Ratings race proceeds apace

Ratings race proceeds apace

Posted May 8th, 2011 by debritz

All eyes in the broadcasting industry will be on the results of the third (second for Brisbane) Australian major cities radio ratings survey on Tuesday. This one promises to be interesting for several reasons:

1) It could help set the price for the Fairfax Radio stations, which are widely believed to be on the block. Fairfax's decision to slash sub-editing jobs at its newspapers in favour of outsourcing last week may be unpopular in journalism circles, but it shows new CEO Greg Hywood is serious about reorganising the business. The stations, including 4BC and 4BH in Brisbane, 2UE in Sydney and the high-rating 3AW in Melbourne, could be sold as a package or the network could be split up. (I've speculated about the options here.) Chances are, they will sell for less than Fairfax paid for them, but how much they fetch will depend on how well the stations are performing. 4BC did well last survey; 4BH not so well. However, the impact of the floods and cyclone earlier this year were still being felt, perhaps artificially inflating the figures for news-talk stations. If 4BC did benefit from a blip, the question will be: did it hold on to the audience?

2) B105 claimed the crown in terms of audience share but Nova 106.9, Triple M and 97.3FM were all well within striking distance of the prized No.1 slot. While the stations' managers will all say cumes (cumulative audiences) and demographics are more important, they do care who wins overall, and so do many advertisers who want to place their commercials on the leading station.

3) Again, probably thanks to the natural disasters, 612ABC had a strong survey overall and breakfast announcer Spencer Howson (yes, he's a friend of mine, and I used to be a regular on his show) did exceptionally well to lead by a wide margin in the most important shift of the day. Which way will Aunty's ratings go, and to what lengths will the commercial stations go to claim that that's not at all significant (when, of course, every person who's listening to the ABC is not listening to a commercial station, and therefore isn't exposed to the advertising that keeps these networks afloat).

May 9 update: 4) With Austereo also undergoing a change in ownership, the results may have some bearing on the extent of cost-cutting at the Brisbane stations. Both DMG (which is currently looking for a new program director for Brisbane's Nova 106.9) and ARN have already slashed their budgets. The radio business is resilient, but it is tightening its belt.
Roll on, Tuesday.