Survey #1: Duncan Campbell on goals for struggling stations & why ARN must hold its nerve

Former Assistant Editor

The first metro survey of the year is done and dusted, so what will the rest of 2019 look like for the major commercial networks?

Radio Today spoke with content directors from the major networks following the release of this week’s survey results, to get their take on the current state of play, as well as to find out how they think the rest of the year will pan out.

ARN national content director Duncan Campbell revealed his game plan to us, commending the good performance of some stations and the realistic goals are for some of his strugglers this year.

On Sydney

Survey #1 delivered results were further proof of the current state of a music cycle that has seen stations like Nova and 2DayFM move away from pure CHR in the past 12 months.

Not even KIIS 106.5 was immune, falling to 7.7% overall among People 10+ (-1.1).

“There’s definitely a shift which is already begun in terms of the current music cycle and its impact on the three primary CHRs in Sydney,” Campbell tells Radio Today.

“The encouraging thing for us is that while we might have dropped share, the cume for KIIS is still above a million and 2Day FM dropped too.

“It’s a real battleground and I think that changing music cycle is having impact and people are trying to find their feet. So, you can’t discount that from these results.

Despite the overall downturn for the station, Kyle & Jackie O remain the #1 FM Breakfast show and in double digits.

“That’s an exceptional breakfast show. It’s got very deep entrenched habitual listening and they had a great survey.

“In terms of CHR there’s really daylight between them and the other two.

“In Sydney to have the number two and number three FM stations, and the number one and number three Breakfast shows, you couldn’t really ask for more.”

As for the new player on Sydney Breakfast, Campbell doesn’t believe that Lawrence Mooney’s Triple M Breakfast will resonate or be a threat to the strong performance of WSFM.

“It depends where he’s broadcasting from,” he says.

“But Triple M hasn’t been on our radar for a long time.

He is, however, wary of another solid year from NOVA Entertainment’s smooth stations, both in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Smooth came out of the blocks with heavy marketing from January but I think WS has done an exceptional job this survey under Scott Muller‘s direction, in terms of making sure that time span listening is strong despite the cume not being as strong as Smooth.

“Smooth has shifted music to be as close to WS as it can. Yeah, they’re playing a very smart game but we believe in our product and we research it consistently and WS is a very strong station.”

On Melbourne:

Despite a decent second half of 2018, Christian O’Connell’s Gold104.3 Breakfast show dipped this survey to 6.8% (-1.6).

Campbell calls the result “a real surprise” but insists that ARN has a lot of confidence in the show.

“It’s really a survey of two halves, so first half being where music patterns are all over the place and then they do settle down the second half,” he says.

“So the fact that Gold has the second highest audience in Melbourne… It’s number one overall in FM in afternoons and mornings.

“We won’t be making any changes of course there, the show’s very strong.

“It’s times like this you’re happy to hold your nerve.”

While O’Connell has shown promise and has a good chance to turn things around, the story at ARNs KIIS 101.1 isn’t looking quite as positive.

“KIIS 101.1 is a very different story to Gold, I mean Gold has been a very strong station over the last several years,” says Campbell.

“KIIS the third CHR in that market, it’s got other challenges other than just breakfast. It’s up against the biggest radio brand in the country in terms of Fox.”

As always, dislodging habitual listening is one of the greatest challenges for any radio show.

“Our marketing has kicked off and we’re trying to dislodge habitual listening. Again there are no changes planned for that show.

“Jase and PJ are on a station which we’re committed to and we will give that show as long as it needs for the audience to become familiar with it.

“It remains our commitment because the content is strong and it’s just not known, that was always the risk.”

On Brisbane:

ARN’s 97.3FM had a tough 2018, but early signs this year are that we could see a turnaround.

Overall the station grew this book, rising back to double digits with a 10.4% share of listening (+0.7), even going past Hit105 in the process.

“We always knew it was a strong station and I predicted that the residual effects for Triple M wouldn’t flow into this year,” says Campbell.

However, those good results didn’t flow into Breakfast, which will remain a concern for ARN.

“Our challenge remains breakfast, we don’t shy away from that, but those high numbers, pretty impressive there in terms of the share lifts despite a slight dip in breakfast,” he says.

“I think the key for me is that we understand these markets, we know what the challenges are, we know if they’re real.”

Campbell also flatly denied rumours that he’d taken the extraordinary step of signing off on every 97.3 Breakfast break before it goes to air.

“There is obviously additional focus on that show which is only natural given the fact that we had challenges up there,” he says.

“There are obviously more regular calls in terms of and more emphasis on show planning and stuff like that, but to suggest that every break is pre-recorded and I sign it off is, someone is living in fantasy land there.

“That’s not true at all.”

On Will & Woody:

National Drive show Will & Woody may also finally be seeing the tide turn after a difficult first year.

“I think they performed strongly against the tide,” says Cambell.

“A good result in Adelaide, a good result in Brisbane. Melbourne up a little bit as well despite in fact the station was down.

“Even in Perth, they went up so I think their show is really finding its feet this year.

“We’ve had a bit more focus on just providing those guys with a little more direction which is working out well as it builds its cume so yeah it’s a good result.”

On Adelaide:

In a result that will surprise few, Mix 102.3 had yet another strong survey in Adelaide. The station currently has a 13.3% share of listening (+0.4) while Jodie & Soda continue to streak ahead of the FM competition.

The key for ARN in that market is ensuring that they don’t rest on their laurels.

“We don’t allow complacency to set in but also we’ve got two of the biggest personalities in our market with Mark Sodastrom and Jodie,” says Campbell.

“He is Mr Adelaide and she’s been on the air for a long time and there’s plenty of chemistry between those two.

“It’s pretty impressive numbers there for Adelaide and very strong station and Tony Aldridge has done a very good job there in not being complacent and driving activity in the market as well which has kept the station front of mind.”

On Perth:

As much as Mix Adelaide has been a consistently strong performer for ARN, 96FM has just as consistently struggled.

Campbell is frank about what ARN hopes to achieve in the west this year, where 96 fell to 7.8% (-0.8) this survey.

“It’s early days obviously with survey one and not the result we wanted,” says Campbell honestly.

“The goals are to get into double figures.

“Its challenges are significant because you’ve got probably the last sort of broad mainstream station in Australia in Mix 94.5, its heritage is long and its numbers are impressive throughout pretty much all demographics really so that in itself is a huge challenge.

“You’ve got the KIIS of Perth in Nova 93.7, very strong station heritage breakfast show, you’ve got Hit 92.9, covering off with Nova at under 40 and Mix dominating over 40.

“We’re confident in the music mix but we’ve got some attribution issues there which we need to work on from a marketing point of view.”

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Recent comments (14)
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Got Your Back
14 Mar 2019 - 11:58 am

Agree, it’s fantasy land on the recording breaks! As if 100% of the brekky content in Brisbane could be recorded and signed off by Duncan. These rumours are ridiculous. It’s more like 80%* of the content that the show does is pre-recorded and then checked by Duncan………. BIG DIFFERENCE!

*the 20% may fall in 6am

14 Mar 2019 - 12:43 pm

One failed show after another like the old ARN. Gold, 96, Kiis101, 973 all not working. [Edited]

14 Mar 2019 - 12:48 pm

I feel the time is right for the ARN stations to become one identity in the market. Having WSFM, GoldFm, 4KQ and Cruise is very yesteryear. It’s a big change but done right will work well. Same as the KIIS network, change them all to KIIS.

Yeah but Nah
14 Mar 2019 - 2:16 pm

Can’t hide behind the fact that KIIS is the third CHR in Melbourne. 3 years ago it was neck and neck with Nova and I remember Duncan saying ‘as long as we are in front of nova I’m happy’….Good programming decisions vs bad from there.

let's not forget...
14 Mar 2019 - 3:35 pm

97.3FM is still a very well programmed station.

Strong uncontested music position, great imaging, promotions and tactics that appeal to the core and a consistent focussed approach.

Breakfast show’s take time to bed in, 97.3FM had the heritage show for 10 years and still rates in the double digits while in reset mode.

14 Mar 2019 - 3:41 pm

Can feel a change happening at 96fm in Perth. Listening it really sounds like something will change soon, the shows are slicker, the new breakky guy makes it feel a bit younger, the drive show sounds more in tune with the market (rare for a national show I know! They must do some localised breaks) and also the production and promos sound huge and exiting compared to a few years back or to mix 92.9 or nova. But then… they go into the horses by darryl or a floogged out 80s pub rock song and it just looses itself. I think Duncan needs to look at the music on 96fm. it dosent need to be an old rock n roll station anymore, those days died years and years ago when arn bought it. Duncan please bring it into the era 2019. The others do their music well… but nothing else…..

14 Mar 2019 - 5:44 pm

I swear Duncan has a soundboard ready to go for results time. Same lines every time. The fact is, KIIS is nothing without K&J, as Melbourne is proving. It’s just as dangerous for them now as it was for 2Day back then. If they up and leave again, ARN is tanked. And those Melbourne Jase & PJ spots are weak. If they think those will disrupt listening, the entire marketing and programming teams are dilusional.

David Braidwood
14 Mar 2019 - 5:52 pm

If Duncan Campbell had left 96fm as it was when ARN purchased it, 96fm would still be number one today. Another case of a so called wise man from the east no knowing the Perth market.

15 Mar 2019 - 7:41 am

Sorry but this is sad to watch.

Start with the music
15 Mar 2019 - 10:02 am

While Kiis Melbournes shows sound younger than their chr counterparts, their music is much the opposite, should bring The Edge playlist over. Create a pointed difference music-wise between the three, more dance and hip hop

15 Mar 2019 - 8:27 pm

Make 96fm live and local, similar to Hot Tomato or River 949. Get rid of the networked shows in the afternoon and evenings. You need strong personalities who know the city and the vibe.

When it comes to the music, think outside the square.

Conservative, boring playlists don’t work in today’s competitive radio environment, especially with loads of choice on Radio App, Radio Box, iHeartRadio, Dab+ etc.

Don’t just stick to rock and classic hits, play different genres of music, all the time. Be interesting, play songs that people haven’t heard before or in a long time – bring in the wow factor to the playlist. 97.3 was a good example of this a few years ago. Pop, classic hits, rock, classic rock, ballads, with a small amount of soul and dance. Songs from the 90s to now. There is plenty of good stuff out there, you just have to find it, or want to find it.

17 Mar 2019 - 10:03 am

A consistent result and shows the resilience of the network. Am I looking at the same ratings? It is looking like DC will go the way of Dobbo and CB and few others. [Edited]

18 Mar 2019 - 12:00 pm

Why doesn’t any commercial station try to support new hits and new artists, especially Australian? Triple J do to a degree but done well, with proper commercial artists unlike the crappy ‘synth-pop’ on Triple J, there’s the opportunity for a commercial FM station to really make a mark for themselves.

Young people like good music not just ‘personalities’ that are so made up they’re almost fake.

19 Mar 2019 - 12:41 pm

@Phil, yes Nova 106.9 was a perfect example of this during its first decade. It not only supported local artists and musicians but played excellent music from a variety of genres. I its heyday around 2007-08 it was rating in the 18’s, in a competitive market don’t forget. It was just a brilliant station to listen to, the music + personalities.


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