How will Rove go on 2Day FM in 2016? Here’s the Verdict.


The Rove move is a strong one by new Southern Cross Austereo’s CEO Grant Blackley – advertisers will like it, the share market liked it, but will the listeners like it? I think they will.

The Rove deal has upped the ante on talent deals once again. Maybe it’s a case of you have to be referred to by only ‘one’ name to make the really big bucks in radio like Kyle, Eddie, Hamish, Jackie, Andy, Rove, FiFi etc.

Southern Cross Media’s (SXL) share price since the Rove deal leaked was around 88 cents and now is over $1, so an increase of more than 10%. So is it a share market play or a ratings play?  Well it’s really both.

One industry analyst said, “Belatedly SCA’s major shareholder has learned that investment in talent and not cost cutting is what drives ratings, revenues and profit in metro radio”.

There’s no doubt that Rove will be very adequately renumerated with a large cash base and probably cash incentives as well as the equity deal where he gets payment in shares.

There’s speculation the deal is worth, maybe somewhere in the range between $2 and $4 million. This structure of the deal was designed to seduce the share market and lift SCA’s share price. And it did. The market loves it. The market always loves it when anyone has  ‘skin in the game’.

How will Rove rate? His show could and should rate 5’s by the end of 2016.

Carrie BickmoreThe choice of Roves co-host is absolutely critical, names being talked about around the radio industry include Brooke Satchwell, Emma Freedman, Myf Warhurst, Cal Wilson, Sarah Kendall, Kate Monty Diamond, Celia Pacquola and a few others.

If Rove had been paired with Meshel, Chrissie or Carrie, the new show would have been a winner straight out of the box. They are high profile, strong broadcasters who already know the craft of delivering breakfast radio and they would have given Rove a big head start. He needs a super strong female co host, someone with a lot to say.

Signing the big name is one thing, signing off on the big dollars another but the main issue here will be great execution and great direction .This will be paramount for Rove’s success.

I think one of the key questions for Rove is ‘ Can he be authentic and relatable for breakfast radio? Those are the qualities required for winning breakfast radio, especially on female skewed stations. All great breakfast talent have that ability.

Roves new breakfast show may end up being a Crew / Zoo format – possibly with revolving strong guests each day similar to The Project and The Richard Stubbs show or The Cage on Triple M.

Older demo breakfast shows can work on younger demo formats. There’s many examples, like Elvis Duran at Z100, KROQ and KIIS LA and countless others around the world. It can work well. Rove is only 41, he’s hardly considered old.

2Day  will now have a strong, high profile talent bookend effect with breakfast and drive – Rove in breakfast and Hamish and Andy in drive.

The combined resources of SCA, Roving Enterprises and Token Management, will ensure strong support. Also cross promotion with Roves TV show, Ten’s The Project won’t hurt.

There will be strong marketing and promotion – you can be sure this will be fully supported with heavy marketing. So it looks like a breakfast marketing battle is on its way for the Sydney market in 2016.

Grant Blackley and SCA have a lot riding on this; his reputation, and the fortunes of the entire Hit Network. 2Day  is the flagship. It’s important to get it right.

Strategically 2Day  were flanking younger and now could consider a move to more of a frontal attack because of the talent strength in breakfast and drive, as well as the expected scale of the marketing and promotion.

SCA would also be mindful of the dwindling younger 10-24 audience and the attractiveness of the key 25-39 advertiser demographic.

Audience will come from primarily Nova and also WS. There will be some from Smooth! (there would definitely be some Rove fans on Smooth), Triple M and  KIIS will be less effected than the others.

2Day’s music and positioning next year will be interesting to watch. Will they continue with Hits and Old Skool?

You can be sure 2Day  will adopt a mainstream music position.

Guy Dobson, Head of Metro for SCA says “In terms of our music mix, we are a Hit music station, let’s not get that wrong, we are a Hit music station first and foremost. We just have a music point of difference with Old School and RnB Fridays.”

Roves last outing on radio went fairly well, but it was more than a decade ago when he was on national Today Network Weekend breakfast from 2001 to 2003. His show with Pete Hellier and Corrine Grant rated #1 or #2 with 10+ in the five metro markets and also #1 or #2 with 25-39’s . But back then Rove was really hot.

One former PD said “The last time Rove was on radio the show was good, but not a great show. He will have to do a lot better this time around. Back then when he rated well, ARN were a weak programming company so there was little competition from Mix and WS . And 2Day FM was a strong rater back then, at or near the top of the ratings. And it was only a weekend show “

The approach, research, preparation, scrutiny and ‘care factor’ from both the talent and the network is going to be a bit different this time around for Rove on a key Sydney breakfast show 5 days a week, compared to a weekend show.

This is the big game, this is a move in which the CEO is heavily involved – not unlike Ciaran Davis working alongside Duncan Campbell to hire Kyle and Jackie O, major league stuff. It’s cheque book programming at its best.  Given the revenue at stake in a market like Sydney there is nothing wrong with that at all. If it works it will be worth every cent.

Big profile talent and lots of market noise is good for the medium and the entire radio industry.

Rove doesn’t need the money, this is a big challenge for him, a big risk and a big commitment. He does however need to kick start his career in Australia following various ventures in the US which had mixed success. This move, the show and the marketing should do it for him.

Being from metro TV, Blackley was always going to play the big game and with this he has. He has signed off on the money so now it is up to the programmers and producers to get the talent mix, the content and the show right. Great direction as always will be key in how this show goes. And of course time, it always takes time, so it makes sense that this is a 3 year deal.

Can the new Rove show be number 1?  SCA’s Guy Dobson thinks so. He told Radio TodayWe don’t put any show on air with the object of being number six. So I am going to say yes, I am going to say over time”.

It’s worth noting that currently SCA’s Sydney breakfast shows are rating  # 5 and # 10. It will now be up to Guy Dobson, Fox / Hit Network Programmer Dave Cameron and Sydney PD Irene Hulme to make sure it works.

As one industry insider said, the real question for SCA is what is the win – really? “It was always obvious that SCA would not be able to afford the time needed for the talented Dan & Maz to come through for them.  It’s just too early in their careers for Sydney breakfast.  But, given time, they’ll be a killer show”.

“And, from top to bottom, SCA is full of very smart, very experienced people.  So, does SCA have at least 2 or more years for Rove to come through for them?  Because everyone at SCA already knows that in Sydney breakfast radio, even with strong star-power, it always takes that much time for even a well-liked show to get to even the middle of the ratings pack.  There have been no exceptions.  No matter how many times it has been attempted.”

The only rapid rise in under 2 years or less, to the top of the Sydney breakfast ratings has been when an established show already on-air in the market moves to another station – such as Alan Jones to GB, or Kyle & Jackie to Kiis.  All other attempts at even moderate breakfast ratings success in Sydney in less than 2 years have failed, no matter how big the star-power, how big the celebrity guests, how outrageous the stunts, how much cash was given away, or how much marketing was spent.  Look it up yourself; it’s right there in the last 20 years of Sydney breakfast ratings history.

“The point is: everyone at SCA is smart, so everyone at SCA obviously already knows this.  Rove at breakfast is starting from scratch just like Dan & Maz were, just like Merrick, Sophie, and Jules before them, and just like every other show with a similarly big name to Rove that was ever launched in Sydney before them.  And there’s been a few. Sure, Rove’s show will get much more marketing than Dan & Maz.  And, whenever necessary to block their progress, so will the incumbent competitor shows at Nova, Kiis and WSFM.

“There will not be a single soul anywhere in SCA who is under the illusion that it will take any less than 2 or more years to build Rove’s show to around #3 FM, maybe #2 FM at best. Which indicates that this move isn’t so much about winning in Sydney, it’s more about artificially bumping up the share price a little over the medium-term – in preparation for when/if the ownership regulations change.  And that’s fine – in fact it is to be applauded – so long as the (share) market is also under no illusion that that is what this show has been bought in to 2Day  to do for SCA.  And, “if” that’s the case, then the exorbitant share option package for Rove makes complete and very sound business sense.  In fact, to get a medium-term share-price spike in preparation for a sale, Rove’s package is very small indeed and should have been many times bigger”

Share price and audience ratings aside, great breakfast and drive shows provide a strong foreground environment that advertisers want to buy into and be a part of. And Rove will certainly provide that.

What brand wouldn’t want to be associated with Rove?

As a side note it will be interesting if and when Nine merge with SCA when media ownership laws are changed, given Roving Enterprises flagship show The Project runs on Ten.

The SCA Rove move may be best summed up by one industry expert who said, “To make such a huge investment, it can only be assumed that the personality research on Rove must have him absolutely testing through the roof against everyone else in the market, whether in breakfast or drive.  Obviously Kyle (Sandilands) tests off the scale and is very polarizing – everyone knows him, no-one doesn’t have a very strong opinion about him one way or the other. But after all these years it would be surprising if Rove still tests well”.

When he ‘tested’ well Rove was hot property off the back of a hugely successful TV show.

More than a decade ago Rove consistently tested as the Most Popular Personality. His previous popularity of course now has to translate into breakfast radio. And with his absence for such a long time, will listeners remember him? Of course they will and they will still like him. But he’ll have to prove himself on air.

One veteran Programmer said of Roves last radio outing,

“Given that Rove was hot 10-15 years ago, is it all too little too late for Rove? Does he really have enough passionate, raving fans in Sydney in 2015 to do more than nudge 2Day  up towards the second-tier, niche-appeal shows like Nova’s Fitzy & Wippa and Triple M’s Grill Team”. 

The Sydney breakfast battle will be closely watched next year. Big salaries, big marketing, tens of millions of dollars of revenue at stake and a few egos as well.

This is an all or nothing attempt by SCA and Grant Blackley. He should be applauded on this one and I suspect he will be doing victory laps in a few years from now.

Another experienced Programmer commented, “Rove’s name is big enough to encourage some sampling.  He’s familiar, well-liked.  But unless you get him in with some people delivering killer content then Rove is likely to come across as pretty beige for the Sydney breakfast market.  Sydney already has Kyle on Kiis and Amanda on WSFM at breakfast – and there’s nothing beige about either of them”.

Annette Sharp, columnist with News Limited’s Daily Telegraph said of Sydney radio, We like them big and bold, rude and opinionated, unpredictable and hilarious … and famous “ And that’s true just look at the greats of Sydney radio Laws, Wendy, Kyle, Jones, Mulray, Amanda, Hadley, Denton, Jackie!”

Announcements like the Rove one have to appeal to the team inside the station, the people around the network, the advertising industry & clients and the share market. An announcement like Rove gives the station, the network and the related industries renewed hope and some much needed confidence in the future. And that’s a necessary thing.

Most importantly it has to appeal to the listeners. As they say the proof will be in the pudding. The quality and content of the show will determine the success or failure of Rove and 2Day FM.

The other big question is can SCA continue with the big salaries? It’s worth doing to build ratings/revenue to pump up SCA’s share price for a possible merger with Nine when or if the media laws change.

After a sale would SCA be the same, continuing with these huge talent deals? No one in TV is earning this sort of money. But for now what does that mean for the likes of key talent like Eddie, Fi Fi and the rest? It’s a case of make hay while the sun shines for them.

But back to 2Day  and Rove, it could go down as one of the great turnarounds in radio history. My gut tells me this should do quite well. There’s a lot to get right. Lets hope it pays off for SCA.

Brad March is a Director of Radio Today, a former Program Director, Group Program Director & CEO of Austereo and Group Programmer at ARN. He is Director of Marchmedia.

Scott Muller is a Director of Radio Today.  Previously he oversaw programming across the UK’s leading radio network, turned around the ratings fortunes of Capital Radio London, created the award-winning Lights Out London spectacular, four calling birds, three French hens, led Nova FM to #1 in Sydney, and worked with Martin/Molloy on their ARIA-winning Brown Album.  He is Director of MBOS Consulting, and can be contacted  here

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