The real Kyle & Jackie O story


The real Kyle and Jackie O story – what happened and what will happen next?

As a listener I was saddened and shocked to hear the news on Friday about Kyle and Jackie O leaving 2DAYFM. 

I have a long history with Kyle and Jackie O and also with 2DAYFM.

I was lucky enough as Program Director to lead the team which took 2DAYFM to its first ever Number 1 ratings position in the 90’s – a position it’s held virtually ever since. 

And Kyle and Jackie O have been the key to that success since they started on Breakfast in 2005. They have been the ‘glue‘ that holds 2DAYFM together.

I was amused to read Kyle’s comments in a recent interview with Scott Muller (here)

When asked by Scott what Kyle thought about my comments on the show and that he was Australia’s number 1 personality and up there with the likes of the great Howard Stern or Alan Jones he responded with; 

“I was flabbergasted, to tell you the truth. I don’t really look at myself like that…a bit of bravado goes on but I don’t really sit around at home thinking I’m the best.
When I was over in Perth, or Canberra before that, or when I was in Brisbane – I’d always try and get noticed by Brad.  
It wasn’t that long ago when I ran into him down at Bondi.  I thought he was the paparazzi, looking out the window.  He had a hat and glasses on and I thought “who is this clown?” – and he’s signalling for me to come over – and I thought “I’m not going over there!” 
Then I realised it was him and I hauled over there like a groupie. “I thought you were a photographer” and he was just laughing. He complimented me and said very nice things about the show and Jackie.  It was just nice to hear. 
I was never on his radar back in the day, so it was nice.  I was a bit chuffed by it all actually – “Brad March thinks I’m excellent” … which sounds odd, but I got a little jolly out of it.  I even rang Jackie and told her and she was like “really?”  I think she was a bit amazed by it as well “


That’s one of the great things about Kyle.  He can still be like an excited child and he says exactly what he’s thinking.  In fact he often is saying what lots of people are thinking but won't say. He’s self effacing and speaks his mind.

He can be dangerous but radio needs ‘dangerous‘ personalities. And Kyle is still excited by radio and, like a lot of broadcasters, I suspect he needs to be on the air and not just for the money.

The pair achieved 50 Number 1 Breakfast ratings and have won 9 ACRAs (Australian Commercial Radio Awards) and were ACRA finalists 36 times.
So what happened and why did negotiations break down with Southern Cross Austereo?
Relations between Kyle and management must have already been soured by several incidents over the recent years.  And you can understand Southern Cross Austereo’s board and management not wanting to pay hefty salary demands.  It does start to look like “the tail wagging the dog”.  It is commercial radio, with commercial considerations after all.
You also need to go back to earlier in the year for a few clues. 

When DMG Radio signed Fitzy and Wippa to a long term breakfast deal it didn’t give Kyle and Jackie O any obvious place to go.  They had lost a lot of their leverage and so were negotiating from a much weaker position. 

Kyle and Jackie O knew how critical they were to 2DAYFM’s success, so even though they were already paid big money, they wanted a greater share of the profits – more money and a 3 year contract. 
It is reported that Kyle was asking for $4 million.  That seems like a lot of money but considering losing the show would have a minimum impact of $30 million dollars in company revenue, it puts it into perspective.
Southern Cross Austereo run a commercial operation and is responsible to its shareholders. 
The company records revenue in excess of $600 million so a shortfall of around $30 million is a small dent. Kyle and Jackie O and their team were costing SCA an estimated $5 million plus several million dollars in marketing and promotion each year.  A replacement show could cost around $1 million for the talent.
Still, I was amazed that Southern Cross Austereo didn’t negotiate and pay Kyle and Jackie O a higher amount – though I’m sure they also considered that they either make a change now or have to make a change in a couple of years anyway.

It is not surprising that Southern Cross Austereo’s share price dropped 5.6% last week with the news, which would have knocked more than $50 million off the value of the company.

Southern Cross Austereo have an army of brilliant programmers who will come up with a new show and over time will get it right – though not without a year of pain, building a new show and re-establishing an audience for 2DAY Breakfast. 

Hamish and Andy aren’t likely contenders for 2DAY or a Network Breakfast show. 

Southern Cross Austereo will be drawing on their talent pool heavily.  Possibilities would include Wil Anderson, Fifi, Jules Lund, Sophie Monk, Dave Thornton, Dan & Maz, Angus O’Loughlin, maybe Tom Ballard and many others.  Pilots will commence in earnest at Southern Cross Austereo immediately, if they haven’t already.

For any talent that follows on from a hugely successful show like this, the unfortunate thing for them is that they will pale by comparison to Kyle and Jackie O. Programmers almost always have to put in a ‘sacrificial lamb‘ to take the ratings hit and bare the brunt of being directly compared with the previous show – and then launch another show 6 to 12 months later.  I've seen this happen with greats like Doug Mulray, Wendy Harmer, Andrew Denton, and many others.

It should be pointed out that Kyle and Jackie O are still very much at the top of their game.  They may have some detractors but they have very serious ‘fans‘.  They have still got many years of great radio to come.

So where’s the impact?  Ignoring the possibility of Kyle & Jackie moving to a competitor for a moment, and assuming they go into “radio retirement” in 2014 …

2DAYFM’s share will drop to around 6%.  The big winners will be breakfast at Mix and Nova (each up at least 1%), followed by WS’s Jonesy and Amanda, and Triple M.  The challenge will now be on Fitzy & Wippa to see if they can rise to the top of the breakfast ratings and live up to their high priced long-term contract. 

If they do (without Kyle & Jackie O on-air anywhere, that’s quite likely in the short-term), the far greater challenge will be sustaining it in the long-term over several years, as Kyle & Jackie O have done, and Wendy and the Morning Crew before them.

However, the latest reports suggest that Kyle and Jackie O are heading to the Australian Radio Network’s MIX.  If this happens it will be a serious game changer. 

This move makes a lot of sense. 

Australian Radio Network CEO, Ciaran Davis, is reported to have said that the team would round out the company’s Sydney breakfast lineups.  He said that he thought Kyle and Jackie O were one of the best teams in the world.  

The Australian Radio Network, via its parent Clear Channel, are said to be organising Kyle and Jackie to be broadcast on 100 overseas stations – which would no doubt appeal to them both.

Whereas the Australian Radio Network can negotiate an incentive deal with the team given Mix breakfast is currently rating a low 4%, Southern Cross Austereo didn’t have that option as Kyle and Jackie’s current rating is already at the top of the breakfast ratings ladder. 

Kyle and Jackie can probably lift Mix’s ratings to a share of 8%, making it one of the market leaders. This move will be seen as one of the boldest moves in recent times in radio. (more).

One thing is certain: 2DAY Breakfast will record a massive ratings result for its last survey with Kyle and Jackie O, released in December.

Success in Breakfast radio relies on a number of things.  Delivering great content consistently every day, longevity on the air, uniqueness, quotability, relatability, lots of marketing and promotion, and the ability to make the audience laugh, cry or think.  Yes, Kyle and Jackie O had a ton of marketing, but they delivered on the promise.

The radio medium needs shows like Kyle and Jackie O and especially people like Kyle. Not only does he have drive and vision but is a straight shooter, is unique, and keeps the medium of radio alive and relevant.
Kyle and Jackie O set a new benchmark for breakfast radio and it looks like they may get to do it again.




Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network and is Managing Director of Marchmedia.


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