“We have had our challenges this year, but we have also had lots of successes”

Staff Writer

The final survey is done and dusted for 2014, it's been a big year. We’ll chat to ARN’s Group Content Director Duncan Campbell and the Chief Operating Officer of NOVA Entertainment, Lou Higgins. We will start with Southern Cross Austereo.

“We have had our challenges this year, but we have also had lots of successes”, Craig Bruce.

Outside talking survey #8, we’ll find out what is happening with Merrick on Triple M, what’s planned for the Today Network drive ahead of Hamish & Andy’s return and the big question of whether 2DAY FM be around in 2015?

Blair Sullivan: So survey 8 wraps up the year – but has the year ended or just started for you Craig?

Craig Bruce: That’s a good question.  Yeah, look there is certainly a lot of activity at the moment across the Today Network. Some music and production changes, and obviously preparing for Dan & Maz, and the hit107 launch is keeping us busy. So it certainly won’t be a quiet Christmas and we will take as much of this break as we can to get ourselves positioned and prepared for next year.


Blair Sullivan: Fox, ends the year #1 FM overall on 8.5%, ahead of Gold at #2, a good result again.

Craig Bruce: Yeah very, very good and the backdrop is essentially a new breakfast show that replaced a ten year heritage number 1 breakfast show. So to have a result like that on Fox is testament to the effort of everyone who has worked on that brand across the year led by Dave Cameron.

Fifi and Dave in breakfast, some good solid first year results with hopefully some growth to come next year.


BS: With Matt Tilley on KIIS next year, after so long on Fox brekky, you'd have to expect some sampling from some of the Fox listeners to that new show?

Craig Bruce: I don’t think we will see a lot under the age of 35. If our last year with Matt is anything to go by that audience under 35 was really starting to drop away. There is no question that he has a fan base, it’s probably an older demo. But I am not going to try and guess where Matt is going to take his audience from, you could argue that for every listener he finds there is a Chrissie listener heading out the door looking for something else.

All I know is that the KIIS launch in Melbourne won’t be as clear cut as the KIIS launch in Sydney has proved to be. It is a different market altogether.  They are not launching with a brand like Kyle and Jackie O. Matt and Jane will have their first day on the radio together January 19 and Matt is replacing Chrissie Swan, and from all of the research I have seen she is pretty close to the number 1 personality in Melbourne just behind Eddie, Mick and Fifi.

It will be a real battle for all of us.


BS: Now Breakfast is the standout on Triple M, #1 FM station, and providing a great lead-in to the workday which has also performed pretty well for you guys.

CB: We have talked a lot about Eddie, Mick and Luke, they are just a great show. They are locked away for a couple of years and we couldn’t be happier.

It’s a bloody funny show, it’s a smart show, it reflects the city probably better than any other show does in really finding the heartbeat of the Melbourne and it’s a joy to listen to.


BS: What’s going on with Merrick on Drive? Have you decided on who is going to join him?

CB: I think it is probably more likely to be a rotating cast that will work around Merrick. We are just working through just how that will come together. That’s our thinking at the moment.

He’s got a bunch of people he has worked with over the years and people he likes from both radio and the comedy circuit and so I think that is where it will land.

It will be a slightly different approach. It won’t be a duo or a three hander, it will be Merrick with friends.

BS: Was Paul Murray the one you were gunning for?

CB: We would have loved to have had Paul Murray come back and he is welcome to come to Triple M anytime. Yeah, for a bunch of different reasons we couldn’t make that work.


BS: The male appeal of Dave Hughes is well known, he would have been a good fit on Triple M?

CB: Yeah Dave would be fantastic on Triple M, we just don’t have a spot for him at the moment. We have got a successful breakfast show in Melbourne, so he can’t have that. Merrick was always going to move back into drive after the 2Day FM brekky show wrapped up.

It’s unfortunate we have not been able to co-ordinate anything around Dave. Dave would be terrific on Triple M and I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point down the track he ended up on Triple M, whether it be however many years from now but he would obviously fit the profile wouldn’t he.

BS: Hit107, a few weeks in, how does it feel?

CB: Musically I  think we have got it right, I think there is really a clear point of difference between what we are doing and what Nova is doing in that market in terms of our playlist versus theirs. The production and the sensibilities around the brand is very strong.

The new Breakfast show, there is some inexperience there and we are ironing out some edges there that we will get right in the New Year. Adrian Brine is coming over to replace Alexis in the Assistant Content Directors role.  She is going off to have a baby. So he is on for about six months and his focus will be on that breakfast show and its execution.

The brand, while it looks great, sounds great and there is a music position it is going to rise and fall off the back of the breakfast show and that will take a little bit of time. Overall a pretty good start considering it is completely new and the Nova show is reasonably well established.

BS: Were you looking to make better ground in the younger demos against Nova this time around?  

CB: It’s ok 10-17.  Look I don’t think it is and it’s not an excuse for the result, it’s hard to draw a line through a particular survey – I think it is too early to make a call on it one way or the other on how those numbers are developing.

And I will give you a reason why.  If you look across the road at 5MMM, and I think we have talked for the last four books around, let’s hope some of those 40-54 numbers come through because the format had been On-Air for six months and we hadn’t seen any real growth 40-54.  Then suddenly out nowhere those numbers have gone hot and the audience and the ranking has gone with it.

Radio is habit forming, nothing happens overnight, there are no quick fixes and I don’t think that is any different with the hit battle as well. It is going to take a little while for people to find us, trial us, like us, and let’s look at what those audience patterns look like over the next six months.


BS: Does that mean in the New Year will you start to ramp up the marketing even more for hit?

CB: We will certainly focus on awareness in the market, both on the streets and above the line. We are taking a slightly different approach with hit, we are being a lot more aggressive from a street activation point of view and that will certainly be the case over summer. It’s a focus to get the brand out there and get some awareness of what we are about.

BS: Just talking Triple M briefly the biggest increase was in 40-54’s… smack bang where you want to be with it?

CB: So that was a really good result for us. The Roo & Ditts show is terrific, all of the breakfast shows around the Triple M network are very, very strong.

Roo & Ditts, it’s local as.  It borrows a lot from that Eddie ideal of being incredibly parochial and really focussing on what is going on in that town. Ditts is a terrific broadcaster and has been for a number of years and Roo just knows everyone in Adelaide. They are a great combination and well supported by John Blake, and six months in we are pulling an eleven and a bit share, which I think is our best Triple M breakfast result in a number of years. I think there are some really exciting times ahead for 5MMM.


BS: 2DAY FM –  Is it going to be 2Day in the New Year or is it going to change?

CB: Ah well, no it’s going to be 2DAY FM but there will be changes. And the changes have happened musically, from a production perspective.  And our new breakfast show went up in every market around the country today and is the number 1 drive show in Melbourne, so there is a lot of positivity around 2DAY FM and what we are doing next year.

The post mortem on this year will be that 2DAY FM breakfast has failed against Kyle and Jackie.  And that’s fair enough…. it has.

But what we have done is built a show that will give us success in the long term. And it just so happens that show wasn’t on 2DAY FM Breakfast, it was on Today Network national drive. We think once again, based on the numbers we have seen today on Dan & Maz indexed around the country, from Brisbane to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney – we think we can take some of that and inject that into the Sydney market. Something different for Sydney Brekky, let’s see what we can bring of that.

 BS: Group Content Directors talk about Bookending the day, big Breakfast and Drive shows – with Drive you are starting off the year with Jules?

CB: No we are not.

BS: You changing?

CB: We are having a more music position specifically for 2DAY FM with Tim Lee hosting 4 to 6 and nationally we will have Dan & Maz 4 to 6.

It’s no secret, Dan & Maz spoke about it On-Air. You look at the numbers around the country and Dan & Maz are our most successful show and the most successful national brand and from a consistency perspective all the other markets are desperate to keep Dan & Maz and they will have fresh content every day that we will all use in drive nationally. And for Sydney, where you have got two or three drive shows beating each other over the head with lots of talk, we will be playing lots of music.

BS: That makes sense.

CB: The other point Blair, thinking more about it, it was going to be ridiculous to think for us to have a show on the air for five months and for it to be successful. It would have been unfair on Jules and whoever his co-host may have been. It’s not how radio works, it takes time to develop any show regardless of the quality.

And for us to think that we could go up against Dave & Kate, A Marty, Tim & Kate and be successful in five months – we had another good look at it and obviously the numbers out of the drive show nationally over the last two surveys have been very strong and we think it is a much better option to go down this path.

BS: So the Dan & Maz offering will be a best of type thing?

CB: Call it what you want, it’s no different to an hour of power or the Chrissie and Jane 3pm Catch-Up that was pre-recorded. For markets like Perth, 3 hours behind; they have never taken any live drive content on Nova or 929 ever. Same with Brisbane, it’s an hour behind during daylight savings. So we were not particularly worried about – call it what you want – if you want to call it a replay show that’s fine but it is fresh content from the breakfast show that morning and it will be repacked for drive in the afternoon.

BS: So what are you actually doing with Jules then?

CB: Jules will do the 6 to 7 show, we are a fair way down the track finalising his co-host but it just got crazy at the end of this year, we just had so much going on. We have trialled a couple of people but we are not going to rush that decision. So will just finalise those trials just when the New Year starts. I think the new show will be on the air around Australia Day.


BS: With Labby heading over to NZ… what’s the plan with b105 Breakfast?

CB: We will announce in the next couple of days. We are pretty well locked in. The quality of Labby’s replacement is very, very strong. I can’t tell you who that is at the moment because we haven’t told our staff yet. He will do an excellent job with Stav and Abby.

And I think we can make a reasonably smooth transition.

BS: Actually, b105 went up again this round, which is a nice result.

CB: Yeah a good finish for the year, given that Abby hasn’t been on the air the last couple of surveys with her second baby being born.

It was a great effort by everyone to hold those numbers up and to in fact have those numbers go up was a good solid end to the year.

BS: Triple M increases across most day shifts and breakfast steady – 40-54’s up… other demos down a bit… Males is your centre.. how did they perform?

CB: Males are strong everywhere for Triple M nationally, we have got a slightly tougher battle in Brisbane with Dads Army on Nova breakfast, so that makes it a bit trickier for us there. That dominates male numbers we have in other markets.

But the 4MMM Brisbane result was solid, we would like it to sit somewhere higher in the 9’s and into the 10’s – we will certainly have a crack at getting there next year.

BS:  Dads Army on Nova, that’s a new one.

CB: They’ll hate it, but that’s ok. I talk to Ash, Kip and Luttsy at contract time every couple of years to see if I can get them over to Triple M, so I am sure they won’t mind me having a crack.

Seriously, they are three old blokes – they should be on a different format to be honest. But they will eventually come across.  

BS: Now who have I left out?  Perth… what’s the wrap for you guys?

CB: The breakfast show that is less than one year old is going up again and finishing in the mid 14’s is an outstanding year, given the transition from Fred – you know Fred had been number 1 for 15 years.

I don’t think we have been given a lot of credit for the Mix transition this year. In terms of audience numbers it’s ranking and share, it’s an outstanding job by everyone.

Nova Perth has been strong for a long period of time and it’s certainly tight in that market but we are really happy with how Mix has played out this year.


BS: It’s the first 12 months since we have moved to gFK for handling the surveys? How has it been?

CB: We have been ok with it. I think the transition has been pretty smooth really. I don’t have any concerns or issues. No issues with Gfk, they are absolutely fine.


BS: Best Moment of 2014 for you?

CB: Can I have three?

BS: Yep

CB: DB winning the ACRA for Best Content Director, that was pretty good. I’d have that at number 1. I am being facetious Blair.

BS: I worked that one out.

CB: I think the success of Roo & Ditts, six months in number 2 overall on a brand that has always been in the back of the pack – for 5MMM it is an outstanding result.

I think the growth of Dan & Maz across the last 12 months. The argument is that 2DAY FM didn’t replace Kyle & Jac, you can have that position, but the reality is we have developed a show that we think can take us forward on 2DAY FM. They just haven’t been sitting in breakfast this year. The continued development of Dan & Maz has been a huge positive for us.

And the other one for me is, I love going to Melbourne and hearing Eddie, Mick and Luke. They are a ripping show on so many levels – so that would be the three.


BS: You know I have to ask it, the Shittiest Moment of 2014?

CB: DB winning the ACRA? Um, shittiest moment… You know what?  The moments go quickly, and I am not being a smart ass here. I don’t have any moment that I can think of that I have any regrets about or that I would want to re-live in a different way.

We have had our challenges this year, but we have also had lots of successes. Everyone wants to look at Sydney and 2DAY FM specifically. We look at the group and think that there are a lot of really good things going on.

We will have lots of really good moments next year and plenty of average ones as well, and that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s a challenging game and it’s never perfect.


BS: And what are you looking forward to in 2015?

CB: An improved 2DAY FM and Today Network. I genuinely think that we have got some upsides that we will see come through next year. Regardless of what we do with Hamish & Andy in the second half of next year, which you think is going to be really positive – I think on top of all of that we are going to put the brand back where it really needs to be starting from January 2015.

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