Paul Jackson: “This is what it’s about.”

Staff Writer

Following Survey #1 for 2015, we hooked up with a couple of the Group Content Directors.

In our run, Duncan Campbell on ARN, Craig Bruce on SCA and right now we talk with Nova Entertainment’s Paul Jackson.

We will cover off each NE market, talk about Tony Thomas’ prediction that Smooth will be Number 1, and what has Paul saying: “If you’re any programmer in any of these stations it doesn’t get better than this really.  What a chance to prove yourself.”

Blair: Let’s kick off in Sydney.  The good news story for you has got to be Smooth, a good result?

Paul Jackson:  A fantastic result. Come on, get some enthusiasm for this one, this is brilliant. Bogart Torelli  and Glen Daniel breakfast, up 3 share points, 6 a share.  Well that’s my moment of the day, that is outstanding. And Smooth overall performed brilliantly. 

Blair:  So what have you actually done with the product improvements there?  Have you made any significant changes with Smooth in Sydney, or what’s the go?

Paul:  No, for both Sydney and Melbourne, my belief is that over the Christmas period/New Year into January, when all the other key stations have their main talent rested, Smooth doesn’t.  We run some big Christmas programming, we run into a Top 500 Countdown, and I think from that point on a lot of people sample the radio station, and hopefully quite a few choose to remain with us thereafter.  And then we roll into the New Year properly and Smooth Stars that we’ve got on air now and so on. 

So I think a bit of that every year, and if I go back to the year we started, our cumes were in the 400’s and 500’s and our shares were in  the 5’s, then the 600,000 the following year with the shares in the 6’s, and here we are with the 700,000’s both in cume and the 7’s with shares.  So I think there’s just momentum upon momentum every year, it’s gradual, that improved the stations position, so product wise we haven’t done anything significantly differently. 

Very consistent line-up of presenters across the Daytimes and the Weekends, and the one thing we do all the time is just move the music around and change the tunes. 

Blair:  Tony Thomas’ prediction that Smooth will go No.1 over WS and Kiis this year, will it happen?

Paul:  I have always believed everything Tony has ever said to me.  (Big Pause)

Blair:  (Big Pause…..laughs)  Alright.

Paul:  (Laughs as well)  I’ll leave it with that one…No, no.  Will that happen?  Well, you can see right now in Melbourne, it’s 0.4 off the top, it is not far behind in Sydney, it has a great chance.  I mean I think it is going to be, as we should probably say every year, it’s a great business to work in.  It’s going to be very exciting and it has a very good chance.

Blair:  It’s safe to say that with Nova Entertainment, the Nova Brand will be the flagship one for the younger end nationally for the group, but if Smooth does leap into the top spot at some point, how will you actually handle or manage morale in Sydney for that?

Paul:  Everybody here works across both brands, apart from the presenters and one or the other.  Everybody’s got equal vested interest in both, you’re sitting on one floor of the building here and Smooth might be playing, the other one Nova might be playing.  You know we’re all in this together across the board.  So no morale issues here at all. 

And there was huge excitement here this morning when we talked to the staff and told them about the Smooth number and the Bogart Torelli and Glen number.  I mean everybody loves them and so this is one very tight knit, joined up business.

Blair:  Nova 969, some demo shifts down for them in Sydney.  What’s your feeling on that?

Paul:  Well, they’re overall slightly up, so we are where we were at the end of last year, strong position, we have our highest cume again in our history of 96.9 so we’re No.1 in cume and it’s a relatively tight battle at the top end to win it.  We’re No.1 in Sydney under 40 across all dayparts and I think we’ve been a very strong performance across the board, and I think let’s call it a slow to steady start for the Breakfast Show and we want to see more coming from that in the coming months.

Blair:  Yeah, how are Fitzy and Wippa going?  How’s the vibe of the guys, are they happy at the moment?

Paul:  Great, I believe so.  I think they’re in great form.  They’re very happy, we’ve have a really good start to the year.  If you hear the show, I think it’s very strong indeed.

BlairObviously 2Day didn’t go anywhere this round, do you have any concerns about where SCA may go in the coming months with 2Day?

Paul:  No, I’ve got no concerns at all.

Blair:   O.K.  What about Hit Branding?  Does it affect your position of using Fresh Hits versus them using Hit?

Paul:  Absolutely not, I’ve got no interest in this whatsoever.  We’ve been using Fresh Hits for a position for a long time, and they’re playing a totally different game in terms of how they are, I imagine trying to create their brand in people’s minds.  So, listen you don’t see us being affected anywhere by their numbers, not in Sydney, not in Adelaide, not in Perth and I think we’re in pretty clear water.

Blair:  Brisbane, let’s wander up there.  What actually happened?  Anything changed since Survey 8?

Paul:  Oh, I hope not.  I was hoping you weren’t going to ask me about this.  Did anything change?  It’s an interesting one isn’t it because we were No.1 FM at the end of last year.  Um, I haven’t really had the chance today to go away, sit down with the guys, go through the demos in great detail and split them up a variety of ways to see. 

At a glance though, what seems to have happened is across the board.  So it will be one certain set of people, maybe older female, maybe male for whatever reason.  I think before we knee-jerk or sort of react to this, because we have been a consistent station, either No.1 or No.2 for years now.  Nine and a half out of our ten years in existence we’ve won the under 40 book. 

I’d like to say I’ll get back to you on that because I’ve got no better answer as we sit here today.  The station, to my ears hasn’t done a lot wrong, and we’ve got a 10 or 9 share 18-24, you know that could be well outside the margin of error.  So I think we need to see.

Blair:  For Nova 100, crazy tight battle down there.  You’ve held on to No.1 for 25-39’s, which is great.  Drive, are you actually seeing the early signs with Hughesy and Kate on Kiis down there?  You’re in front though, but how’s the Melbourne market looking for you?

Paul:  Very tight isn’t it, I mean very tight when you hear it, so whichever bit we want to glance at tells a slightly different story.  But to be 0.3 behind 10+ is a strong start for us, so all to play for between sort of five stations and less than a share point.  It was sort of like that last year, but this is even tighter, and I guess that says we’ve had a lot of marketing down there this year.  Arguably too much, have we all confused people? 

But within that nobody’s really settled on what station is the one they’re going to lock into.  And again, that will probably come, I imagine most of these stations will take a turn at being ahead for whatever reason, 10+ at some stage across the year.  I think longer term is totally up for grabs.  I would love Nova to do it, I suspect longer term Smooth might have the best chance of doing it with the type of audience that it’s got. 

In Drive time it’s going to get tight back all this year, between everybody.  I think we can honestly put our hands on our hearts and say we’d be lying if we didn’t think it wasn’t going to be close between everybody.  So we’ve had a very strong card of Drive time performance across the country, this is a little down, we’re a little down in the afternoon too.  I would say nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things, I think there is obviously a lot of interest for Hughesy and Kate, as there would be at the start of their time on Kiis.  So, would that have played into it?  Maybe a little, yes.

Blair:  Let’s just talk Smooth in Melbourne for a second.  A little flat overall, maybe softening just a bit, but no significant movements or any dayparts or shifts like that.  Is your Marketing push about to ramp up for Smooth down there into the next round, or what are you doing?

Paul:  Here’s the thing with Smooth in Melbourne.  Yes, the marketing is about to start, there’s T.V. and there’s outdoor.  Smooth put on 99,000 new listeners, and I’ve gone on and on about this since Smooth started.  When you put on this much cume, there are some yet to lock in to the station, so the share hasn’t moved.  So everyone that was there is there and is locked on.  These 99,000 people I think a lot of them probably, from what I think we have achieved this far, we would probably lock in 50-60% as P1’s in the next few months. If we do that, coupled with the marketing that we are doing, we would be the top station.  So we’re not going to be very far away from it, and it’s very exciting.

Blair:  If we drop down to Adelaide now, FIVEaa dropped a bit, and Nova is steady.  What’s your sense of the market down there?

Paul:  The sense of the market there, well in terms of music radio there are two stations that are going for it.  I mean our station Nova, generally around that 11-11.5 mark and won 11.3 today and we’re No.1 up to age 60 in the market place. 

And then Mix is the other big station, that has a slightly broader older audience than we do and again, just beats us overall, I think because of the TSL when it gets older end listeners.  And there’s nobody else in the game in terms of what we’re trying to do, and certainly hit107 has lost a lot of listeners and I suspect will lose more further.

Blair:  Has the FIVEaa Breakfast Show bedded in for you guys now?

Paul:  Um, oh God yeah it has and it’s been there over a year, but I think if we look at those numbers, a point and a half down, we’ve had this all across last year and a lot of it can be driven from other activity elsewhere brings the audience in and out.  So then we feel stable about the product overall.  I feel happy that this is a steady enough start at the beginning of the year.  And certainly we have seen a huge leap for ABC at the start of the year.

Blair:  O.K.  If we swing across to Perth, Nova Perth had a cracking year in 2014, but 2015 not the best start so far.

Paul:  I know, well you said that, in relative terms it is because every demo that we were in the lead on last year we still are.  We are still No.1 up to age 50 in that market place.  I mean everything is, I suppose when we look at it that way is relative in the market place.  So I call that a solid start, and again our main competition is no longer a hit station there as well.  So we’re in a pretty clear position.

Blair:  Two questions left Paul… here’s the first.

Have you seen a market closer than Melbourne before?  I mean, I guess there’s 0.7 separating the top 6 stations now.  If we take a variance of 1-2%, 6 stations are virtually on top of each other.  Is that the tightest market you have ever experienced?  I guess for you, because you worked overseas as well.

Paul:  That I’ve personally experienced, yes it absolutely is.  I mean there are American markets like this but it’s very different there and you’re talking about a Hispanic station and a Sports station and so on.  They’re like a quirk in numbers, but in terms of stations that are actually pretty similar in make-up in all the mainstream formats, I have never seen this. I have a friend in the U.K. talking to me about the Sydney and the Melbourne market place and they’re incredulous about the state of Melbourne and how exciting that is. 

I think we’re lucky to be in this profession doing these jobs.  And every time a survey comes around and people are nervous I’m always saying “No, no, this is what it’s about.”  And off the back of it you can reflect on what you could possibly do better.  And when you look at this you just go “My God, if you’re any programmer in any of these stations it doesn’t get better than this really.  What a chance to prove yourself.”

Blair:  You know you’re alive.

Paul:  You know you’re alive.  Exactly.  You’ve got something to play for and that’s really what it’s about.  And that’s when we’re all at our best I imagine.  So the people working in Melbourne in these market places are some of the luckiest people in radio in the world. 

Blair:  So how do you see 2015 panning out for Nova Entertainment overall?

Paul:  For Nova Entertainment it’s going to be a terrific year, it’s started brilliantly already, and that’s not just in programming, that’s across the entire company.  We have got our radio stations poised brilliantly to have better success this year than we even did last year.  And I think within that all eyes are on Sydney and Melbourne and we are up for the battle.

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