The Battle of the Sydney FM Breakfast shows
Who will be the winners and losers in 2014 ?
Southern Cross Austereo have announced their new 2DAY breakfast show. I like it. Nothing terribly new or clever but strong casting. The show is a Crew / Zoo format similar to The Panel, The Project and The View from television. And that’s a smart move as it's a departure from the male / female duo, so it's clearly differentiated from Kyle and Jackie O as well as the rest of the Sydney Breakfast market.
Merrick is a strong regular bloke 'manboy' character who can be pretty funny. Jules plays the straight man, 'normal' guy, well and seems like he’d fit equally as well in the sales department as he does on air.
Sophie gives the show a 'showbiz' angle and great sex appeal, and Mel B (which will be a launch tactic for a short period) gives the show added star power and an international flavour with insider entertainment industry insight. Although Mel is only on air for an hour a day so this will limit her impact.
Mel and Sophie offer a strong womans perspective and down to earth female sensibility. I’m guessing they will be far more outspoken than the men. That will make for an interesting dynamic and strong chemistry. The show is a good fit for the 2DAY brand and has great dimensions. It has broad appeal which it needs for SCA programmers to rebuild its leadership position over time. If SCA get the execution right (which they will) and if the show gets brilliant direction (which it will) the new show will do well eventually. Like all shows, great direction will be critical to its success.
Initially Nova may be the benefactor of these market breakfast changes. There's a good chance Nova will achieve Number 1 FM in the short term during the audience ‘confusion‘ period. If that happens, it will essentially be the Stephen Bradbury strategy, and is unlikely to last before the other skaters pick themselves up and regain momentum. There’s a chance Nova could also grab the Number 1 Breakfast position for a short while.
In the longer term though, both Kyle and Jackie O and the new 2DAY show are likely to beat Fitzy and Wippa in terms of quality content. Fitzy & Wippa have done well, and their success to date is very well deserved – though at times their press coverage outweighs their actual show content quality. In 2014-2015, a network’s ability to support great talent through strong, daily, hands-on show development will ultimately make the difference as to who wins in the long-term. And this is where the 2Day and KIIS shows will have a competitive advantage. But DMG may very well have plans to address this, and to level the playing field in this critical competitive dimension.
Jonesy and Amanda on WSFM could get caught up in the crossfire. They will be beaten on content by both 2DAY and KIIS, however they have the older demographic FM Breakfast audience to themselves. Triple M's Grill Team delivers strong content but its lineup serves a narrower male niche, which will minimise audience crossover. DMG’s smoothfm has done well this year, but it is a mood format, strong for ‘at-work’ and in particular ‘at-home’ listening. They are not competing in the show stakes at breakfast.
The new 2DAY show will take time to gain traction and it will suffer by being compared to by any former Kyle and Jackie O listeners who haven’t yet made the switch to KIIS. Kyle and Jackie O have set a high benchmark for Sydney breakfast radio content, but 2DAY’s new show, if given enough time, should rate well. Kyle and Jackie O on KIIS will beat the new 2DAY show in ratings for quite a while. Programmers and management at SCA know how tough making this transition will be.
ARN will do a huge launch via billboards given APN own the countries largest outdoor network and also television and online marketing to launch Kyle & Jackie O. However, SCA will spend heavily to defend their breakfast show position. In an ideal world, SCA would wait to promote a new show but they don't have that luxury. Time will be of the essence to ensure they minimise audience loss to KIIS. Expect a major marketing blitz in the new year. DMG naturally will have to spend heavily as they get caught up in this new marketing war. 2014 is going to be an extremely expensive year for the three networks’ marketing budgets.
Usually most battles become a two horse race, with two dominant players (such as Nine and Seven in television). In this case it will most likely end up 2DAY vs KIIS in the all important Sydney breakfast battle. Important both in terms of ratings and revenue and agency perceptions of the entire Today network’s performance which comes largely from the Sydney market (followed by Melbourne).
There will be a HUGE amount of market noise and audience trialing. All shows will have to come out of the blocks in January delivering exceptional content to ensure the displaced audience sticks with their show and eventually becomes their favourite in the ratings.
2014 is going to be a major breakfast ‘content and marketing‘ battle in Sydney.
Who will have the #1 FM station in Sydney after Survey 4, 2014 ? Have your say.
Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network and is Managing Director of Marchmedia.