Radio Ratings: Ben Fordham crowned Sydney’s king of talk, Ben & Liam shoot to #1 FM in Adelaide

Staff Writer

Welcome to Radio Today’s coverage of the latest metro radio survey of 2020, the first since April.

In this truly bizarre year, the return of the ratings follows a pandemic-forced pause, with social distancing making it impossible for Commercial Radio Australia and GfK to collect the necessary listener data for several months of the year.

While paper diaries were eventually able to be collected in most of the country, this survey will be entirely reliant on e-diaries in the market of Melbourne due to ongoing lockdowns.

Hit the refresh button throughout the day for all the key takeaways from each metro market, and later in week, we’ll bring you chats with content directors from the major networks.

Editor Vivienne Kelly and publisher Jake Challenor will also host a special bonus episode of the Radio Today Tonight podcast at 5PM AEST today. So you don’t miss the episode, subscribe to the podcast now on Apple, Spotify, Google or iHeartRadio.

Survey 6 sees no cross-over in measurement periods from Survey 2, which tracked listening behaviour from Feb 9 to Feb 29, and March 1 to April 4.



#1 FM Overall – smoothfm
#1 AM Overall – 2GB
#1 FM Breakfast – KIIS: Kyle & Jackie O
#1 AM Breakfast – 2GB: Ben Fordham
#1 FM Drive – Smooth: Byron Webb*
#1 AM Drive – ABC Radio: Richard Glover

Predictions that the installation of Ben Fordham in the key Breakfast slot on Sydney’s 2GB would lead to a marked decline in audience share have proven incorrect, with the station commanding a 17.3% share from 5:30am to 9:00am.

This is the first survey which measures Fordham’s performance. The previous survey, released in April, had former host Alan Jones on 17.9%. Also back in April, the station had a market-leading 14.8% share overall, down only to 14.2% this time around.

It had been speculated that ABC Breakfast hosts Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck could be in contention to pick up any of Fordham’s lost share and take the winning spot. Buck and Harmer did pick up some share points, climbing from 10.9% in April to 12.5% this survey, however they remained firmly in second. The station’s overall share was 10.5%.

KIIS 106.5’s Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson were also touted as could-be market leaders, however the Australian Radio Network (ARN)-owned station remained steady in the Breakfast slot on 10.2%. The duo maintained their FM-leading position.

Nova 96.9’s Fitzy & Wippa (Ryan Fitzgerald and Michael Wipfli) had a 6.5% share (7.7% last survey), WSFM’s Jonesy & Amanda (Brendan Jones and Amanda Keller) had 8.6% (down from 9.1%), and Moonman in the Morning with Lawrence Mooney on Triple M was down from 6.0% to 4.9%.

It is, however, Southern Cross Austereo’s 2DayFM which appears to be in the most trouble. Its music format for breakfast had just a 2.5% share, down from 3.8% last survey. The station also fell to 4.0% in Drive (down from 5.3%,) which offers a combination of Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little, followed by Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes and Ed Kavalee.

This left the station with an overall 3.3% share, down from 5.1%, which will likely add to speculation the station is looking to make a big splash and install a new breakfast program to drive ratings.

NOVA Entertainment’s smoothfm took the lead in Drive with a 10.4% share, up from 8.4% last survey.

This dethroned previous leader ABC Sydney with Richard Glover, which this survey had 10.2%. Close behind was KIIS’ Will & Woody (Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw). The station had a 10% share in Drive.


#1 FM Overall – Gold FM
#1 AM Overall – 3AW
#1 FM Breakfast – Gold: Christian O’Connell
#1 AM Breakfast – 3AW: Ross & John
#1 FM Drive – Gold: Gavin Miller*
#1 AM Drive – 3AW: Tom Elliott

The gap between the haves and the have nots in the Melbourne radio market appears to have grown as a result of COVID-19 listening habits, and the city’s move to 100% e-diaries to measure the ratings.

Nine Radio’s 3AW won last survey with a 13.9% share, which this survey was a commanding 16.9%.

Similarly, time spent listening helped drive the new Breakfast show of Russel Howcroft and Ross Stevenson to 26.1%. Last survey, Stevenson and former host John Burns had 17.3%.

ABC was second overall both in terms of share (12.7%) and Breakfast (14.9%).

Most of the major FM stations in Melbourne, however, appeared to take a hit.

While Triple M climbed slightly to a 5.9% share (up from 5.0% last survey), SCA stablemate Fox fell to 5.9% (down from 8.1%).

Fox’s fall was largely driven by a dip in the Fifi, Fev & Byron show in Breakfast, which suffered a drop from 7.8% last survey to 4.8% this survey. Drive was also down on the station from 9.2% to 7.4%.

Australian Radio Network’s (ARN) stations GOLD104.3 and KIIS 101.1 also dropped overall to 8.7% and 5.0% respectively.

GOLD’s Breakfast offering The Christian O’Connell Show fell to 7.2%, but maintained the #1 FM Breakfast spot.

GOLD also took over the #1 Drive spot, with Gavin Miller securing 8.3%. Previous leaders, Nova’s Kate, Tim & Marty had 6.3%.

The survey period was July 26 to September 19. Marty Sheargold finished up on Nova on September 11, replaced by Joel Creasey on September 14.


#1 FM Overall – Nova*
#1 AM Overall – 4KQ*
#1 FM Breakfast – Nova: Ash, Kip & Luttsy with Susie O’Neill*
#1 AM Breakfast – ABC: Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan
#1 FM Drive – Nova: Kate, Tim & Marty
#1 AM Drive – ABC Radio: Steve Austin

Despite its struggles in Melbourne, Nova has had a good run in Brisbane this survey, taking over the #1 position from last survey’s joint leaders Hit105 and 97.3FM.

Nova climbed to an overall share of 11.5%, ahead of Triple M’s 10.5% and 97.3FM (also on 10.5%). Hit105 was only just behind on 10.4%.

The shake-up also saw Nova take the lead in Breakfast, with the Ash, Kip & Luttsy with Susie O’Neil show climbing to 12.2%, ahead of Hit105’s 11.0%. Last survey, Hit’s Stav, Abby & Matt were #1.

And Brisbane continued its love affair with Nova’s Kate, Tim & Marty show in Drive, which climbed from 10.5% last survey to 11.3% this survey.

The survey period was July 26 to September 19. Marty Sheargold finished up on Nova on September 11, replaced by Joel Creasey on September 14.

Nine Radio’s 4BC appeared to suffer slightly from the departure of Alan Jones, with the station dropping from 7.6% share last survey to 7.1% this time around.

In the key Breakfast slot, now hosted by Neil Breen, it fell from 9.7% to 8.2%. Breen took over in June.


#1 FM Overall – Mix
#1 AM Overall – FIVEaa*
#1 FM Breakfast – Nova: Ben & Liam*
#1 AM Breakfast – FIVAaa: David & Will*
#1 FM Drive – Mix: Will & Woody*
#1 AM Drive – FIVEaa: Rowey & Bicks*

Adelaide has a new FM Breakfast leader, with Nova’s Ben & Liam (Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton) taking the lead.

This is only the third survey the duo have had to face since making the jump from triple j’s syndicated Breakfast slot to Nova Breakfast in Adelaide.

Nova had an 11.0% share in Breakfast, up from 9.7% last survey.

The station did suffer slightly in drive, however, falling to 12.0% from last survey’s 15.0%. The Kate, Tim & Marty show ran for most of the survey period, with Joel Creasey replacing Marty Sheargold in the final few days.

This combined to give the station modest growth of 0.2 points from last survey to 10.4%.

The slight fall of Kate, Tim & Marty gave Adelaide a new Drive leader, with ARN’s Will & Woody on Mix, boasting 12.3%.

The AM leader was FIVEaa, with a 12.2% overall share, dethroning previous joint leader ABC Adelaide.


#1 FM Overall – Nova*
#1 AM Overall – 6PR
#1 FM Breakfast – Nova: Nathan, Nat & Shaun
#1 AM Breakfast – 6PR: Steve Mills and Basil Zempilas*
#1 FM Drive – Nova: Kate, Tim & Marty
#1 AM Drive – 6PR: Oliver Peterson

Perth has a new market leader in radio, with Nova dethroning Mix 94.5 as the station with the largest audience share.

Nova’s market-leading 12.9% share was helped along by its breakfast program of Nathan, Nat & Shaun holding onto their #1 position. The station had a 14.1% share in the Breakfast slot, ahead of closest-competitor Mix, with was on 12.4%.

And unlike other markets where Nova’s Kate, Tim & Marty took a bit of a hit, losing their top spot, the trio maintained their dominance in Perth. Nova had a 15.0% share in drive, up 2.3 points from last survey.

In third place in Perth was 96FM, which had a 12.6% share, up 0.6 points. Its Breakfast offering Botica’s Bunch was relatively stable on 10.7%, down from 10.9% in April.

Stations and shows marked with an asterisks [*] signal a change from the last survey.


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Recent comments (33)
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29 Sep 2020 - 10:01 am

Daytimes on Nova are an accurate reflection of the music

29 Sep 2020 - 10:06 am

ARN might be investing in the wrong brekky show if they can do that to Robin.

29 Sep 2020 - 10:07 am

What’s happening at Fox in Melbourne?

29 Sep 2020 - 10:16 am

Great work Ben and Liam, well deserved

29 Sep 2020 - 10:21 am

Could you please add the Perth results under Perth? Currently showing Adelaide results.

    29 Sep 2020 - 10:27 am

    Apologies Hendo, the card has now been updated. Thanks for flagging!

29 Sep 2020 - 10:31 am

Nova Sydney and Melbourne are in really bad shape. First challenge for the new CEO

Joan Warner Fan
29 Sep 2020 - 10:44 am

Maybe the radio industry should of waited for the ratings before saying “people are listening to more FM radio during the pandemic so please advertise”. Commerical FM radio in Melbourne is embarrassing for the whole industry.

29 Sep 2020 - 10:52 am

Well done Ben Fordham.
An incredible result.
As for 2DayFM, maybe time to just make it a jukebox.
What’s to lose?

29 Sep 2020 - 10:55 am

The Melbourne e-diaries seems to show what PPM showed in the US when introduced, talk on music stations (specifically breakfast shows) drop off in the ratings. If and when AUS metros go to PPM I’m sure those numbers will continue to trend down. Whether that’s accurate or not or accurately reflects the interest/attention of the listener remains to be seen. Numbers can be deceiving. Share points can be down but purchase intent for ads run can still be high vs say a YouTube ad. Difficult to parse out. Hopefully the australian broadcasters have seen what has happened in the States and have an argument ready for the media buyers.

29 Sep 2020 - 11:00 am

That Hit rebrand has worked really well… Music and imaging does not sound right at all. Congrats to the suits who made those decisions.

Christmas Smythe
29 Sep 2020 - 11:14 am

A move from the silly to the serious is evident here. Not fair on Jase and PJ at all. I’d give Ben another book before I would make that your headline and I feel sorry for jamie and 2day because it was a better listen than smooth – so who can ever tell. Can we write this one off?

29 Sep 2020 - 11:39 am

Great move getting the fired 97.3 breakfast show back eh, Barry and Duncan have made bad decision after bad decision on that breakfast show and somehow they’re the only two that haven’t lost their jobs over it!!!

29 Sep 2020 - 11:47 am

Wow. Paul Jackson has done well with Smooth but has completely destroyed Nova in the process.

29 Sep 2020 - 11:50 am

Interesting how 2GB has lost a lot of audience in afternoons and drive – watch for that decline to increase in the next survey

Nova Drive had a shocking survey

29 Sep 2020 - 12:13 pm

There has been an obvious shift in a poorer sound for Nova Sydney and Melbourne

29 Sep 2020 - 12:35 pm

Nova’s Ben and Liam (Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton). Not Ben Stapleton and Liam Harvey

    29 Sep 2020 - 1:35 pm

    Hi Don,

    Thanks. This has been fixed.

    Vivienne – Radio Today

Pickle Rick
29 Sep 2020 - 12:36 pm

Will be interesting to see how Smallzy spins this as week of “#1 nights show!” Hahahahahahahahaha

29 Sep 2020 - 1:19 pm

Awesome result for Ben and Liam. Well Deserved. Hardest working guys in Radio and it has paid off for them once again.

29 Sep 2020 - 2:15 pm

It’s 3AW that should be grabbing the headlines. Not to be explained as simply the result of the extraordinary lockdown, its success more broadly explained by being the most ready and responsive to what’s happening in Melbourne.

In our sliced and diced age of 70+ radio stations across the analog and digital bands, 3AW serves up a breakfast share that maybe the likes of 3XY scored 40+ years ago. How retro!

Resilient is the word at KIIS. It’s now more relevant with younger listeners than their CHR counterparts, while Jase and PJ return only to their lowest share pre-Covid.

Something similar can be said about Magic 1278. After years of tinkering its return to a rather unremarkable format is proving to give diehard listeners what they simply want (be nice to know in future if 3MP is striking a similar chord).

Fox didn’t deserve such a ratings dip on such a monumental 40th birthday. SCA ironically gave Brisbane and Adelaide a local treatment while deferring similar decisions in Perth. While Sydney and Melbourne were arguably shifted less local, each conforming to the new abstract piece of art called “get that feeling”. Trouble is, unlike in an art gallery, the audience haven’t paused to consider how to interpret it. They just switched off, attention probably preoccupied with other things.

Nova have subjected themselves to a similar problem of identity. What to do when even Triple J have taken a dip,
it’s (seemingly) no longer viable to develop a new youth audience and “everybody” now plays music to make you “feel good”?

Sure the caronavirus is novel but not the lessons of youthfully-branded stations trying to skew older. Refer to 3XY (circa 1988-89) and FOX (circa 1994)

29 Sep 2020 - 2:42 pm

@ Ben agree re 97.3 breakfast. Nothing personal but IMO Robyn is overrated. But that’s only part of the problem with 97.3, the bigger problem is the lame music playlist. Only the safest and most boring songs played 24/7. Time to rebrand as Smooth 97.3 and win the ratings in Brisbane by a mile.

29 Sep 2020 - 3:58 pm

Anyone notice all the 10 to 17 and 18 to 24 year olds at Smooth?
Says a lot about current music.
Looks like 2Day is just a basket case.
They may as well just play music which is cheaper and surely they can’t sink any lower?

L R Kenning
29 Sep 2020 - 4:26 pm

Neil Breen is sounding more and more like an old woman – never could be said about Alan Jones – no-one want to hear someone banging on early mornings – we want good news presentation and less opinions about what he thinks – then asking people to text in – not a great start – banking on winging it because he is a queenslander will not cut it

The Analyst
29 Sep 2020 - 4:53 pm

Ignore the Melbourne results.

The diary placement for both paper and e-diary were different there due to the lockdown.

Here’s what Joan Warner said in July:

The CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner, said there would be changes to the placement of diaries in Melbourne due to the lockdown requirements.

“We have been closely monitoring the situation in regards to COVID-19, and there will be modifications to the placement of diaries in the Melbourne licence area to ensure the survey goes ahead as scheduled,” she said.

Research provider GfK has trialled and planned for contactless placement of paper survey diaries in Melbourne. In addition, the proportion of respondents completing an e-diary in that city will be increased from 30% to 40%.

29 Sep 2020 - 5:13 pm

Does anyone remember what numbers breakfast was getting on mix 1065 before they poached Kyle and Jackie O?? Was it higher than the number 2day FM are getting now?

Barry Russell
29 Sep 2020 - 5:33 pm

These Sydney AM station ratings are irrelevant, 2SM is not included!

29 Sep 2020 - 5:52 pm

Is it time for 97.3 to spin the wheel of co-hosts again? The last team won the ratings didn’t they?

29 Sep 2020 - 7:50 pm

Agree 100% AJ – 97 3 Brisbane should change to Smooth and they’d go straight to number 1.

Not a hit
29 Sep 2020 - 9:57 pm

Hit network is a mess and no longer has a number 1 station in any of the metro markets – you’d never have thought that possible 5 years ago. I’d be surprised if most people in Sydney even know 2dayfm is still on air, fox have been in a tailspin even before Covid, the rebrands of b105 and safm barely made a dent – and has hit 929 breakfast ever rated that badly?

30 Sep 2020 - 6:59 am

There is no real competition in Ben F’s 2GB morning slot so no real surprise there! 2GB continues a downward spiral despite all the “spin” it’s ratings trend is all down!

30 Sep 2020 - 1:53 pm

Does anyone really believe 2gb went up by 212% in 10-17 and now beats JJJ and 2day by a wide margin in that demo because of lineup changes in breakfast and arvos? Or after years of stagnant results and no major changes 2ch had a 50% increase in breakfast?
Radio ratings are the best evidence we have, but the reporting I’ve seen as if these are an precise guide to actual listening is infuriating. Obviously there’s some sample changes, and we’ll have to see the longer term trend before you can say the blander 2GB is a success.

30 Sep 2020 - 2:50 pm

Congratulations Ben and Liam. Goes to show investment in young and local talent gets results!

Nice to see Mix being challenged in a market dominated by ARN for so long.

It would be interesting to know brand perceptions around activity that happened during the survey ratings pause ie commercial stations like hit and nova in Melbourne and their “give back” style campaigns / covid coverage and how these affected listenership during that time.


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