Christian O’Connell celebrated his radio ratings victory in bed

Former Publisher

Christian O’Connell had his first experience in the back of a Melbourne ambulance on Sunday: “I can say it was very good,” he tells Radio Today.

O’Connell was rushed to hospital after injuring his back while attempting to move a couch. As a result, he spent ten minutes putting on his socks before receiving a call from the boss on Tuesday.

“I was genuinely speechless,” says O’Connell. “It was a real moment. Especially as I’ve only been here for 16 months. To come in as a complete unknown – and an outsider – was incredible.

“I came here for a reason. I wanted a new challenge and voice, and [Melbourne] have certainly given me that.”

The Gold 104.3 Breakfast host shot to #1 FM in the latest radio ratings, less than two years after arriving in Australia to weather a typhoon of tabloid and trade press headlines – many of them unfavourable – including some from this masthead.

Breakfast on Gold FM secured 9.1% of the listening audience in Survey 7, below the station average of 12.5%, but enough to claim the summit in the competitive market of Melbourne where a fox’s bark is often the loudest.

Relocating Down Under, with no Australian profile or market knowledge, was a gamble not just for for the men in suits who hired him, but for the entire the O’Connell family.

Australian Radio Network’s national content director, Duncan Campbell, now admits he was entering uncharted waters after inking the former Absolute Radio radio star.

“It’s the result of a bold move that hadn’t been done before,” Campbell tells Radio Today. “It’s good for the industry, that we can demonstrate you can bring someone in from overseas into a market. If they’re the right person they’ll impact the market.

“We knew it was a gamble. I’m delighted it took only 16 months. I always had a belief that it would work at some stage. I felt the market was right for something different and new.”

Former Gold FM Breakfast duo Jo & Lehmo with ARN’s Duncan Campbell

The last Gold FM Breakfast team to outperform Southern Cross Austereo’s Fox FM was Jo Stanley and Anthony Lehmann in 2017. Just like O’Connell, they hit #1 in Survey 7 that year, and were shown the door one month later, much to the dismay of almost everyone in media.

“The station has always been strong… but it never had that embedded strength in Breakfast,” says Campbell. “The good thing about the result with Christian is that it’s not a one-off spike. This has been building steadily over time.

“We’ve also done some work there with Jason Staveley (music director). The music’s been exceptional, the engine of daytime is very, very strong. A combination of both those factors means the station ends up on 12 share which is an exceptional result.”

Unlike Stanley and Lehmann, O’Connell’s fate was sealed before the latest survey results. He inked a new three-year contract with ARN last month as part of a multi-million dollar talent deal that also saw the network extend its relationship with Kyle & Jackie O and Jonesy & Amanda.

“I’m very lucky they showed a lot of faith in me, to bring me out here, with no guarantee,” O’Connell admits. “It was terrifying to honest with you, no guarantee it would work.

“And I don’t think anyone in Australia really would give someone like me a breakfast show, and let me do it my way from day one. But [ARN] have, and that’s a big ballsy move.”

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Andrew Ferguson
15 Nov 2019 - 4:11 pm

Whilst I’m sure Duncan loves all the positive press, at the time of Jo and Lehmo’s axing, he said it was because they were the lowest performing daypart on GOLD (despite being No. 1). It’s the same story now.

Also, what’s the “we can demonstrate you can bring someone in from overseas into a market. If they’re the right person they’ll impact the market.” What’s that saying about Jase and PJ?

16 Nov 2019 - 3:10 am

It’s good for the industry, that we can demonstrate you can bring someone in from overseas ! What ? Replacing Australian workers with pommies, you are joking right ?

16 Nov 2019 - 4:05 am

Lovely pic of Lehmo and Jo with Duncan.
Happy days.

16 Nov 2019 - 4:07 am

Survey 7 2017 GOLD are the #1 FM breakfast show (+0.7%) overtaking Fox FM.

16 Nov 2019 - 4:14 am

GOLD did better with the old breakfast show. GOLD104.3 rated 11.1 all people 10+ in 2017.

Geoff McFarlane
16 Nov 2019 - 3:49 pm

There’s ups and downs in any business, I know radio relies on ratings that’s where stations can come unstuck, they’ll lose listeners when listeners feel an unjust has been made by a termination of a crew or person without a reasonable cause. Christian O’Connell does care for his ratings but he cares for his listeners more and that’s what makes him a likeable character, he makes us laugh and shows that it’s Ok to laugh at ourselves. Keep up the good work Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show.

Dan Lonergan
17 Nov 2019 - 10:10 pm

Fm Program Directors are spin Doctors. I don’t what PJ and Jase’s ratings are, but if they are not great, Campbell will find a way to make them look positive. Well done to Christian and an old radio mate of mine Patrina Jones, who is an integral part of that show. Campbell got it right when he said the Music was good. I would have thought the Demographic would be my vintage the 40s to 55s and the 80s decade was our soundtrack and Gold plays plenty of 80s. Gavin Millar a great jock on drive as Well and Madeline Burke an outstanding FM radio newsreader.


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