Where to now for Talking Lifestyle?

Adam Lang offers some clues.

When handing down the company’s half year results last week, outgoing executive chairman Russell Tate hinted that MML’s Talking Lifestyle stations were “under review.” Which in radio speak usually means they’re cactus.

“To be honest,” confides newly anointed CEO, Adam Lang, “It was under review since it was launched. You just have to look at the figures to know that we haven’t gained the momentum that we wanted to on all shows and we haven’t done nearly well enough in Melbourne and Brisbane. Everyone knows that. It’s no secret.”

Since it was launched just 18 months ago, Talking Lifestyle has become the classic example of ‘seemed like a good idea at the time.’ Perhaps very long commercials could compensate for low ratings to produce an acceptable return on investment for advertisers. And for a while it worked. 

Advertisers flocked to Talking Lifestyle to be interviewed like celebrities so that they could get all the talking points of their product across without the time constraints of traditional 30 second ads. Ultimately, as the audience dwindled even further, some advertisers came to believe they were paying a lot of money just to hear themselves talk on the radio.

In the most recent GfK survey released last December, 2UE was barely keeping its head above water with a 3.5 share propped up by the only two programs that beat the station average: George and Paul on the weekends with a 7.2 share and John and Garry on Breakfast on 3.9. Now George and Paul have been moved to sister station 2GB, which is bound to put further pressure on 2UE’s performance.

In Melbourne and Brisbane things are even worse with Talking Lifestyle listened to by just 0.3 and 0.5 per cent of the measured audience respectively. 

So what’s next for MacRadio’s second network in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane?

Much of the speculation has centred around sport. Mr Lang confirms that sport has been on the agenda for some time. “The truth of it is that there is already sport on Talking Lifestyle through the association that we have with the AFL and Crocmedia.

“We do our metropolitan broadcasts through 3AW and 6PR. Crocmedia does regional but also broadcasts some of their calls on Talking Lifestyle in Sydney when the Sydney teams are playing and in Brisbane when the Queensland teams are playing,” says Mr Lang.

Putting some sport on a Talking Lifestyle formatted station is not the same as rebranding it as an all sport station similar to Melbourne’s 1116SEN.

But there’s more sport to come. radioinfo understands that both Macquarie and Crocmedia are within days of finalising a similar three cornered deal with the NRL to that which they already have with the AFL. Such a deal would involve taking Rugby League onto Talking Lifestyle stations for some games – in the main, those that 2GB and 4BC don’t already broadcast as well as others in Melbourne.

Mr Lang was not prepared to confirm how far the tilt towards sport will lean or when a Talking Lifestyle reboot will take place. “That’s the nature of things under review… of anything under performing,” he says. “Until we’ve decided to change anything, we haven’t got anything to announce.”

The NRL season begins March 1. The AFL season begins March 22.

We reckon we can expect an announcement pretty soon.

 Peter Saxon

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