Scott Muller
Radio Consultancy

Why Kyle & Jackie O may force ARN’s Ciaran Davis to buy a camel

ARN has bought Australia’s #1 Breakfast Show.

Its next purchase may be a camel.  Here’s why….

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Scott Muller, on the spectacular launch event for Kiis 1065 FM and the Kyle & Jackie O Show. And why hiring Kyle & Jackie O may force ARN CEO, Ciaran Davis, to buy Rosso a camel.

Kyle & Jackie O’s first show of the year signaled the launch of Australia’s newest radio brand, Kiis 1065 – and heralded the dawn of a new era for the Australian Radio Network (ARN).
 

Ciaran Davis Duncan Campbell Rosso

Fronting the launch event were Ciaran Davis (ARN CEO), Duncan Campbell (ARN Group Program Director), Kyle & Jackie O (ARN’s newest recruits, aka The Reigning Gods of Sydney FM Radio), and Rosso (um, Rosso). A packed and excited crowd of clients, VIPs, the full ARN team, and black-clad media-folk all laughed, drank, chatted and waited with great anticipation to meet them all.

3 of the black-clad media-types at the launch of Kiis 1065

And, appropriately for such an auspicious occasion, ARN held the launch of Kiis 1065 on my birthday. 

Naturally, I didn’t mention the birthday thing to anyone. Not because I’m now so old that I’d be embarrassed, but because I’m now so old I completely forgot it was my birthday. And everyone on the rooftop of ARN’s North Ryde studios had far more exciting things on their mind than some befuddled old guy who can no longer blow out all of his candles without having a short rest and a second go. And then toweling down the cake.

For a start, on the drive to North Ryde while flicking around and comparing Kyle & Jackie O and the show’s two main competitors, the end-game became blindingly obvious. Absolutely no offense intended to either of those two competitor shows – and I genuinely and sincerely mean that.

But I also genuinely and sincerely mean this. It was pretty clear that, as of Kyle & Jackie O’s first show, Sydney breakfast radio is now finally and officially back from summer holidays*. And the bar has been significantly raised. And the safety mat has been taken away. 

* For the sake of accuracy, the return of WSFM’s often unsung but always outstanding Jonesy & Amanda also signalled that Sydney breakfast radio is now officially back from a long summer holiday – which Australia seems to have spent lolling about on the couch while wolfing down family-size buckets of deep-fried junk food, watching the cricket all day and the tennis all night, and flicking between channels wondering how every person in the whole town of Ararat got so out of shape.

“History never repeats itself – but it rhymes” – Mark Twain

When Alan Jones moved to 2GB it took a few surveys for the audience to follow him.  But they did follow him.  Every single one of them*.

* …that still had hearing good enough to notice he wasn’t on 2UE anymore.

So, after Kyle & Jackie O’s first show the big question for 2014 – both inside ARN and throughout the radio industry – now seems fairly unanimous. It’s not “if” but “when” Kyle & Jackie O will achieve #1 FM breakfast in Sydney.

At the launch event, Kyle was publicly super-confident (if somewhat tongue-in-cheek) when he said that their show will be #1 FM in Survey 1. ARN’s CEO, Ciaran Davis, was sagely elusive (if somewhat tongue-in-cheek) when he said “by the end of the year”. Personally, I’ll side with Mark Twain and say, “somewhere between what Kyle and Ciaran said”. Chatting to Jackie, she also seemed closer in opinion to either Ciaran or Mark Twain than to Kyle. 

But whenever #1 FM breakfast in Sydney happens for them, there will also be benefits for other shows on Kiis 1065. Which is why Ciaran may have to buy Rosso a camel, a peculiarity of the launch event that we’ll get to next.

But first, the launch event itself…
 

The whole Kiis 1065 station launch was ARN's finest hour. And a strong signal of more finest hours to come.

The launch event was a spectacular success. Everyone involved should be heartily congratulated and spontaneously patted on the back in an HR-approved manner, once the "Spontaneous Yet Non-Harassing Physical Contact" form has been correctly filled out and approved.

Now, several times in the past I’ve had fleeting opportunities to glance around ARN’s North Ryde facilities, but until now I've never evaded security long enough to make it all the way to the rooftop. 

Note to all other radio networks, worldwide: these freaky chuckers have a rooftop pool! 

And, while a childproof safety fence is no guarantee of radio ratings glory, it is somehow symbolic of the transformation in ARN’s culture and expectations of success since Ciaran and Duncan arrived a few years ago. In many ways, the launch of Kiis 1065 with Kyle & Jackie O could be seen as the culmination of all the hard work that has gone into that transformation.  

E.g., ARN didn't use to have successful stations in almost every market. And now they do. ARN didn't use to have a Kyle & Jackie O Show. And now they do. ARN didn't use to have a rooftop pool. And now they do. I mean, everyone seemed pretty damned proud of everything the company has achieved in recent years, pretty damned proud of the Kiis 1065 launch, pretty damned proud of Kyle & Jackie O, and pretty damned proud of the rooftop pool. And so they should be.  

I checked the pH levels and they were bang on.

So, there we all were, high up on the ARN rooftop beside the “no running and definitely no horsies” sign, as Rosso stepped up to commence his MC duties – entertaining the crowd, and interviewing Ciaran Davis and Kyle & Jackie O. 

There was a particularly deep and touching moment when Rosso introduced Kyle & Jackie. He recounted how they’d once been fierce rivals on Sydney breakfast radio (Rosso on Nova 969 and Kyle & Jackie on 2Day). Despite their former intense rivalry, Rosso said when he left Nova the first people to reach out and invite him to be a guest on their show were Kyle & Jackie, and he thanked them, from the bottom of his heart. It was a genuine and very moving introduction, and everyone got a lump in their throat and choked up a bit.

Now, I’m not prone to bouts of misty sentimentality. So I’m quite embarrassed to admit that at that poignant moment as I took a sip of coffee, a solitary tear welled up in my eye, trickled down my cheek, and right then and there I made a solemn and sacred promise to myself that I would never, ever again leave the pointy wooden stirrer in the coffee cup. 

The pain was so intense (I think I got a splinter in my retina) that I missed whatever Rosso said next.  But I recovered in time to hear him say that if his drive show went to #1 Ciaran had promised to buy him a camel. Of the “four-legged, ship-of-the desert” variety – not the “unfiltered, comes-with-a-health-warning-and-an-unpleasant-CSI-picture-of-a-clogged-pulmonary-artery” variety.

One Hump or Two?
 

Please don't ask how they'd publicly negotiated a camel into Rosso's survey bonus. I was wincing in agony with a severely skewered eyeball, so you're just going to have to roll with that and take it as fact. And no, I'm not making this up.

Now, before you start thinking “that Ciaran, he’s a one” and “he knows he’s never going to have to stump up for Rosso’s ratings camel bonus” … there’s actually every chance that some time this year Ciaran may be asking Rosso “one hump or two?” And here’s why… 

In all the radio industry excitement and buzz over the last few months, particularly around all the big changes to the fiercely competitive breakfast daypart, it has all but been forgotten that until recently – in FM radio in Sydney at least – drive was the most tightly competitive daypart, not breakfast. 

That’s not in any way saying that breakfast wasn’t intensely competitive. It’s just that in 2013 there weren’t really any weak drive shows. Nova 96.9 had Meshel, Tim & Marty (above), 2Day had Fifi & Jules (left), Triple M had The Highway Patrol, WSFM had The Duck, triple j had The Doctor, and Mix had The Rosso.

And smoothfm had Nothing Offensive. And I mean that as a good thing, see article here.

Whether or not you or I have a personal opinion about those shows is of no relevance whatsoever. The only relevant perspective is that of the audience.  Here’s how they voted in 2013…

Not only did all of those drive programs end 2013 very tightly packed within just 3.4% of each other – but during the course of 2013 no-one would have thought it “a weird ratings anomaly” if any particular one of those shows had appeared in the top half of the ladder. In fact, during 2013 every single one of those shows did appear in the top half of the ratings ladder. Sydney FM drive has been a very tight competition.

Whereas the Sydney FM breakfast ratings ended in 2013 with a 7.1% spread between first and last place – double the spread of drive! And throughout the year it was always pretty clear who the audience thought belonged in the top half of the ladder, and who the audience didn't think belonged there. In other words, floating amongst all the fruitloops the audience loves at that time of day was a toasted cockroach or two. 

And in relation to camel ownership, what all the recent lineup changes add up to is this …

In 2014, 2Day and Triple M have new drive shows, and Nova’s has had a major change. At best, new shows and major lineup changes take time to bed in. Whereas The Doctor, The Rosso, and Nothing Offensive all remain – effectively putting those three programs in a potentially stronger ratings position simply by being consistent.

And those competitor changes may well favour Rosso's show even more.

With Kyle & Jackie O joining the newly launched Kiis 1065, give it a few surveys and station reach will rise significantly – which should propel Rosso’s drive show to far greater reach, and ultimately could put him within striking distance of the top spot. He only has to win the top spot the once, and suddenly Ciaran is ponying up for a dromedary and maybe a fairly unique parking / feeding space.

Footnote:
In all the excitement of ARN’s launch of Kiis 1065 and Kyle & Jackie O’s first show of 2014, there are two enormous elephants in the room. Firstly, Kiis 1065’s sister station, WSFM – with its music sounding about as hot and tight as it ever has leading into survey 1, with a powerful breakfast team, and a big contest. Secondly, there's the change in the ratings methodology. We’ll re-visit both of those soon on Radio Today.

 

Scott Muller is Director of MBOS Consulting Group, a media management and consulting firm.

Click here to contact him.

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