Craig Bruce: “What’s the old saying?

Staff Writer

That you should never interrupt a competitor when he’s making a mistake?  And I don’t think we are with this format.

Next up is Craig Bruce from Southern Cross Austereo.

For a number of markets SCA is on a long road in terms of rebuilding but what further needs to happen with the Sydney, Adelaide and Perth hit markets? 

Will the 2Day name stay? And what are Craig’s thoughts on the Kiis 101.1 debut, and Matt and Jane.

Blair:  So the main focus has obviously been Adelaide, hit’s been around for six or so months now.  This is the first real book for hit 107, you must be I guess a little bit disappointed with the results today.

Craig Bruce:  Oh of course, you know we weren’t expecting it to go down 2 points.  I think Irene’s done a brilliant job with the format this year from our music position to our events strategy, our presence on the streets has been sensational.  We have a new Breakfast Show that’s 3 Surveys in, I know there’s a graph floating around of Dan & Maz’s first 12 months in Adelaide where they started at a 9 share and by the middle of the year they were a 6 share before they ended the year at a 10 share. 

So you’ve got to put some context around it, it’s a new brand station and a new Breakfast Show and you don’t change a logo and expect a sudden stampede of audience to come to you, it just doesn’t work that way. So all we can do is program to the best of our ability as we are, and we think we’ve got the right position for the station in the long term. It’s going to take a while.

Having said all that it was disappointing that we went down, it would have been nice to see a reward for effort, but I think what’s happened is we’ve probably lost some of those SAFM die-hards and we haven’t attracted any of the Nova under 30’s that we were hoping to yet, but we think we will.

Blair:  How are Amos and Dani going?

Craig:  Good, very good.  For a new show excellent, rapport, chemistry, conversation, all of those basics that you want to build over time is what we’re working on at the moment.  That’s essentially a standard process that we go through with all of our new Brekky shows and that’s what we’re doing with them at the moment. 

I mean Amos is a star, there’s no question about that, he’s very talented and Dani’s been around long enough now and knows her way around it.  Between the two of them I think we’ve got the right combination, we just need to keep them exposed to that market through our events strategy, keeping them busy on the streets, keeping them out and about in front of the people that matter in that market and over time as their rapport and chemistry builds they’ll find an audience.

Blair:  Triple M Adelaide also just off the mark a little compared to Survey 8 last year as well.

Craig:  From a national perspective, if you want to put it into context, I mean Triple M is No.1 10+ for males in Adelaide and that is the start and end of it, and that number is absolutely within our range and what we expect of Triple M in Adelaide. So off a little but some pretty strong numbers towards the end of last year so it’s still well and truly tracking above where we would expect the pass mark to be.

Blair:  Switching to Sydney now, plenty of work ahead and plenty of patience required I guess for the 2Day FM team.

Craig:  Today just kind of reinforces that we’re on a long road and that Breakfast habits don’t change overnight and I think Dan & Maz have done everything we were hoping they would do in terms of their content in the first six weeks, and look if we’re good enough for long enough we know we can build something sustainable for the future, that’s our plan.

Blair:  I had a great chat with Dan & Maz, how are they guys holding up?

Craig:  Great, they’re totally up for the battle.  They’re in a really good head space and regardless of the number today they’re ready for the fight and they’ve got the energy and the right attitude towards what is facing them and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us but as I said, good enough for long enough and if we market consistently enough and aggressively enough, you know we think we’ll find an audience.

Blair:  So are you going to start amping up the marketing strategy more for 2Day?

Craig:  Well it’s already pretty amped as it is.  Share of voice in Sydney is difficult because Kiis and Nova are spending and obviously Smooth are about to as well, so to get cut through in Sydney it takes a bit but that is absolutely our focus from a network perspective, to maintain our activity around 2Day FM.

Blair:  Hit 104.1, is 2Day gonna go or are the stubbies still on ice here in Queensland?

Craig:  No, no it’s not gonna go, no change.

Blair:  Alright, Triple M.  Gone up a touch this time round in Sydney, but Breakfast down a little bit.

Craig:  Look, still within it’s range.  The best cume number on 2MMM in 8 years.  Merrick’s had an increase of almost a point in Drive, the 25-54 numbers look terrific for Merrick and for the Grill Team overall, you know a 5.9 from a share perspective it’s  just a tad underneath, we want to sit in the 6’s. 

We think we can across the course of the year so 2MMM is in pretty good shape at the moment.

Blair:  Triple M Melbourne had a great start to the year, just a touch off No.1 overall, just a touch behind Fox.

Craig:  Our best Breakfast result in Melbourne for Eddie, Mick and Luke in their history, so a 9 share is incredible and that show is just continuing to go from strength to strength.  A 9.3 out of football season for 3MMM is unbelievable and I think it’s reflective of how good the show is. 

So Triple M Melbourne is set-up for another great year.  James and Billy back from next week, football starts two or three weeks from now, we’ve got a pretty good base there that we think we can build on.

Blair:  Cutting to the chase with Fox, pure and simple Fox is No.1 FM.  Happy with that obviously.

Craig:  Oh totally, absolutely!

Blair:  Just on that though, a couple of declines in the demos, probably 25-39 has seen the biggest impact.  Is Kiis biting there?

Craig:  Well there’s always going to be some sampling, I mean Matt Tilley had been on Fox for 15 years and whilst he struggled in that final year before we finished the show up there’s a very long and successful history that Matt has had with parts of our audience, so there was always a chance that there would be some sample. 

I mean, if you had read your site yesterday it was a question of by how much for Kiis and certainly all of the commentary leading up to today was about Kiis winning and daylight second from Ciaran down essentially.  So you know, the fact that that hasn’t happened, I think we can finally put what happened to Kiis in Sydney last year in its rightful place, which is a never-to-be-repeated one-off. 

The reality is they bought a very good breakfast show for the Sydney market – our show, and for good measure the programmer responsible for running that show just happened to be available to them due to incredible personal circumstances.  That was never, ever likely to happen in Melbourne. 

The Fox is an incredibly strong brand and whilst Matt is a very, very good performer and I like him a lot, I like him personally and I think he’s an incredible talent, the show’s not Kyle & Jac, the natural order has been restored which is Matt and Jane are a new show and they’ll have to work just as hard as any other new show to win an audience just like we’re trying to do in Adelaide and Perth.  So the Melbourne results didn’t surprise me in any way, shape or form. 

Whilst Kiis had a rise, no different if you have a look at the numbers last year, I think Chrissie and Jane were No.1 in Survey 2 or 3 of last year with a higher share number, so Kiis are one of many good stations in Melbourne right now, there’s six good FM stations, they’re one of them but I don’t think it’s going to be an out of the pack FM situation like Kiis in Sydney.

Blair:  For hit 105 now, some good gains in 25-39’s, but 97.3 is obviously still proving to be an absolute powerhouse in Brisbane still.

Craig:  We’re not worried about 97.3, they’re not our issue.  We worry about Nova, we’re up 3 points, they’re down 6 points, doesn’t surprise me.  I know Paul’s talked about the hit format and no-one understanding what hit means, I mean I’ve listened to Nova Brisbane and you’ve got three old guys taking listeners to Kokoda and then going camping with their listeners and it doesn’t surprise me that their 25-39 numbers are off by as much as they are. 

I think it’s a confused position at the moment for them and at the moment hit105 is taking advantage of that, so it’s certainly close in Brisbane, it has been close before we’ve just got to maintain the rage.                                         

Blair:  Triple M took a hit in the heartland I guess 40-54’s, 10+ that is, but men is your game, how did that pan out for Triple M in Brisbane?

Craig:  Look, Triple M Brisbane is No.1 10+ men by a long way.  That’s all that matters.  You know that’s our mantra, if we can be No.1 10+ men as we are in Adelaide, as we are in Brisbane, we dominate in Sydney and we dominate in Melbourne.  That’s what we’re here to do and we would like some more 10+ plus share and that will ebb and flo across the course   of the year, but Triple M  Brisbane is not far off the mark but certainly in terms of what we are trying to do from our target perspective we’re achieving our goals.

Blair:  Merrick in Australia had a decent debut in Brissy.

Craig:  Yeah, and in Sydney too, up .8 I think it was in Sydney and a good 25-54 number in Sydney and a good result in Brisbane as well and that kind of reflects the feedback we had on the show pretty well straight right from the start. 

We had a lot of negativity around Matt and Joe (Hildebrand) at the start of last year that we sort of had to trade our way through, but really from the moment Merrick started the feedback from our audiences in Sydney and Brisbane has been really, really positive and it’s just terrific to see a rise in both markets.

Blair:  And I think as Merrick said too, he’s home as well.

Craig:  Yes, exactly.

Blair: Alright, hit 929.  It’s a tougher result by the looks with the station down in multiple spots and demos.  But you weren’t alone there in Perth, Nova also took a hit.

Craig:  92.9 and hit 107 are both in the same situation.  The numbers are below what we expected and look I know today, and if your site is anything to go by, based on the conversations I have had with Mumbrella, Duncan and Paul are trashing the hit format and that makes sense, they don’t want us in this space. 

You know Nova have dropped dramatically in Brisbane, down 2 points in Perth, Sydney Breakfast is off, Nova Melbourne is off, Breakfast and 10+.  So eventually when everything comes together with this we will do more damage than they would like and that’s why they are complaining about it. 

What’s the old saying?  That you should never interrupt a competitor when he’s making a mistake?  And I don’t think we are with this format. 

I think what we’ve done is we’ve shed some old Today Network listeners and across the course of the year, if we maintain our position and continue to execute well and build some interest around Hamish and Andy in the second half of the year, then you’ll start to see some numbers.  Probably at the expense of Nova and certainly in markets like Melbourne and Sydney where there’s a Kiis we’ll hurt them as well.

Blair: 92.9’s Heidi, Will and Woody certainly seem to be quite aggressive in their presence, trying to leverage into the Perth market there even more than they were last year.

Craig:  They have, they’ve worked really hard and look you know you can do all of those things and at the end of the day it’s what you do on the air 6 til 9 that matters most and they’re working really hard at that as well. 

But you know we understand that it’s a long road, I’m not going to walk away from the fact that Perth and Adelaide were disappointing and not what we expected today.  But I don’t think that the strategy is off.  That’s not to say that we won’t sit down and have a look at some adjustments around the side in terms of what we do, possibly with our music there might be a few adjustments we can make.  But I think all in all where we’re currently sitting is right for Perth and Adelaide. 

And if you look at Brisbane, Brisbane has exactly the same format as Perth and Adelaide and it’s gone up 3 points 25-39 and probably taken most of that off Nova in Brisbane.  And it has done that with a Breakfast Show that is a little further into the cycle.  So on days like this you kind of have to separate what is the Breakfast Show doing from what is the format capable of?  It’s a very important distinction to make and certainly for hit Adelaide where you’ve got a show that’s 3 months in and still finding its feet, to attach the number to a broken strategy is I think a long bow, I think it’s a case of new Breakfast Show. 

You know we would have absolutely, with our music positioning challenged some of those older SAFM listeners that have stuck with us along the way.  And I don’t think that’s probably far off the case with what’s happened in Perth as well.

Blair:  Final two questions – now each Group CD has been asked the same thing – here’s the first one.

Have you seen a market closer than Melbourne before?  I guess we’ve got .7% separating the top 6 stations now.  Given variances in ratings and stuff like that it basically means all 6 stations are level pegging almost.  Have you seen a tighter market than Melbourne before?

Craig:  No I haven’t, and obviously it works in our competitors favour to use that as the angle today, which is it’s incredibly close and anyone could win it next survey but the hits really of the market would suggest that with a cume of 1 million that Fox is well placed and particularly if we can hold our position over the next 3 Surveys when Hamish and Andy return in June, then it’s a whole different ball game by the middle of the year. 

Which we think we can by the way and you know really Breakfast, it’s daylight between Eddie and the rest, so whilst the 10+ position is close, and there is no question there are some stations doing really well we think that both Fox and Triple M are set up for a good second half of the year, absolutely.                                                                                                                    

Blair:  How do you see 2015 panning out for SCA overall?

Craig:  Overall, clearly out of today we’ve got three stations that we need to work on.  We’ve got seven that are in pretty good shape.  You know 2MMM best cume in 8 years, 3MMM it’s best Breakfast result in the history of Hot Breakfast, No.1 Fox, No.1 Mix and with a third increase in Breakfast, Triple M No.1 10+ males, 4MMM 10+ males, hit 105 No.1 under 30 females, 3 point increase 25-39 all under Breakfast increase. 

2Day FM is flat and we all know the road ahead there.  Hit 107 and 92.9 might need a re-look in terms of some adjustments from a music perspective, but we are really confident about where we are taking those brands. 

So you know, we are just up for the battle and I think we are going to have a better second half to the year obviously with Hamish and Andy back on the hit network in the second half of the year but I’m still confident about what we can do over the next couple of surveys anyway. 

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