There isn’t room for 3 CHR’s in Sydney…. Something has got to give in the mother of all radio battles!


The 3 way CHR / Top 40 battle in Sydney can’t last forever. Only two stations will survive. The battle between 2day, Kiis and Nova for the hit music position has been underway now for 9 months since Kyle & Jackie defected and ARN re-branded Mix to Kiis.

Kiis having the most powerful, strongest and “heritage” breakfast show in the market will continue to do well.

The real contest is between 2day v Nova. We can probably expect further changes both on air and off air following next week's Survey 6 ratings result.


The Head of Content for Southern Cross Austereo, Craig Bruce said recently “The thing for us is we are not focused on Kiis for the moment, we are focused on Nova and that's not really a big hill to climb”.

The winner long term will mostly depend not only on which has the most powerful breakfast show, but also which has the deepest pockets. These brands are not only in a product battle (music and breakfast), but are in the midst of a major marketing battle.

The three key areas you need to win in radio are breakfast, marketing and music. Success for the top Sydney CHR’s will get down to breakfast and marketing. Former Austereo Group PD Greg Smith always talked about the 3 M’s Mornings, Music and Marketing.

Programming changes aside, whichever company has the biggest marketing war chest, Southern Cross Austereo or Nova Entertainment, and the one which is prepared to spend will emerge victors and Sydney will revert to a 2 CHR market.

And an important note to the relevant CEOs: “programming changes aside” assumes there will be major programming changes made before the “battle of the biggest marketing war chest commences”.  Any “marketing war chest expenditure” prior to those changes being made could be proven to be wasted and fruitless expenditure".

The current CHR battle in Sydney is a similar situation to the free to air television market in Australia and the recent Ten v Nine v Seven breakfast battle.  Although in that case it was the incumbents who  won  (as is usually the case).

This is a bit different but Kiis is virtually the incumbent given the Kyle & Jackie breakfast show heritage in Sydney. Kiis is, in a way both the new  hot brand and the heritage brand at the same time, a great position to be in.

Also worth remembering is that many younger targeted CHR’s around the world actually have older skewed (heritage) breakfast shows and do very well. Which is fine for the leader but not a flanker trying to make ratings inroads.

There will usually end up being only two major players in any category. Coke v Pepsi, Qantas v Virgin, Nine v Seven, Windows v Apple, Pandora v Spotify and the list goes on.

Then, sometimes, there is a distant and struggling third – and in CHR / Top 40 nowadays there’s never room for the third player to be successful or financially sustainable.  Even in markets much bigger than Sydney.

So … one of the stations will be forced out of the format. The number 2 CHR will have successfully flanked Kiis at the younger end. They will need to be targeting the under 25 audience and for the time being giving up on the key advertising demo 25-39.

One of the stations, Nova or 2day, will have to change direction and find another format. This would be problematic for both companies as both 2day and Nova are part of a national Network and are sold to advertisers as such. So neither will be keen to move away from the position.

In major markets around the world there are usually only 2 CHR’s in the Top 10 stations, ie the major players with the highest rating and the biggest revenue earners. Sure, some of these markets have 100’s of stations but only the top players are successful and are of the programming standard of Australian metro markets.

New York has only 1 CHR in the top 10, Z100, In Los Angeles there is 2, Power and Kiis, London has 2 commercial CHR’s Kiis and Capital and Auckland has 2 with Edge and ZM.

And of course our capital city markets Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth etc. have 2 CHR’s Nova and the Today brand – FOX, B105, SAFM, Etc

There’s a lot Programmers can do like strategy & target changes, music adjustments and fine tuning, positioning changes, breakfast line-up changes and improvements, new features and tactics, but Sydney radio is now also very much a marketing battle which could prove costly to both SCA and Nova in terms of lost revenue due to weaker ratings while the 2 stations virtually cancel each other out and also costly in terms of marketing spend required to win.

But losing the key CHR/Top 40 position in Sydney would probably end up costing more!

Survey 6 ratings results are out next week, on September 30. These results could be the decider for potential further changes at 2day and Nova.

We reached out to  Paul Jackson and Tony Thomas from Nova Entertainment for their comments.


Brad March is a Director of Radio Today, is a former CEO of Austereo and has been named Media Executive of the Year. He’s Director of Marchmedia and Pacific Retail Management.



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