Ratings roulette: Who’s holding their breath and who’s ready to fire in the ratings?

Former Editor & Content Director

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Tomorrow’s the big day. Take a breath. It’s that time again. Survey 1 of a new calendar year.

In Survey 1 of 2020, there were some notable numbers movements – the ABC’s duo of Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck, for example, had a bigger share in 10+ than Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’, an unusual, if unsustainable, phenomenon. In Melbourne, Christian O’Connell got back on top of FM Breakfast, and Robin Bailey’s revival at 97.3FM in Brisbane wasn’t enough to get the station to the top.

Despite the milestones, the survey wasn’t game-changing, and it was the disruption which would come later in the year which would define radio ratings in 2020. COVID-19 led to changes in consumer behaviour, job losses and stand-downs across the industry, and the pause of radio ratings.

When surveys returned, it was an historic moment for the industry, as Melbourne faced a survey reliant 100% on ediaries, and hit music stations faced a downturn in numbers.

While 2020 was historic, survey 1 in 2021 marks an important turning point for so many shows, stations and networks. We should, in theory, have eight surveys again this year, providing consistency, trends and fewer ‘Get out of jail free’ cards for execs looking to spin a sub-par set of results.

Plus, Australia is largely COVID-free at the moment, so whether this resets or confirms changed consumer patterns will become apparent as the year rolls on.

And then there’s the myriad changes in lineups which has reset the competition for 2021.

Here’s what you need to look out for when the numbers start rolling in tomorrow.

Shut up and drive

The Drive battle has shifted in recent years, with an increasing focus on the 3pm hour.

On Australian Radio Network’s (ARN) KIIS, the 3PM Pick Up has nabbed Kate Langbroek to replace Bec Judd. Langbroek is a radio stalwart who could have reunited with Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes as part of the 2DayFM Morning Crew lineup in Sydney, but instead chose the much more palatable early afternoon option.

KIIS is not the only network focusing on the earlier Drive hour. The 3pm hour is particularly competitive for the networks as they offer up brand-safe environments for advertisers.

2DayFM has also played in the space in recent years with the brand-friendly Carrie & Tommy. Head of the Hit Network, Gemma Fordham, recently told Radio Today that the show is the perfect demonstration of the network’s mantra of “A safe place for little ears, and full of fun for big ears”.

Fordham also noted the trend towards Drive spiking in the 3pm hour “which is so different to what it was 10 years ago”.

Across the Hit Network, it will be the first ratings for Carrie & Tommy as the sole drivers of the slot. Previously, the duo were on between 3pm and 4:30pm, with Hughesy & Ed taking over the later segment.

Nova, meanwhile, has Tim Blackwell doing a lead-in hour to the Kate, Tim & Joel show, while Triple M plays highlights from the new Melbourne Breakfast offering The Marty Sheargold Show.

On Triple M, it will also be the first solo survey for what is now known as the Molloy show from 4pm, following the departure of Jane Kennedy.

The Sydney Breakfast battle

It will also be the first survey for the latest 2DayFM Breakfast crew of Hughesy, Ed & Erin. Reigning FM king Kyle Sandilands may have slammed the show (many times), but the Hit Network’s Fordham says the criticism rolls right off her.

She wouldn’t be drawn on a ratings figure for tomorrow which would tick the ‘success’ box, however she noted the show is already succeeding in other ways.

“In 2021 we’ve come off the back of a year that was a strange year for all of us… And 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 in different ways,” she told Radio Today recently.

“So of course you want success to be ratings, but we’re already seeing revenue success with that show… 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.”

In the last survey of 2020, 2Day had a 4.2% share, to Kyle & Jackie O’s 11.3%. No one’s expecting The Morning Crew to take the fight to KIIS’ Kyle & Jackie O immediately, but to silence the critics and justify the spend on talent once more, it will need to deliver more than its previous music format.

Ben Fordham’s ongoing performance in 2GB Breakfast will also be scrutinised, as while he has thus far maintained dominance in share, Nine Radio has flagged its disappointment with radio’s commercial results.

Greg Byrne’s, Nine Radio’s head of content, however, backs Fordham completely, noting he’s a “good bloke” who people want to listen to and connect with.

What will a post-COVID Melbourne look like?

Last year, the ratings in Melbourne indicated 3AW’s decision to instal Russel Howcroft into Breakfast had paid off, as audiences turned to AM during the city’s extensive and exhaustive lockdowns.

3AW’s owner Nine Radio insisted this trend would be ongoing, as many of the consumers who sampled the station throughout COVID were likely to come back for more, and then stick around, even if the city was no longer locked down – however the contemporary hit music stations will be hoping it was an anomaly.

It will be the first survey for a solo Marty Sheargold, fronting the Triple M Breakfast show, aptly titled The Marty Sheargold Show. Head of the Triple M Network, Mike Fitzpatrick, recently told the Mumbrellacast the numbers would come, but it’s very unlikely the show will deliver in Survey 1. Similar to Fordham, he wasn’t super keen on only looking at the overarching 10+ figure.

Fitzpatrick (pictured) is backing Sheargold to deliver long-term results 

“The 10+ is a bonus, you know? It’s an ego number, really. It’s nice to be able to say ‘We’re #1 in 10+’, but it’s not what we judge the show on,” he said on the Mumbrellacast. “Can Marty deliver on that? Absolutely. Otherwise we wouldn’t have put him in there. Is he going to do it straight away? No. I would be surprised, and happily surprised, if that happens on survey day, but I think… we need to give shows time.”

Fitzpatrick did acknowledge there would be audience churn, as those accustomed to Eddie McGuire’s delivery style and content offering adjusted to Sheargold’s new direction.

There was also a shake-up on Fox FM, with Nick Cody joining, transforming the Fifi, Fev & Byron show into Fifi, Fev & Nick.

Cody has form delivering solid ratings for Triple M in Brisbane alongside Marto & Margaux as part of The Big Breakfast, and Fordham is confident Cody is Melbourne enough, and funny enough to translate that success into Victoria.

She said the show is sounding the best it has in a long time.

It will of course be worth keeping an eye on O’Connell’s performance on GOLD 104.3, as well as the Nova offering of Chrissie, Sam & Browny which recently celebrated 1,000 shows, and in its most recent survey had a 6.3% share.

ARN’s chief content officer, Duncan Campbell, has also repeatedly flagged his disappointment with KIIS 101.1’s Breakfast ratings, with Jase & PJ sitting on 5.4% last survey.

The wild west

Perth is one to watch with the introduction of Triple M into the market, complete with a Breakfast show fronted by the city’s mayor, Basil Zempilas.

Triple M’s Fitzpatrick recently revealed why he was backing the controversial host to deliver for the new station, while Fordham has spoken about why moving SCA stablemate Mix 94.5 into the Hit Network makes sense.

Mix has some legacy and loyalty in the West Australian capital, so how the shakeup plays out will be interesting not only for SCA, but also for its rivals.

ARN’s 96FM briefly got to the top of the ratings last year in Survey 7, driven by Gary Roberts, however the reign did not last long. It’s worth watching if it can capitalise on the changes and consumer uncertainty, or if it will get lost in the noise.

The same goes for Nova, which got back on top at the end of last year.

NOVA Entertainment’s chief programming & marketing officer, Paul Jackson, was confident at the end of last year that all the changes in the market could ultimately benefit Nova.

“It just surprises me that there is that much change. Some of the things that are happening, you wonder, but everybody’s got their own game plan. And it leaves us – we’ve always been very dominant. We’ve had Nathan, Nat & Shaun for a number of years now [who] have been absolutely outstanding, dominant breakfast show…. Which is testament to how fantastic they are, but also the rest of the marketplace changing so much around them.

Nova 93.7’s lineup of Nathan, Nat & Shaun

“I guess we’re the only radio station playing contemporary hit music now, and in some markets there are two or three stations doing very similar things. Here we are in Perth, the only game in town. So when some of these major artists release new songs moving forward, people are going to gravitate to Nova to hear them. So we’ve got to come into the new year with a lot of confidence of our chances of leading the Perth marketplace in the coming few years.”

Nine Radio’s 6PR also has a new lineup following the departure of Zempilas and various moves across the day parts.

Mixing it up in Adelaide

And down in Adelaide, there’s a new lineup on Mix 102.3 with Erin Phillips replacing Jodie Oddy.

Nova’s relatively new Breakfast lineup of Ben & Liam briefly topped the ratings last year, and will be keen to return to the top, and ARN will be hoping the loss of Oddy doesn’t prove too dramatic in the figures.

Erin Phillips & Soda 

Speaking at the end of last year, after Survey 8, ARN’s Campbell said he had no concerns about the South Australian capital.

“I have no concerns about the station, in fact I’m very upbeat about what’s going to be on offer next year and our ratings next year as well,” he insisted.

Ratings come out tomorrow at 9:30am AEDT. Radio Today will bring you all the figures and analysis throughout the day. 

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Recent comments (10)
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Ace up our sleeve
10 Mar 2021 - 12:59 pm

I am looking forward to seeing what Ace’s 3MP does out of Melbourne!

10 Mar 2021 - 1:29 pm

I wish MMM had continued with the Hot Breakfast Format although obviously Ed, Luke and Will / Mick have all moved on.

Need something balanced between Rock / Sport / Comedy and News. Marty really only covers comedy and part rock……

Ghost of Brisbane's past
10 Mar 2021 - 2:13 pm

Brisbane will just exist I guess

10 Mar 2021 - 2:34 pm

I forecast that Hughsy, ED and Erin will around the 3.5 share in Sydney.

10 Mar 2021 - 3:41 pm

I’m exited to see how things play out in Perth ( how much % Mix will drop and how much % Nova will gain).
Prediction for 2DayFm Morning Crew… 4.6%

10 Mar 2021 - 3:45 pm

There’s a reason Brisbane isn’t mentioned – by far the weakest market in Australia for radio talent.

10 Mar 2021 - 5:50 pm

Good to see you’re covering the Brisbane result extensively

11 Mar 2021 - 6:23 am

Last I checked, there were no major changes in Brisbane coming into 2021, so why would it get a mention?

Or are people suggesting that Nick Cody’s move to Fox created a radio vacuum in Brisbane that will see huge listener churn in the ratings?

Calm down Brisvegans.

Jacqui Moran
11 Mar 2021 - 8:04 am

ABC Adelaide-Peter Goers to win the top night show after 7.05pm?

11 Mar 2021 - 11:17 am

What happened to the guy who was gonna walk across Sydney harbour bridge nude if 2day breakky cracked 3.5??


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