What are Kyle and Jackie O worth to radio land?

Staff Writer

What are Kyle and Jackie O worth to radio land?

Let’s put the figure at… hmmm…. $100 million. 

The shock survey that saw Kyle and Jackie O strip 6 ratings points from their old station 2Day FM in their new outing at KIIS 1065 is big news in Australian radio.


That figure of $100 million sound far fetched?

Consider this  – 2Day FM is the flag-bearer station for Southern Cross Media. It’s the mothership of its radio fleet.

When 2Day FM is breached, the entire network lists, takes on water and advertisers call: “Man the lifeboats!”

Of course ratings go up and down and everything could look different next time around.

There is no brand loyalty here. Advertisers go where the numbers are. And today's numbers are truly eye-watering.

Radio generals, who’d prefer to stay anonymous, tell me that every ratings point lost by 2Day FM could be worth some $20 million to Southern Cross Media. 

This Tuesday they must be wondering just how they were looted. If they think it was a gang of roving pirates…no.

Truth is, it was an insider job.

I’m told that when Cap’n Kyle and First Mate Jackie O wanted to abandon 2Day FM after working there for almost two decades, the matter had to go upstairs to the board. (As are any company decisions involving more than a million dollars – and Kyle’s pay packet alone was worth more than that.)

Insiders say some of the board members were generally fed up with Sandilands’ antics. Who could blame them?

He’d been sorely tested by the infamous lie detector test in which a 14 year-old girl revealed she was raped; the tasteless remarks about Magda Szubanski which earned Kyle a suspension and the incident when he called a female journalist “a fat slag”.

And just to recap, Kyle said: "What a fat, bitter thing you are. You're deputy editor of an online thing. You've got a nothing job anyway. You're a piece of shit.

"This low thing, Alison Stephenson, deputy editor of news.com.au online. You're supposed to be impartial, you little troll.

"You're a bullshit artist, girl. You should be fired from your job. Your hair's very '90s. And your blouse. You haven't got that much titty to be having that low cut a blouse. Watch your mouth or I'll hunt you down."

Appalling. And that’s not to mention the rumours of Kyle’s repeated, vexing demands for star treatment.

It was no surprise the board, including chairman Max Moore-Wilton, pulled the plug.

However, everyone in the biz wondered, where was “Plan B”?  Who would replace Kyle and Jackie O?

Max Moore-Wilton underestimates just how loyal, how forgiving, how rusted-on radio listeners are. And that seasoned radio performers are very, very rare, no matter how much they offend some sensibilities. And Kyle’s a figure we love to hate.

Like it or loathe it, they go places others wouldn’t dare. That’s why they get the big bucks.

I have some personal experience in the radio aquarium.

When I left 2Day FM in 2004 after 11 years in the breakfast shift with The Morning Crew (after winning 84 out of 88 surveys as No.1 in the Sydney FM market) the ratings also dropped by some 6 points.

I’d been shown the door as being “too old” for the demographic. Fair enough. No regrets. Had a ball.

I was later told that decision cost some $20 million in lost revenue.

It wasn’t that our successors, Judith Lucy, Peter Helliar and Kaz Cooke were bad broadcasters – it was just that they weren’t Peter Moon, Paul Holmes and me.

The thousands of letters and emails I received (I still have them in a ring binder) reveal something all veterans in the biz know – that a personal connection built up over years is a very valuable commodity and cannot be easily replaced. The bean counters do not have a clue.

“I will miss you, you had your babies the same time I did.”

“I remember where I was on your wedding day.”

“The laughs helped me get through post natal depression.”

I’m sure Kyle and Jackie O got exactly the same messages when they packed up.

However, unlike the Morning Crew, which just disappeared off the radar, the 2Day FM listeners have somewhere else to go.

And they’ve gone to KIIS 1065. It's only a button on a car radio after all. Just as they followed Alan Jones to 2GB, and 2UE has never quite recovered, years later.

In their wake, Kyle and Jackie O left the line-up of Merrick Watts, Jules Lund, Sophie Monk and Mel B who have very few radio flying hours under their belts as a team.

(By way of contrast, Kyle and Jackie O had been pulling big ratings in the 2Day FM Hot 30 Countdown evening shift for nine years before they secured the prestigious breakfast gig.)

One has to wonder what’s the point of putting telegenic women like Sophie Monk and Mel B on radio on the airwaves?

These young women may yet mature into great radio presenters, but they ain’t got what it takes right now. Why weren’t they tested on other shifts on the station to hear if they have that magical “it” ?

Might look good for the advertisers – they’re marketable across media platforms – but, here’s a reminder, radio is not a visual medium.

“Awkward” is the word that comes to mind, compared to the well-oiled machine that’s bombastic Kyle and his ferocious terrier offsider Jackie O.

“Content is King” say the people who know radio.

You may love or loathe Kyle and Jackie O, but radio listeners have spoken. The armchair experts will no doubt have their say and lament the rise and rise of King Kyle.

But do you listen to brekkie radio? Understand what's on offer? Do you have a clue about what makes for entertaining listening? Know radio craft when you hear it? Understand the demographic?

You may not get why Kyle and Jackie O’s listeners have followed them, but you’d expect the executives at Southern Cross Media just might.




Wendy Harmer is an author, journalist, and editor-in-chief of The Hoopla.




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