison between smooth and Triple M. As far as he’s concerned Triple M’s result is merely  a consequence of 2Day’s success, “When 2Day-FM breakfast goes up, Triple M breakfast goes down. You could chart those over the past few years with the exception of a couple of books.”

And ARN’s Duncan Campbell doesn’t see the correlation for his station either, “I was one of the few people who didn’t expect smooth to eat into MIX. We did the research. And the research for that format is really a 40+ audience. So any impact is really at the top end for us, which is what we’re seeing.”

Apart from Sydney’s Triple M which Dobbo swears “will bounce back” there was no shortage of good news in the SCA camp with an emphatic FM breakfast win for Kyle and Jackie O. Despite the massive 2.1 spike, Dobbo would not agree to the suggestion, that perhaps, this is just an aberration.

“No they’ve hovered around the 10s 11s and the 12s. Its just getting back to where the show should’ve been. It’s the highest result forever we’ve had on breakfast. And the highest result we’ve had for 2Day-FM since 2002. So, its over 10 years since we’ve had a result like that,” says Dobson.

While there may not be too much crossover between smoothfm, Triple M and Mix brands, there’s no doubt that Today network and Nova stations are in hot pursuit of each other.

So, one would think that if K & J have a really good survey on 2Day-FM, then Fitzy and Wippa would be struggling at Nova. Yet both teams enjoyed gains.

craigbrucehead_121But SCA’s Craig Bruce (left) is not impressed saying, “Fitzy and Wippa going from a five four to a five nine is not exactly setting the world on fire. We’re more than double our nearest rival, which is Nova in breakfast. You can’t ask us to do much more than that.”

Still, up is up. And if Nova didn’t draw audience from 2Day, then from where?

Jackson won’t name stations but says, “I think we’re competing in a highly developed marketplace and people will move around, flicking the dial for the best offering on the table. And you can see in the daytime where our share is strong in every show while some of our competition have still lost ground in the daytime as well. But I look at this marketplace, it’s highly developed and it’s a monumental battle.”

Can Duncan Campbell find some cheer for ARN? You bet, “For us, GOLD in Melbourne is probably one of the highlights of this survey because of the nature of Melbourne this time of year because of football.

“I think for GOLD to perform the way they have and for Triple M to disappoint with their performance, that’s really one of the highlights for us. And a cume of 780,000 or so is pretty impressive. We’re happy with that,” says Campbell.

Hang on, Dobbo says of Triple M, “Eddie had a bad book last survey – and we’re up again. It’s number one 25-39 as a station. That’s just the way the Triple M brands bounce around. And we’re number one with Fox in Melbourne.”

While there was some good news for ARN, Campbell won’t shy away from confronting the bad, “The two disappointments for us really are MIX 101.1 in Melbourne which has come back (down) after such good growth and also WS.

“WS was impacted in the older demos, 40+. I put it down to partly the Olympics and partly the impact that smooth is having on some of those older demos as well.

“Things are yet to settle down properly. But it’s a bit of a hit though, so I suspect its not totally accurate yet. I think it’s yet to settle down. Smooth’s still holding some pretty generous 18-24 numbers for that format. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of books for smooth, but it’s certainly softened off in Melbourne a bit,” says Campbell.

Just two surveys ago WSFM’s Jonesy and Amanda were breathing down the neck of Kyle & Jackie O. Now they find themselves 5.3 behind. As disappointed as he may be, Campbell is not overly concerned. But like a coach of a team that’s down at half time, it’s his job to lift his troops…

“We just have to regroup. This is just one book. If we’re sitting here after three down books in a row, it would be a different story. But having been a nine for the last three books, this actually quite a hit. So, I’ve spoken to them this morning and we continue to deliver on the strategy. We have tremendous faith in the strategy and we continue to implement that. That’s the goal.

“I think the worst thing we could do is to knee jerk. As I’ve stated time and time again we’ve spent a lot of money developing the right strategy, and we have tremendous confidence in that strategy. So one book is not going to deter us,” says Duncan Campbell.