Trends from Survey 4

Steve Ahern analyses the big picture in this year’s first 4 radio surveys.


The most significant landmark this survey is Ray Hadley’s 20 year dominance of the morning radio timeslot in Sydney. He has held the top position in mornings for 20 consecutive years and 158 surveys. This survey Hadley increased his hold on the timeslot by 1.1 share points, with a 16.4% share of all Sydney morning radio listening. He is also networked to 16 stations around the country via Nine Radio Syndication.

It’s not the most survey wins of a talk radio presenter. Neil Mitchell had clocked 219 wins by the time he retired, but they were not consecutive in the fierce Melbourne radio market. John Laws had more years at number one in that timeslot, but that was when there were fewer than the current 8 surveys per year, so a direct comparison is difficult.

Another interesting element in this year’s survey schedule is the timing of school holidays around the country. Australian states stagger their school holidays in relation to nearby states. In most years, surveys are usually arranged so that they effect only one week of survey, but this year Sydney and Adelaide are completely out of sync with the other capitals and the survey schedule for three surveys.

Given the way that the rolling surveys work there would have been an impact last survey on the Sydney and Adelaide market results, because two weeks of Survey 3 were school holiday weeks. During school holidays normal listening changes, because parents are not doing school drop offs, working parents often take leave and families sometimes change their place of listening from their home to a holiday destination.

Because of the timing, Survey 3 in Sydney and Adelaide had two weeks of holidays in it. Those waves have now flowed out this survey, so survey 4 reflects a normal working/school pattern of listening, but the holiday timing will again hit in Surveys 5 and 7 for those markets. Holiday listening patterns always have some effect on family demographics.

Survey schedule for 2024, grey denotes school holidays

Other seasonal effects on ratings are major sporting events, such as Cricket, Football and Tennis. With Wimbledon on now and the Paris Olympics set to begin soon, there will be a sport effect in the next couple of surveys, which will help sport stations, such as SEN, Nine Radio and the ABC Sport channels. Given that the sport coverage is overnight, it is unlikely to disrupt normal day time listening patterns, but may increase the audience overnight and give those stations a boost at breakfast if there are significant Aussie victories. Nine Radio has already been promoting its Olympic coverage across Nine properties such as Channel 9, SMH, Age and also recently shared its radio rights with the ABC for some local stations, but not Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Brisbane, where there are major Nine Radio competitors.

Another big picture theme in today’s figures harks back to Larry Rosen’s Infinite Dial study, released last week. Audiences are still strong for broadcast radio and podcasts so, with 12.4 million listeners to live linear radio as measured by the GfK ratings and another 9 million listening to podcasts, the commercial audio industry is in a strong position to attract advertisers. The 25-54 age groups showed a steady 2.9% rise year on year, reaching 6.1 million people.

At a time where advertisers are becoming more aware of the unsafe brand environment on social media and the internet, these results will give them more incentive to choose responsible audio publishers and broadcasters for their advertising.

With so much focus on the personalities in the business, the dynamism of radio companies remains strong. This year the focus is on Melbourne, with Kyle and Jackie challenging the status quo in that market. This survey saw K&J’s cume increase, which is likely to lead to increased share in coming surveys if the duo can keep their audience listening longer to build TSL. Meanwhile other music stations are jostling to take advantage of listener volatility, with new strategies and increased marketing that will keep the dynamism in the market for the next few surveys

For the non-commercial ABC stations, an ongoing trend this year is increased listening to the national broadcaster’s niche audio channels. While the focus is often on the Capital City and triple j stations that have the highest share in the big five cities, and the other main analog stations RN, NewsRadio and Classic FM, what is sometimes missed is the increasing number of people listening to the ABC’s other platforms which super-serve specialist audiences. RN audiences now consume huge numbers of RN programs via podcasts rather than broadcast, Sport listeners enjoy more live coverage than ever on the ABC’s DAB+ and ABC Listen Sport channels, and specialist music consumers are increasing their listening time to the ABC’s Jazz, Unearthed, Kids, Country and Double J music channels, which champion Australian musicians. For example, there are 384,000 listeners who consume the ABC’s digital channels in Sydney (see chart below).

During the first half of 2024, ABC Capital City radio stations actually managed to find a little money to scrape together for some outdoor campaigns to promote their breakfast shows. Sydney buses carried Craig Reucassel’s face on their rear end, which was nowhere near the outdoor presence of 2GB’s Ben Fordham, KISS’ Kyle and Jackie and advertising from most of the other Sydney commercial stations, but it must have had some effect in awareness raising for the stations.


The final figure at the bottom of the top left column in the main cume charts  (the second page of each multi-page market report) shows just how many people do listen to radio. In Sydney, out of a population of 5.3 million, 4.5 million people listen to the radio each week, they do so on free to air analog and digital broadcast radio channels and on apps, streams and smart speakers.  In Melbourne it is also 4.5 million people out of a population of 5 million, and so on across each capital city.

Radio and audio continue to thrive.



About the author:

Steve Ahern is founding editor of radioinfo. He was Director of Radio at AFTRS, the Head of the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union’s Media Academy and most recently the Manager of ABC Radio Sydney.

He left ABC Radio Sydney at the end of the survey 4 ratings period to rejoin AMT Pty Ltd as CEO. AMT is the parent company of this and other media trade publications and delivers training, conferences and podcast awards across Australia and Asia. Ahern is also known for cutting edge training in AI and new policy developments for broadcasters positioning themselves for future trends in media.





Tags: | |