Hit boss dissects the network’s shows, new and old
Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) Hit Network has undergone a raft of changes over the past year – whether it’s starting again on 2DayFM Breakfast, or shaking up the established lineup in Melbourne on Fox. In a wide-ranging interview with Radio Today’s Vivienne Kelly, Hit Network boss Gemma Fordham reveals her take on the network’s current lineup including everything from liking each other off air, to why brands love Carrie & Tommy. One thing she won’t do, however, is pick her favourite show.
2DayFM: The Morning Crew with Hughesy, Ed & Erin
With Hugesy and Ed, they’ve obviously already have been together for the last few years and they’ve worked together many moons ago as well, so they’ve got that established relationship, and Erin coming in, it wasn’t like we were starting from scratch, because Erin’s obviously got so much experience as well. She’s already done radio. She’s obviously a journalist on TV. So, she already had some radio sensibilities under her belt, and the three of them, I know this is going to sound cliche, but I’ve always been a really big believer in if you’re having fun off the air, it translates on the air. And I’ve seen that first hand. I’ve seen when shows off the air are not having fun or not getting along, and it’s no great surprise that the radio show doesn’t sound as good as it could. And it doesn’t sound like a party that you want to be part of as a listener.
So the thing with the three of them is they just genuinely adore each other and they’re together all the time, and even when they’re not on air, they’re going out and doing stuff during the day together just as mates, which, I think that’s what the special chemistry is, is that they genuinely love hanging out with each other and they make each other laugh, and I think that’s the special sauce so to speak is what’s making it sound in my mind, great.
People are going to write stuff, of course they are. And that’s their job. But it’s our job to not focus on what press are writing. It is our job to put a show together every day that delivers for the people of Sydney… We only care about Sarah in Blacktown, and what she thinks and making sure we put her in a good mood as she’s driving to school or driving to work or on the train. That’s all we care about. And that’s all we talk about internally. That’s our single focus is, have we delivered for them today? Or are we delivering for them tomorrow?
Because I’ve said this before, it’s a privilege to entertain, regardless of what market we’re in, it’s a privilege to entertain and wake up a city every day. And so that’s all we focus on.
And maybe it’s just I’ve done this so many years now that I’m jaded and I don’t care about what press say. That’s entirely possible as well. I certainly know that the the guys don’t pay any attention to it, so maybe we’ve just been around too long…
[In] 2021, we’ve come off the back of a year that was a strange year for all of us, right?… I think things have, people’s habits have changed in the world out of last year, and people’s routines have changed, so I just don’t know if success can be measured the same way. And everyone interprets success sin different ways. So of course you want success to be ratings, but we’re already seeing revenue success with that show.
So, we have to also be mindful that so much of our focus now as a business is on digital.. and so our measure of success is not pinpointed on one thing now. So, of course ratings matter. I mean, it’s the metric that we have to use at the moment, but is it the only measure of success? No, it’s not.
Fox FM: Fifi, Fev & Nick Cody
I think [Nick’s] just nailing it.
Look, it’s such a big thing for Nick that, he loves Fox, and so when I spoke to him about the opportunity and I asked him to trial for the role, he was just so excited, and all of his trials, he did a few trials with us, was just outstanding. I found myself, I actually said this to Nick after the first trial, I found myself listening to the first trial, and I just didn’t want it to end, and that’s a really good sign. Obviously so much of what we all have to do is listening to shows and giving feedback on shows, and I just found that I actually just was so engaged and I laughed so much, and I just loved it, that when it was the end of the demo, I was kind of disappointed, and that’s a true testament to him and the impact that he had very quickly in the studio with Fi and Fev.
So I think he’s doing such an amazing job.
Fi and Fev are so Melbourne, but Nick has grown up in Melbourne, he’s a Melbourne boy, and he’s just so funny, and I think the show’s really popping. I think it’s sounding the best it’s sounded in a long time. And that’s no discredit to people that have been in the studio previously. But I am just hearing the show in a new light, and I think they’re all sounding great…
They know their roles. We do really clear role definition with them, and Amanda Lee, the CD, is really great at giving them direction on what we want from them. But the show has always centred around Fi, that’s how it has been designed, and the great thing is that Fev complements that beautifully, but he’s a different character to Nick. And Nick is probably, in terms of share of voice in the show, Nick’s probably got the least amount of the three of them, but when he does come in, it’s very impactful, and very funny. And that was exactly what we wanted in that role from him.
I mean also Fi’s been at it for so many years, and she’s got that radio producer brain, so she knows exactly how to structure the break and how to make sure that no one goes missing. She’s the conductor of the orchestra. And the great thing is Fev is the exact opposite, which is exactly why it’s brilliant, because Fev doesn’t want to know stuff, he doesn’t want to be pre-planned because he does his best performance on the fly. So they know what each of their respective roles are, and when they’re all playing their roles, which they are, the show really shines, it sounds terrific.
B105: Stav, Abby & Matt
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They’ve been on air together for such a long time, particularly Abby and Stav, I think Matty has been in the role now for about four years. But the show works because they know exactly what they stand for, and they know where they win, they know where to play to win in that market. And, that show is, I love that show. Because it’s a show that’s got a lot of heart, but it also can be really kind of on the edge as well.
I mean I think an example is, at the moment they’ve been doing ‘DNA or Dating’, which has been excellent. Now take that concept and put it in potentially one of our other shows and it may not have worked or it may not have been handled in the same way, but these guys, they have no lack of creativity, and I think that’s the thing that makes them, in my mind, such an amazing show, is they really do come up with ideas that you just think ‘I don’t even know how that’s going to work’.
So when they say to me ‘We want to do this thing where we put magnets in the river and blah blah blah’, and I think ‘Okay, that doesn’t sound like really great radio’, but it is great radio, and I don’t know how they do it, but they do. And whenever they back in an idea and they’re really passionate about something, I always say ‘Go for it’, because I know that they will make it work.
So that whole Brisbane team, they’re super, super creative. And that show gives so much dimension. It moves in and out, I talk about this a lot with all the teams, but it moves in and out of, it has dimension in terms of emotive content. It moves in and out of different emotions and it just has such momentum and pace to is that show.
SAFM: Bec, Cosi & Lehmo
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Bec and Cosi were obviously at first doing the show by themselves. We’ve added Lehmo in now too.
It’s really funny show. Bec is really at the centre of that show, so you’ll sense a theme here, but she’s really the centre of that show. But what I love is that Bec is, look, for anyone who’s in Adelaide will know that Bec is seen as this kind of, she was a news anchor for so many years there. And had this very, straight delivery, which is what we expect from news readers, but then people learnt that she’s got a wicked sense of humour, she’s not at all what people thought. And she’s so open and talks about things that, she just has no shame in terms of being vulnerable, which I absolutely love. And, so, I think that’s what’s made people really resonate with that show.
And obviously we changed the show, the branding back to SAFM, which I think was really great for us as the back end of last year. So it’s a good, it’s a really good show. So, there’s been a bit of change in that market, so we’ll see, it might be an interesting yeae for us all in Adelaide.
National Drive: Carrie & Tommy
Pictured: Musician Troye Sivan with Carrie Bickmore at Mardi Gras over the weekend
I think it’s a perfect combination in terms of, our filter for all of the stations and all of the shows that we talk about is, we should be a place that is a safe place for little ears, and full of fun for big ears. So, that show is probably a perfect example of that, I would say. Because it is, it’s always started at 3 o’clock which is the school run, and… we’ve seen Drive spike now at 3 o’clock which is so different to what it was 10 yers ago. And so so much of that listening is with kids in cars, and so I always say to them ‘You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got that in mind’.
But in saying that, Carrie & Tommy, it doesn’t mean it should be dull or beige or vanilla. They have that ability to be able to turn it into still a really fun show, but that’s why brands like it, because it’s a safe environment for them to advertise in, because they know that they’re trusted names in terms of in talent.
Obviously, having Carrie as a mum of three is also really enticing, I think. We get a lot of brands that particularly want to go into that show because of her being a mum. But also because Tommy brings kind of cheek and sass to it. And a lot of brands don’t want to just be, they want to be memorable, right? So it’s a show where they can certainly guarantee that they’re going to have the delivery and the integration is going to be in a super, creative fun way, but nothing that they need to be scared of.
So, we have, that show is chockablock full in terms of sponsors and clients, which is a good problem to have.
And Mix 94.5 joining the Hit Network
So, Mix was leaning really closely towards the Hit Network anyway in terms of sound, and certainly when we were going through the rebrand last year, having a really clear idea of what we wanted to deliver on tonally, and Mix was, if we’d made that change on the existing station there, we pretty much would have had two stations that sounded very similar to each other and that’s obviously not the smartest strategy for us for a duopoly.
So it just made perfect sense to make the changes that we did. And the great thing about Mix is it’s already got a lot of heritage and legacy, but it’s that whole thing of, we haven’t completely blown it up, not at all, it’s just given it a new fresh lick of paint, I suppose. It’s still got an amazing Brekkie show. Amazing music. But we’ve put in a whole new production sound, which has really brought that station to life a bit more. And having Carrie & Tommy on air there as well, it really ties in nicely there with the total package of what Mix is, and that was part of our thinking as well.
Obviously previously having Triple M-based content on a brand that didn’t carry Triple M, like there were a lot of reasons why the synergy wasn’t quite right, and so it’s just, slotted in seamlessly. So, it’s coming along really nicely and all the team seems to be really embracing it and loving it, and it’s going really well, actually.