Brad March
Contributor

Bold Moves

Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network.

Tough times call for tough calls to be made.

One of the toughest and boldest moves in radio this year has been DMG’s relaunch of the former Classic Rock stations to become ‘Smooth‘: a soft adult contemporary format.

Its the FOURTH format for the original Vega brands and this time they've got it right. Sometimes you need an evolution of a format and sometimes you need a revolution.

Smooth is a revolution.

Researchers and Strategists have known for a long time that there was a wide ‘gap‘ in the Sydney and Melbourne markets for a Soft A/C format.

Changing format and backing it with the right launch and marketing requires strong leadership and this is what I have seen from DMG this year.

In overseas markets Soft A/C formats are usually right up there with the market leaders. They generate strong ratings with a compelling demographic profile, and they deliver great revenue. There has been no dominant FM stations for at-home listening and this presents a great opportunity for Smooth.

In a discussion I had with Tom Owens, Head of Programming at Clear Channel – the world's biggest radio company, several years ago he said “if you are the only one doing Soft AC in a market it will mean rivers of gold (revenue)“

Of course the challenge for DMG will now be to adjust, execute and fine tune Smooth. The other great challenge will be to give the format enough time to gain traction in the market.

To quote one of the greatest and smartest leaders ever in US radio, Randy Michaels former CEO of Jacor Communications and Clear Channel, “Imagine how much time its going to take then double it“

The widely reported ratings forecast for Smooth within a year is really irrelevant, as DMG have built a brand and format that could be a market leader over the next 2-3 years and will be hard to topple.

It will be interesting to watch 2Day and Fox format adjustments, and even more interesting to watch how ARN deal with Smooth in Sydney and Melbourne. It is surprising ARN hadn't moved to this 'position' in the market some time ago. Up until now all Sydney and Melbourne FM's have pursued 'Pick me up' formats, and nobody wanted to do a 'relaxing' format.

DMG will have to remember that the 'relax' position and the 'mood' is actually more important than the music.

Maybe it is worth Southern Cross Austereo considering a bold move with a new format and brand name for Triple M Sydney if it doesn't start to deliver strong consistent ratings soon.

Although Triple M (as well as WS & Gold) should pick up a few disenfranchised Classic Rock listeners with the Smooth change.

Congratulations DMG on a bold move.

Good luck with Smooth.
 

 

Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network.

 

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