Shifting sands in the last ratings of the year

The last radio survey for 2021, released yesterday, rounded off a covid disrupted year for broadcasters and listeners. Everyone is hoping for better in 2022.

As the ratings year closed, the dominance of news/talk stations continued in the major markets, but there are signs of a shift back to music if the threat of the pandemic continues to recede.

At the beginning of the year, when there was a hunger for news of the Delta variant, suburban lockdowns and state border closures, Nine Radio and ABC stations streaked ahead, then came the footy season and those stations, as well as others that had football coverage edged forward in most markets. Those who wanted to escape the overwhelming news about covid did so by turning to their favourite entertained on music stations, but listening times shifted, with people who were working from home getting up later, but listening longer during the working day.

By year end in Sydney, 2GB was still way out in front, but ABC Sydney had dropped back. At the beginning of the year the top two music stations were smooth and KIIS, but by survey 8 it was WSFM and KIIS in 3rd and 4th position. Nova and triple j maintained their middle positions, with triple j edging out Triple M by year’s end. 2Day continued to languish near the bottom of the main stations this year, with Breakfast host Dave Hughes telling Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that, now border closures have ended, he intends to buy a property in Sydney. He was previosly presenting the show from Melbourne most days due to covid lockdowns.

Specialist sport, news and music stations were at the bottom of the rankings as usual, because their formats are not designed to appeal across all listener segments, so 10+ overall share rankings do not necessarily reflect the aspirations of those stations.

This Radio Today data visualisation chart uses GfK's 10+ share figuresOur Radio Today data visualisation charts use GfK’s 10+ share figures for surveys 1 and 8, 2021. Click the charts for a closer look.

In the year’s final survey, KIIS and Nova and dominated the 10-17 demographic, Nova and triple j were the strongest stations with 18-24 year olds and WSFM won the 40-54 age group. 2GB and WSFM were strongest in the 55-64 age group, along with ABC Sydney, where good time spent listening (TSL) in that demographic helped those stations achieve their top three rankings. 2GB dominated the over 65 demographic.

2GB won the Survey 8 breakfast timeslot ahead of ABC Sydney and KIIS. 2GB won all other timeslots in the market except drive, which was won by Richard Glover on ABC Sydney.

With Alan Jones beginning a new social media show last week, it remains to be seen if he will draw any audience away from 2GB’s Ben Fordham in 2022. While that seems unlikely, Jones is a powerhouse broadcaster who may take the edge off the older end of 2GB’s audience. Another variation next year will be the change from Wendy and Robbie to James Valentine on ABC Sydney. While Valentine is well known to the audience, any change of presenter always prompts some of the audience to try out other alternative stations for a while.

Nine Radio’s Group PD Greg Byrnes told Radio Today after the survey yesterday that he is aware listening habits are changing again, but he believes talk will remain strong. “Talk radio offers companionship, that really sets us apart from the music stations.”

ARN’s Group PD Duncan Campbell says people are craving normality. “They seem worried when they don’t have it… they want normality back.” He gave the example of Sydney traffic returning to normal, “and with that comes in-car listening returning to normal and the dominance of music formats. People want to move on from COVID… they’re just desperate to get back to normal,” Campbell told Radio Today.

Nova’s Paul Jackson acknowledged that is has been “a trying and taxing year for everybody, not just radio people.” Jackson commended the smoothfm presenters, who have “done a wonderful job of keeping things upbeat and being there for the audience every day.” For Nova the results this year “have been a reflection of what we are living through,” with lockdowns and “no school runs… a lot of the habitual listening has not been there.”

“You can see the impact of the lockdown from Survey 3 onwards and we would like to think next year we might be coming out of the lockdowns. said Jackson.

In Melbourne 3AW continued its dominance of the market, with an uncontested lead that has been in place for many years, the interesting element is ABC Melbourne. After a slow start in Surveys 1 to 3, where it began the year in 4th place, the ABC metro station came back well to finish a strong second behind 3AW, equal with Gold FM.

Like WSFM in Sydney, ARN’s Gold station grew its audience well during the year, a tribute to the success of Christian O’Connell and the station’s music playlist.

Nova won the 10-24 demographics this survey, ahead of Fox then KIIS. Fox won 25-39s, ahead of triple j. Gold won the 40-54 audience, while 3AW won the over 55 demographics.

It was a clean sweep for 3AW, which won all the timeslots this survey, as it has done for most of the year. ABC Melbourne was second in the breakfast timeslot, followed by Gold. ABC’s Virginia Trioli scored well against 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, who won the morning shift.

Smooth, KIIS and Fox all had good news this survey, gaining one share point or more each, signalling a upswing in music formats across the market.

In the smaller markets, where Covid has not had such a severe effect due to border closures, there was not as much change during the year as there was in Sydney and Melbourne, so there has been less movement in these markets this survey.

Brisbane did not show the trend for music personality stations increasing and talk stations falling as clearly as in Sydney and Melbourne.  Nova had the biggest drop, losing its top position and ABC Classic had the biggest rise, but there as very little other significant movement in the Brisbane market otherwise.

In Adelaide Triple M surged, gaining 1.3 share points overall, but other music stations dropped, although there was not much volatility in this market. ABC Adelaide’s talk breakfast show had a good increase gaining 0.9 overall and up 1.6 in Ali Clarke’s breakfast shift in her last survey before she suddenly announced she was leaving the station. Adelaide’s other talk station, FIVEaa, dropped slightly.

There was very little movement in Perth, with Mix gaining slightly and triple j falling, but most other stations experiencing little in the way of significant share movement. The breakfast timeslot was the most  interesting, with talk station ABC Perth experiencing the biggest increase in that shift, up 2.5 share points and music station Mix 94.5 gaining 1.2 in breakfast. triple j dropped 2.0 share points in the breakfast timeslot.

View the data charts for all the metro markets here. Raw results in our report below.

Music resurgence begins in radio ratings survey 8

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Alyssa-jade Butlin
15 Dec 2021 - 7:53 pm

i think somebody needs to re proofread Virginia Trioli’s name in the 2021/22 ratings survey???
please pay special attention to her Christian name in the article

    16 Dec 2021 - 10:59 am

    Oops! Embarrassed look on face. Corrected – thanks for pointing it out Alyssa Jade.

19 Dec 2021 - 7:35 am

Richard Glover is great drive radio – Jim Wilson 2GB drive is dead boring – he should stick to sport and go back to channel 7 sport.


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