Consistency key in Melbourne radio battleground

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 14 July 2016

The “hysteria in the Melbourne radio market” is unfounded, according to media buyers, who have pointed to the need for consistency when it comes to cracking the most competitive radio landscape in the country.

Melbourne had been widely cited as the “radio market to watch” this year, as a result of three of the major stations all revamping their breakfast teams, with Australian Radio Network (ARN) adding Matt and Meshel to its Kiis line-up, Nova with Chrissie, Sam and Browny and Gold's Jo & Lehmo.

With survey four of the GfK radio ratings released last week, it marks the halfway point in the ratings year. While most media buyers that AdNews spoke to agreed that the market was in no way sewn up, they did note that consistency is the key when it comes to winning the Melbourne battleground.

Maxus Melbourne CEO Mark McCraith says that “there seems to be a lot of hysteria in the Melbourne market” but he thinks its unfounded, given the consistency of some of the stations in the market; something he expects to continue for the bulk of the market.

“What media buyers want is consistency and an understanding of where people sit and where they want to be,” McCraigh says. 'We don't like surprises because we're risk averse. From that perspective you have to say the Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) stations have delivered”.

SCA's FoxFM and Triple M have been long time leaders in the Melbourne market, and in survey 4 had a solid lead with 8.2% audience share and 9.5% in breakfast respectively.

Carat head of investment Ashley Earnshaw told AdNews at the beginning of the year that the Melbourne market was the one to watch, and that he was urging caution when it came to investment given the newness of much of the market.

Six months on, he says that while SCA is effectively number one, all other stations would be vying to be the competitive number three in the market and from that perspective “Nova has really cracked the consistency job in Melbourne”.

Nova's breakfast team of Chrissie, Sam and Browny had a healthy 6.4% audience share in the last survey with its drive team of Kate, Tim and Marty in second place out of the FM stations with 8.3% audience share.

“One survey doesn't make a network and we're always encouraging people to look at a couple of surveys in aggregate,” Earnshaw says. “Looking at the profile of those radio shows in Melbourne, it's fairly robust as to where those show sit. And on the back of that we would certainly be backing those shows that are doing a bit better, because that is where the audience is.”

The buyers all agreed that when it came to Kiis there were some concerns with the results so far, with some pointing to talent line-up as a possible issue. In the latest survey Kiis picked up 4.6% audience share in breakfast and 6.5% audience share in drive.

McCraith noted that it's possible that the fluctuations in the market would have a fatigue on buyers who won't be willing to take a risk with investing in it.

But Zenith Melbourne investment director Joanna Fawkner thinks when it comes to Melbourne, its all still up in the air. While she says obvious trends have emerged, she still believes it's much too early to judge new breakfast shows in particular, noting that she'll be waiting until survey six for a stable representation of the ratings.

She says that Melbourne has one of the most loyal radio markets in the country and that for listeners “you have your station and you tend to stick with it”, which can make it a challenging market to launch a new show.

One of the issues in the market this time around is also that so many stations have built shows around a traditional contemporary hit radio (CHR) format, making them difficult to differentiate.

“Breakfast is the linchpin in the schedule and there is a lot of sameness between stations,” Fawkner says. “Even when you see from a content point of view between Kiis, Nova and Hit in particular, even the music formats are kind of the same. So there is a bit of same same but different, and there is nothing really that stand out as different.”

How much time is too much time?

One of the challenges for stations putting new shows in the market, is how long to wait until they start to see results?

“Radio is similar to TV in that one or two ordinary surveys and everyone is quick to say it's not working and what are they going to do next?,” Fawkner says. “You have to give it time. Look at Triple M Hot Breakfast: when they launched the station was in a little bit of a downward trend and it look them time to find their groove and build that up. Now they're reigning number one and have been for quite a while.”

“Not even an off-the-fly remark from Eddie McGuire can change things”.

Earnshaw also agrees that all stations will be giving it a bit more time before deciding to change lineups.

“There has been an awful lot spent on marketing in the Melbourne market – the stations have all put a lot of money behind it and I think they will all persist with that talent as well,” Earnshaw says.

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