Brad March
Contributor

Brisbane’s 97.3. Australia’s most successful station?

As Bob Peters of Global Media Analysis reported 97.3 in Brisbane has achieved an impressive financial performance.

The station, a joint venture between the Australian Radio Network and Nova Entertainment, is also a great product and ratings success story.

97.3 is operated by ARN and launched in September 2001 after a decade of ratings dominance by B105, which had recorded outstanding ratings since launch in 1990. By 2010 that had changed with 97.3 scoring equal #1 with Austereo’s B105 .

When new station Nova and its ‘ Sounds Different ‘ positioning and ‘ Never more than two ads in a row ‘ promise entered the market in 2004, that was the start of significant change in the Brisbane ratings landscape.

97.3 came into its own with its first outright win 10+ in 2011. From 2013, 97.3 and Nova have virtually been a ‘‘two horse race “ in Brisbane with 97.3 winning most of the 10+ FM surveys.

Barry Drinkwater97.3 initially launched with a more music position. Research had shown the incumbent stations Triple M and B105 were either too ‘teen’ or too ‘rocky’, they talked too much, were negative and played too many commercials.

Original General Manager Peter Verhoeven was key, and the leader at 97.3 . Around that time 97.3 mostly operated ‘ outside ‘ the ARN network which had great challenges in key markets like Melbourne and Sydney. ARN didn’t operate as the cohesive, robust company it is today.

Program Director Barry Drinkwater was the stations first Program Director, and remains in the role today. He has enjoyed one of the most successful programming runs in Australian radio.

When 97.3 launched as an Adult Hot A/C B105 shed female listeners. For the first time the new station 97.3 provided a new listening environment and format, one that was ‘ safe ‘ for ‘mums and their kids’ to listen to.

When Nova launched they took B105’s Hit position. So the station lost its core audience, its music position, and in 2006 its breakfast show. It effectively got caught in the crossfire of Nova and 97.3. B105 had a brief resurgence during Hamish & Andys initial run but one of 97.3 great strengths was that they stayed true to their target, brand values and music position, super serving their female core audience.

The essence of 97.3 is fun, local and entertaining breakfast and a ‘ pick me up make me feel good ‘ adult female music position.

97.3’s breakfast show has evolved over the years. Former Triple M announcer Bob Gallagher was joined by Terry Hansen. The addition of superstar Robin Bailey rounded out the lineup and she gave the 97.3 female audience a strong ’ voice ‘ in breakfast. A strong, aspirational woman the female target could relate to.

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With the arrival of Ciaran Davis and Duncan Campbell at ARN, in 2010, 97.3 benefited from the injection of marketing and greater resources.

97.3 in the last survey #6/15 remained the leading FM #1 10+, #1 25-54 and #1 breakfast.

It remains one of Australian radios great enduring success stories.

Brad March is a Director of Radio Today, a former Program Director, Group Program Director & CEO of Austereo and Group Programmer at ARN. He is Director of Marchmedia.

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