“From day one, it was stacked against me”: Christian O’Connell on following a #1 rating legacy show and why Aussie ratings are “sharper” than the UK
From the day new Gold104.3 Breakfast host Christian O’Connell walked into ARN, he knew he was in for a tough battle with ratings. After all, he was following a legacy show in Jo and Lehmo; a show whose listener base was none too happy to say goodbye to, and who went to #1 in what turned out to be their final ever book.
In a result that may surprise his doubters, Christian hit the ground running in Survey #4 today, and although he was only present for the second half of the survey period, Gold FM Breakfast saw an upward swing to 8.7% (+0.7).
This result undoubtedly helped Gold maintain its overall FM lead (albeit a small one) over SCA’s Fox in People 10+.
In his favour was Gold Breakfast rating strongly in Survey #3, just before Christian started with Jack Post after a drawn-out transition period.
The seasoned British host was under no illusions with regards to how hard the gig was going to be, and certainly was not expecting to be exceptionally received from the get-go.
“I’ve been doing breakfast radio for 20 years. I’ve never gone on air, I’ve never worked for anyone, and I wouldn’t have had that career if I didn’t know what the expectation was for me from my bosses.
“It’s intense in the UK. Ratings are everything. You live or die on those. You might not like the methodology, whatever, it doesn’t matter.
“Although radio is a hell of a lot bigger business over here, the money, the stakes, everything. The wins, the losses.
“It is even sharper. The competition. It is more intense and you’re new. It’s hard when you’re new for the market to find you.
“And when no one knows who the hell you are, it is stacked against me. From day one, it is stacked against me. We would only know over time if this is gonna work out and that isn’t gonna be in the first, second or third survey. It really isn’t.
When he weighed up his options and eventually decided to come over from the UK, it was not a decision he took lightly.
“I called up Andy Lee, I always knew he’d be honest with me and I said, ‘do you think it would work? Me on Australia radio?’ And parts of me really wanted him to say, ‘Absolutely not, sorry mate, it just won’t, it’s a stupid idea, it’s an awful midlife crisis, go and have an affair. Get yourself a Harley Davidson if that’s what you need to do. Do not do this.’
“So, it started from his honesty in that conversation and then me talking to Duncan (Campbell) who worked in the UK for ten years who I knew. Duncan, right from the get-go was really, really excited about the possibility of doing something together.
“At first, I thought he was just being a nice guy, ’cause he is, and then I realised, ‘oh my god, he’s serious.’”
Christian is willing to be patient for his audience to warm to his new show, and he’s got a plan he intends to implement over multiple years. It’s a plan that may already be showing dividends, however, the proof will be in his first full survey in the Breakfast slot (Survey #5).
“It’s never ‘see how it goes’, that’s not good enough,” he says. “It has to be a strategy.
“I’m only in my apprenticeship, that might take a year, might take 18 months. So yeah, I, of course, am aware of the expectation and I’d love it to be shorter, as short as possible.
“I do know, whatever happens over the next couple of surveys, there will be articles. No doubt, they’re already gonna be sharpening their knives right now to try and write the story they wanna write of the pommy that’s tanked. Let’s see what happens over time.”
Christian O’Connell explains how beers with Hamish & Andy helped put the wheels in motion for his move to Australia in part 1 of Radio Today’s interview with the Gold host.