Where to now for 2Day FM ?


It was a far greater ratings explosion than expected.

This week’s crippling ratings blow at 2Day FM, following the departure of Kyle and Jackie O to KIIS 106.5, will see the executives at SCA (Southern Cross Austereo) doing some serious soul searching. However, it also gives SCA a new starting point in 2Day FM’s history.

Because now, quite literally … the only way now to go is up!

Like most people, I fully expected Kyle and Jackie O to achieve number 1 in the first few surveys of the year. So congratulations to them, and also to ARN management, on such a coup – and to Jonesy and Amanda, Charlie and the team at WSFM on their spectacular success.

Meanwhile, back at SCA …

New breakfast shows generally take at least a full year to gain flow, cohesion and some traction, and up to 2 years to start achieving reasonable ratings. SCA have a team of experienced, savvy programmers who will be able to direct, steer, shape and craft the new 2Day show to improve its content, which it's already doing. Coupled with strong tactics to generate word-of-mouth, and good marketing, 2Day will begin to rebuild its ratings and should show some solid improvement during the year.

In the meantime it will be a battle of resilience and a battle in the minds of both the SCA execs and the talent on and off the air on the 2Day breakfast show.

I’ve seen many breakfast shows launched and they always take time, usually longer than you think, both in terms of delivering strong, consistent content, and then eventually the ratings that follow.

Examples include the launch of the Wendy Harmer/ Peter Moon show which was, in its earliest days, very average to listen to. Matt Tilley and Tracy Bartram’s show at Fox FM took years to build into the powerhouse it became. The early days of the Richard Stubbs breakfast show on Triple M had a very slow start. Jonesy and Amanda on WSFM took a while to develop and gain consistent audience acceptance in the Sydney market. Triple M Melbourne breakfast took many years and changes to get to where it is today. And at Nova 969, Merrick and Rosso (left) underwent significant changes over several years before achieving #1.

Of course, there have also been many breakfast shows that didn’t quite make it. For instance in Sydney the ill fated 2Day show with Peter Helliar, Judith Lucy and Kaz Cooke (right), the high profile Sonia Kruger & Todd McKenney on Mix, and Vega’s breakfast show with Rebecca Wilson, Tony Squires, Angela Catterns and Mikey Robins.

The single most important factor will be for the 2Day team to focus on delivering compelling, relevant, unique content – radio is an audio medium and what ‘comes out of the speakers’ remains paramount, a point that can get lost in the age of social media. It really is a case of ‘back to basics’ for 2Day FM. The content of the new show will help recreate the 2Day brand. SCA’s world class programmers listening to the audience via listener advisory boards, focus groups and perceptual research studies, will continually refine the show, making improvements along the way, break by break, day by day, week by week.

The new 2Day show – Jules, Merrick & Sophie with Mel B is well cast, it reminds me of the TV show ‘Friends’ which was a huge hit for over a decade. The show needs to establish its own brand identity separate and distinct from the duo they replaced. The new show doesn’t have the ‘X’ factor (or the ‘K’ factor) but it does have broad dimensions, a bit of ‘something for everybody’. Sophie may prove to be an X factor in the long run. Now the show just needs time. 

Will SCA executives have the nerve to give it enough? One of the key factors for success in Breakfast is simply longevity. A show and on air team needs to stay in place long enough to ‘find an audience’, and for listeners to become familiar with it and turn listening into a daily habit becoming their ‘favourite’ show. Giving the new 2Day show long enough to develop will be one of SCA’s challenges.

2Day FM Breakfast is an important piece of the puzzle for SCA. Its success will drive the success of the 2Day brand and will also be the driving force of perceptions of the entire Today Network. Agencies and clients will look to the growth and success of 2Day FM to determine their advertising spend across the entire network.

It’s difficult to gauge the revenue impact of the 2Day FM result. Metro radio accounts for $263mil of SCA’s last reported earnings (FY 2013) of $653mil. Let’s be conservative and estimate that just 60% of that comes from the Today Network – so a figure of approx $157m could be attributed to the Today Network. And, as mentioned, the perception of that network by agencies and the media is driven out of Australia’s media headquarters, Sydney.

I wish the SCA team all the best in their efforts to rebuild 2Day FM. SCA is a company not used to being the ‘underdog’ as it has maintained its leadership position for a long time. It will take an entirely new mindset at SCA to embrace that challenge and make the most of the opportunity of ‘being the underdog’ for the first time in the company’s history. So it will be interesting to watch the progress throughout 2014.


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


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