Will the SCA gamble pay off? One survey will tell

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 3 June 2015
Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.

Southern Cross Austereo is approaching D-Day. Next month the embattled radio network brings back its star talent, Hamish and Andy, and UM's CEO, Mat Baxter, reckons that media buyers will know from their first survey if the gamble has paid off for SCA.

Speaking to AdNews off the back of GsK's third ratings period for the year, which was released yesterday, Baxter said: “The minute the first survey comes out, look at Kyle and Jackie O – you knew instantly that it was working, and you will know with Hamish and Andy pretty instantly if the gamble has paid off or not.”

Baxter explained that a lot of buyers and clients will be sitting on the fence about booking with the station until survey one comes out early August, and he said that the network itself will be banking on the boys to not only take the drive time slot, but also create a lift over the whole network.

“They [SCA] need stars back in the stable, while they have strong talent, they haven't got any stars, Hamish and Andy are about as big as they come,” Baxter said.

“More importantly, it's whether Hamish and Andy can create a halo-effect across the whole network, not only Hit 104.1 but more broadly for Austereo, and Austereo are banking on that.

“You look at the money they're paying the boys, and there's no way that money can be justified if all the boys do is help them win drive time. That investment can only be justified if that investment helps them win not only drive but starts to give them traction in other sessions.”

AdNews has previously speculated that SCA is paying the duo $5m each over three years.

Yesterday's ratings saw Kyle and Jackie O, and ARN, retain their lofty position at the top of the Sydney FM breakfast ratings pile. SCA's Sydney Hit 104.1 breakfast team of Dan and Maz saw another ratings slide, dropping 0.4 percentage points to hit 2.4% audience share.

Speaking with AdNews yesterday SCA's Guy Dobson has hit out at comments by Australian Radio Network (ARN) CEO Ciaran Davis suggesting Hamish and Andy won't be a “silver bullet” for the network, calling it a case of “pot calling the kettle black”.

Dobson, took the position of executive director metropolitan operations at the close of last year, said that Hamish and Andy are “phase two” of a consistent strategy to reinvigorate its Sydney Hit 104.1 station, and any suggestion by rival networks that it is banking on the one show is ironic.

“They've just poached a show - that to me isn't a strategy, that's putting all of your eggs in one basket,” Dobson said. “We're doing our own thing, and we're doing things in our own times.”

“So keep on saying those kinds of phrases and idioms, it just makes Hamish and Andy hungrier to be that silver bullet – them's fighting words,” he added.

Hamish and Andy is just the next chapter in an arms race happening in the heritage media, with each of the networks racing to ensure that they have national networks in a bid to sell country-wide solutions to advertisers.

Head of trading at Match Media, Theo Zisoglou, told AdNews that having a national network does help networks when it comes to gaining ad dollars however, whether it's the correct way to buy radio is debatable.

“With different brands having different strengths in different markets, you would have to question whether a network deal is the right approach every time,” he said. “But does it make it easier for agencies to leverage a better deal by spending with one or two networks? Of course it does. But the best targeted approach has to be to assess each market and each station on its merits on reaching the right audience in that market.

“As for radio as an industry, I don’t believe network options will drive more dollars to the medium as a whole, but will affect where revenue is directed within that medium,” he added.

Ashley Earnshaw, head of investment for Carat agreed, telling AdNews: “It comes back to the competitive value and price side. When we look at radio, we look at the breadth and depth in each market. It's good there's that national footprint, but we asses radio market by market. From an agency point of view it hasn't made a huge difference.”

Earnshaw added that while ratings are important and they do dictate the flow of ad dollars, he said that other aspects like social and content offerings also make a difference now.

“We're asking a lot of the networks these days, from a Carat point of view, you need that scale of audience, and you need those ideas and all those different connect points, like social and content, but really ad dollars are always going to follow share of audience as it does on TV. It is important but it's not everything to us.”

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