What makes smoothfm tick?

Former Assistant Editor
Image: Facebook / smoothfm

Since launching in 2012, NOVA Entertainment’s smoothfm has become one of Australia’s most successful radio brands.

While the inspiration for the network undoubtedly came from Global’s Smooth Radio in the UK (which launched in 2010), smoothfm has been executed and grown exceptionally well on a local level by Paul Jackson and his team (since it rebranded from Classic Rock, and Vega before that.)

As of Survey #1 2019, smooth is the #1 rating station in Sydney for the third consecutive book, while smoothfm in Melbourne lost grip on top spot solid run of four wins on the trot.

Ultimately, the key to its success was the wide open ‘gap in the market’ for a genuine soft AC format, which the network capitalised on with aplomb which it launched.

The network differentiated itself by being the first ‘more music’ breakfast in the Sydney and Melbourne markets, while the choice of Michael Buble as the face of smooth has proven hugely successful, to the point that his music is now synonymous with the brand.

“Our vision is always to leave the listener feeling better than when they tuned in,” NOVA Entertainment group program director Paul Jackson told Radio Today after the final book of 2018.

The station’s gains over the last few years have tied in with its music strategy having broader appeal, and smooth isn’t just an “oldies” station anymore.

“Smooth really has had a brilliant run, and has added even more cume especially in the younger end as well,” Jackson added after Survey #1 this year.

“Possibly the best book smooth has delivered since its inception in Sydney, and not far off that in Melbourne.

“The smooth format stations have such broad appeal when you break down the demos and I think it will continue to remain where it is.”

Smooth’s two breakfast shows are also more information based as opposed to entertainment based.

Both Bogart & Glenn, and Mike & Jennifer’s shows have a warm and friendly, another strong point of difference.

“I spent many years defending Mike & Jen, and Bogart & Glenn on our smooth Breakfast shows when people were saying ‘when are you going to get a show that is more like the other ones’,” said Jackson.

As with most music formats, smooth’s music strategy has evolved naturally over time, with the network enlisting Sam Smith for a new marketing campaign in 2018.

Smooth’s closest competitors are now ARN’s Pure Gold stations, WSFM in Sydney and Gold 104.3 in Melbourne.

But the data shows that the music on smooth is still a key differential, with smooth 95.3 only sharing 23.6% of their spins with WS in the month of March.

The next highest crossover was with AC station 2DayFM, who shared 10.8% of its playlist with smooth.

With the natural progression of the format over the years, there is perhaps now room for a new Soft AC station in the Aussie market.

It’s a position partially used by 2CH until they changed to Oldies ’60s and ’70s format recently, pitched as “exclusively for the Baby Boomers”.

Soft AC is also the format on the Hit Network’s Easy Hits, which is one of its strongest digital stations.

With the high cuming Nova and share dominant smooth in tandem, Jackson is of the mindset that his two networks will remain a dominant force for the foreseeable future.

“The combination of Nova and smooth is unbeatable.”

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9 Apr 2019 - 2:31 pm

If only they actually promoted it in the other capitals (on DAB+). There’s a huge gap for this format in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth yet nobody knows Smooth even exists in these cities on DAB+. Such a wasted opportunity.

9 Apr 2019 - 4:36 pm

Smooth FM is the exact replica of the AWA Network in the 80’s with 2CH and 3MP Easy Listening stations. One of the drivers of the format Bruce Rogerson passed away last week.
He and a lot of extremely talented Radio people created something that was not only new but hugely successful. The positioning, the links and the formula is EXACTLY the same. History has a habit of repeating itself and sometimes it would be good to acknowledge it. Radio did have a life before the year 2000.


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