“The combination of Nova and smooth is unbeatable”: Paul Jackson on the year that was

Former Assistant Editor

NOVA Entertainment group program director Paul Jackson was in a jovial mood following the release of GfK’s final survey of 2018 – and well, he should be.

By and large, it was a good book for both the Nova and smoothfm networks, with strong results across the board and even an upturn in share for Nova’s Greatest Hits Workday – which in 2019 has struggled to translate strong cume numbers into share.

“The Greatest Hits Workday is doing very strong numbers, and when you break that down you’ll see we are very dominant under 40,” he tells Radio Today. “Some of the parts of the [target] demos are exceptional across the board.”

Sydney (+0.63 in Mornings, +0.6 on Arvos) and Melbourne (relatively flat in Mornings, +1.5 on Arvos) have been two markets where the network’s new music strategy has battled hard against strong music offerings from stablemates smooth, as well as ARN’s WSFM/Gold FM.

Jackson insists he is content with the performance of the strategy to date.

“I’m very happy with the Greatest Hits Workday, how it’s been executed.

“We’re covering our own position within what we do. We’re playing more hits and executing it really well.”

Sydney Breakfast duo Fitzy and Wippa capped off their best ever year with another best-ever survey result with an 8.4% share of listening (+1.3). That betters their previous record high from two books ago.

Jackson sees these results as proof of their rightful, higher place in the market.

“Fitzy & Wippa are now a heritage show and very familiar to their audience, with high cumes,” he explains.

“They’ve got great people around them, working on production and on-air. I certainly think that’s their [new] natural spot.

“The content on their show has been extremely good, it’s based on family entertainment and it’s for everyone – it’s showing the numbers there.”

The battle for Sydney has intensified towards the back end of 2018, but while 2DayFM isn’t proving to be much of a threat to the market leaders at the moment, Jackson refuses to write the station off.

“Everything is up for grabs.”

“It’s about leaving the audience feeling great, giving them lots of reasons to want to come back to you, both through the competitions we run and the actual choices that we’re making.

“Any of the brands up and down the country are capable of doing a similar thing.”

smoothfm ends the year as the #1 FM show in both Sydney and Melbourne, and Jackson says it’s been satisfying to prove the doubters wrong about the format.

“On smooth its a very clear proposition. We Run our own race, it’s very well planned and there’s a terrific team,” he says.

“smooth’s numbers are obviously fantastic for the last two surveys. It’s the start of a trend, disproving any thoughts that it’s more of a winter than a summer station.

“Our vision is always to leave the listener feeling better than when they tuned in.”

“Both cumes and shares are beyond outstanding. That’s from the Breakfast show, right the way through the entire day.”

Gold104.3 showed improved results in Survey #8 as well, moving closer to a 10% share, and results suggest that Christian O’Connell is starting to bed in with listeners.

Jackson insists that he’s just trying to run smooth’s race and not worry about the competition too much. “I’ve only got expectations for smooth. Four books in a row for smooth is great, but I think from Christian’s standpoint he’s done well for himself in the time that he’s been there.”

This latest survey saw the always-solid Nova 100 finish with a 7.5% share of listening (+0.8). While he’s not reading into it too much, Jackson believes that the station has the potential to follow the lead of Nova 96.9 and make more meaningful gains next year.

“I would expect a stronger Nova 100 [next year]. The demos are stronger for us than they were this time last year, the cume is over a million… so the sum of the parts and the makeup of the audience is strong.”

The part that heritage National Drive show Kate, Tim and Marty have played in 2019’s excellent results can’t be understated.

In Survey #8, the trio reclaimed two markets and now find themselves the #1 FM Drive show in every city except one.

While Jackson admits it had previously been difficult to see them winning Melbourne, their results have now changed his mind.

“I can see it now. It’s been a longer journey in Melbourne for them.

“I’ve got the feeling that they’ve definitely got the potential to achieve that.

“The numbers are their highest ever in terms of cume and share for our network, as is Smallzy in the evening as well. So we’re very proud of them.

“They’re a juggernaut of a show.”

Looking further north to Brisbane, Nova remained flat while SCA’s Triple M had a mammoth survey win, leaving them as market leaders.

“97.3 has also come off a bit, and the audience is probably trading between them and Triple M. Nova’s into second place, which actually leaves us in a stronger position when you take all eight surveys into context across the whole year.

“We’ve had some record cumes, plenty of #1s and it’s been a really strong year overall.

In Adelaide, Jackson is happy with Nova’s upturn in the back end of the year, especially Kate, Tim and Marty knocking Will & Woody out of top spot on Drive.

Nova 91.9 finished the year in double digits overall. The Breakfast show there appears to be getting stronger despite the loss of Shane Lowe. Hayley and Dylan finished the year with a 9.8% share of listening (+0.2).

“We’ve done particularly well in Adelaide in the last few books and we’re working with the team down there to get the Breakfast show back into double digits as well. We’re well poised to have a strong year in Adelaide next year.”

Legacy Perth Breakfast show Nathan, Nat and Sean continues to deliver, holding onto top spot on 14.9% (-0.2).

Despite surrendering overall first place to Mix94.5 this survey, Jackson is enjoying the battle in that market.

“I’m loving the fact that we’re up there and in amongst it,” says Jackson of the battle for Perth.

“Our audience is broader and younger. We’re in a leading position when you look at 55 and younger, and in an outstanding position when you look at cume.

“Nathan, Nat and Shaun are just delivering one great result after another on Breakfast.”

For NOVA Entertainment, the combination of smooth and Nova has hardly been stronger than right now. Despite ARN’s Ciaran Davis vowing to fight harder in 2019, Jackson isn’t worried, telling Radio Today in no uncertain terms his network combination is the best around.

“The combination of Nova and smooth is unbeatable.”

“I expect the competition to be just as strong next year as it was this year. As a radio station, you start the year with well-planned marketing, talent, music and so-on. I don’t think it will be any different next year than it was this year.”

Stay tuned to Radio Today tomorrow for our chat with ARN’s Duncan Campbell reflecting on the year that was: 2018

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19 Dec 2018 - 4:14 pm

Congratulations to Smooth. The formula is a winner. It’s the EXACT formula that was born in the mid 80’s to 2000+ by 3MP and 2CH, and using exactly the same links sweeps and formatic breaks…. word for word.
The more things change etc…, but, if it ain’t fixed don’t break it. Nice lift.

20 Dec 2018 - 5:28 am

Greatest hits workday is one of the lowest rating music strategies in modern history.
Every station falls off a cliff after their brekky show finishes.
It’s embarrassing

20 Dec 2018 - 10:54 am

KIIS and even the HIT network beat NOVA daytime ??? WTF ! Which numbers is he reading.

7 Jan 2019 - 1:54 pm

Paul has a Donald Trump like ability to provide ummmm… alternative facts.
But to be fair, at least he focused on Nova. Duncan’s end of year ‘pot shot athon’ was pretty unprofessional.


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