What to look out for in Survey 7’s radio ratings

Former Editor & Content Director

The radio ratings are back, and this time they’ve come around much faster.

Last survey, released at the end of September, was the first round of results the market had been given in months. And with the survey drought came much speculation about how COVID-19 would hit, and shift, consumer listening habits.

Survey 6 acted as somewhat of a refresh and a reset – and how you’d been performing prior to the ratings pause seemed to dictate how seriously you’d take any dramatic shift in numbers. Most content chiefs, radio execs and industry observers, however, agreed the numbers would be fascinating, but erred on the side of caution by noting that one set of figures doesn’t rule them all.

So as we roll into Survey 7 on Thursday, what trends will start to emerge? What numbers could shed light on something which started as a COVID anomaly, but could now be “the new normal”?

In Sydney, eyes will once again be on the key Breakfast battle, particularly after Ben Fordham inherited the audience share crown from Alan Jones. There was speculation his leading share position could be toppled by either ruling FM stalwarts The Kyle & Jackie O Show from ARN’s KIIS FM, or the ABC’s Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck.

Will Kyle keep his crown? (Spoiler alert: Yes)

Fordham, however, retained the audience share crown, with Nine Radio’s 2GB commanding a 17.3% share in Breakfast – vastly comparable to the last survey’s 17.9%.

Keen observers, however, noted that 2GB’s overall share in the very young 10 to 17 demographic jumped from 2.4% to 7.5%, perhaps skewing its numbers and apparent overall performance.

So, will 2GB hold on to those talkback 10-year-olds? And what happens if it doesn’t?

Meanwhile, also in Sydney, Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) 2Day FM has flagged another round of changes to its Breakfast line-up. Last survey it had just 2.5% in Breakfast – something current anchor Jamie Angel has noted is “heartbreaking” – so it’s worth keeping an eye on how it tracks before the shake-up.

Overall 2Day FM’s share last survey tumbled from 5.1% to 3.3%, another number to watch.

It was a similar story for many contemporary hit music stations down in Melbourne, which suffered from severe lockdowns and the city’s appetite for news and information.

2Day FM’s sister station Fox FM fell from an 8.1% share to 5.9%, a trend which was mimicked in Breakfast where the Fifi, Fev & Byron show went from 7.8% to 4.8%.

Throughout this survey period, the station celebrated its 40th birthday, bringing back former talent and shows. This wasn’t necessarily a grab for audience share – rather a celebration and reflection on all things ‘The Fox’ – but will it pay off and bring nostalgic listeners back to the station?

Fox recently relived its glory days as it marked a milestone birthday 

Much of Melbourne’s hit music stations’ declines – including Nova dropping 1.9 points to 5.3%, and KIIS falling from 5.9% to 5.0% – was put down to changes in commuting behaviour as well as Melbourne’s anxious need for news.

So many were anticipating talk radio such as 3AW would benefit. And benefit it did, jumping 3.0 points to a 16.9% share overall. The new Breakfast line-up featuring Russel Howcroft went from a 17.3% share in April to 26.1% in September.

While some content chiefs called Melbourne’s ratings a reflection of a “moment in time”, Nine Radio’s Tom Malone is confident the success can continue, saying this is the beginning of a reset in listener habits as Nine refreshes and reinvigorates talk radio.

Will he be right?

The city, it’s worth noting, also moved to 100% e-diaries last survey due to COVID-19 restrictions and the association lockdowns.

Industry opinion is split on whether this will change consumer reporting habits, with CEO of Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), Joan Warner, noting the industry body will be watching the impact.

“We’re looking froward to seeing what the impact of that higher percentage of e-diaries will be in Melbourne as well, because that’s one of the factors that we’re looking at going forward into the future, having a higher percentage of e-diaries than we have at present. So that will be a bit of a trial run, I think. We’ll see the impact. But at the moment, what we’re thinking, and what people are finding with their tracking, is that the listening patterns are pretty much the same,” she told Radio Today in September.

While some observers believe it fundamentally changes the results and how people report their listening patterns and behaviours, SCA’s chief content officer Dave Cameron told Radio Today after Survey 6 that the figures looked about right.

“Well, I’m based in Melbourne, and I can tell you a first-hand view of that, and I can tell you there is no cars on the road between 6am and 9am. It is a complete clear out. No-one’s doing commute. Everyone’s been homeschooling for the last 16 weeks, and so people aren’t on the road, and where you find the greatest impact particularly with music stations is in-car listening, and when you remove that, particularly from Breakfast and Drive, well then you get to have a pretty severe set of results and that’s exactly what’s happened.

So to be honest, I look at Melbourne and go ‘Yep. that reflects exactly how this market is right now’,” he said.

Also in Melbourne Breakfast is KIIS’ struggling Jase & PJ show which has struggled to find consistently high audience share despite strong backing from ARN’s content director Duncan Campbell.

Facing legacy shows and stations, the Jase & PJ last survey dropped to 4.4%, from 6.8%.

ARN stablemate GOLD 104.3 managed to hold onto its FM Breakfast crown with Christian O’Connell, despite a 2.2 point drop to 7.2%. Triple M was its closest rival with 6.7% after benefitting from a slight bump. Will the two get closer together, or will O’Connell pull ahead again?

O’Connell (left) with ARN’s Duncan Campbell 

Up in Brisbane the Breakfast market remains tight. Last survey, Nova’s Ash, Kip & Luttsy with Susie O’Neill took the lead from the recently rebranded B105. Keep an eye on if they hold onto it, or if Stav, Abby & Matt come back.

Another one to watch in Brisbane is Nine Radio’s 4BC, which doesn’t have anywhere near the market dominance its stablemates in Sydney (2GB) and Melbourne (3AW) have.

And speaking of Brisbane, Nova’s Drive show of Kate, Tim & Marty (and then briefly for the survey period Kate, Tim & Joel) held onto its crown in the Queensland city, however the syndicated show did topple from the top in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

NOVA Entertainment’s chief programming and marketing officer Paul Jackson says the new show is sounding great and he’s confident it will secure a stable audience, so will that come through this survey?

Joel Creasey, Marty Sheargold’s replacement, started on Monday, September 14. Survey 7, out tomorrow, covers August 23 to September 19, and September 20 to October 24, so will give a better idea of how the new show is tracking than Survey 6 was able to.

The show slipped to 4.6% in Melbourne last survey (down from 7.8%), so keep an eye on that.

The new Nova Drive line-up 

Over in Adelaide, it’s worth keeping an eye on whether newly crowned FM Breakfast kings, Ben & Liam from Nova can retain the crown, after overtaking Mix 102.3’s Jodie & Soda.

The performance of SA FM and Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann in Breakfast will also be interesting after SCA revived the legacy brand at the end of July. Any significant changes should be reflected in this survey.

Last survey, SA FM jumped slightly to an 8.6% share overall, while in Breakfast it was up 1.5 points to 8.9%.

And over in Perth, Nova took the FM win last survey after a joint with with 96FM in the survey prior. Word is 96 FM could be in for a good book, so who will be victorious?

Gary Roberts returned to 96FM as MD last year 

6PR’s Breakfast show with embattled newly elected Perth Mayor Basil Zempilas came out on top of AM radio. Will the top city councillor also remain its top AM broadcaster?

And Radio Today hears there could be big changes looming for SCA in Perth, so watch the performance of its Hit and Mix brands.

Ratings come out tomorrow at 9:30am AEDT.

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Recent comments (3)
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4 Nov 2020 - 1:20 pm

Why is Lehmo still doing SAFM brekky from MELBOURNE ?

The Analyst
4 Nov 2020 - 2:59 pm

Hi Vivienne,

Regarding the Melbourne results, you left out one crucial fact – that the methodology was different in that market due to the lockdown.

Here’s a quote from Joan Warner 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%.

The fact that 65+ listening was up 30,000 pqh or 21% not only favours the older targeted stations such as 3AW and the ABC but screams anomaly.

    4 Nov 2020 - 5:50 pm

    Fair call, TA. Thanks for flagging.

    I have previously reported on Melbourne’s move to e-diaries, but failed to rehash that info here.

    I have now added in the context that Melbourne actually moved to 100% e-diaries last survey, as well as some quotes CRA’s Joan Warner and SCA’s Dave Cameron gave me about it.

    Will be interesting to watch.

    Thanks for reading,


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