SCA bites a bullet called hit107 | radioinfo

SCA bites a bullet called hit107

Friday 17 October, 2014
Amos & Dani - the hit107 Breakfast team

Peter Saxon talks to Craig Bruce about the big changes in Adelaide and what might be in store for Sydney.

SAFM has packed a lot of glorious history into the 34 years since it first sparked to life in 1980. It is, after all, the ancestral home of Austereo, the house of FM excellence that has dominated the band for most of that time. But there comes a time when the decision must be made to either let the station grow old with its audience or to start afresh. 

Fact is, 18 year olds have no respect for tradition. For them, it’s just “baggage.” SAFM had become the station their parents had grown up with. On that score, CB admits that NOVA has been eating it’s lunch and nothing that the formidable collective of programming brains at SCA has done to tweak the station has been effective. “We don’t ever again want to have a conversation around NOVA being cooler or funkier than SAFM,” he confides.

Everything about the rebrand screams new, fresh, cool and funky… with a female skew. SCA Head of Marketing and Communication Nikki Clarkson describes the demographic bullseye as a 27 year old fashion obsessed woman who wants what’s hot right now and is not afraid to change brands to get it. Her catch words are  “Playful, Social, Colourful.”

But while the Adelaide market has been a problem child for SCA for some time, the big ‘budget emergency’ is in Sydney where 2Day profits have been reportedly halved and audience numbers down by almost two thirds in Breakfast. Surely big changes are also planned for the now venerable 2Day brand. But what?

Last week’s big rumour was that Hamish and Andy will be doing Breakfast on the station in a $10 million deal over three years. Given that the “HIT” brand has already been registered as a trademark for each of the Today Network stations, it now seems likely that 2Day will be rebranded HIT104.7. 

If the “HIT” format follows the programming model of the new Adelaide station (which will play 10 songs per hour in breakfast - up from the four of the old SAFM), then it’s hard to see how the giant talents of Hamish and Andy would fit in. 

Of course, CB won’t confirm or deny anything but he leaves telltale hints as to what is likely to occur all throughout the discussion with radioinfo’s Peter Saxon who traveled to Adelaide as a guest of SCA yesterday.

Saxon: Is today a clarion call to say, ‘NOVA, we’re coming to get you?’

CB: Nothing has changed in that respect. It’s alway been Today Network versus NOVA around the country. And outside of Melbourne, they’re winning. Well done to them for that.

But in Adelaide it was becoming increasingly difficult to compete with them in that under 40’s space. Our heritage became a bit of a millstone for us. All the things that we were famous for like Sky Show and Fugitive were for a moment and an audience that had largely moved on. And as much as we tried to reconnect and be that station, we found it difficult.

Saxon: It’ must be very hard to target under 40’s for more than 30 years…

CB: That’s right. But I don’t want to make excuses. At the end of the day our history has been very rich and so many people have contributed over the years top Austereo and now SCA. Then again, these brands are 34 years old, Fox isn’t far off it and so’s 2Day.

Saxon: You already have a strongly male skewed network in Triple M. Is the strategy now about aligning the HIT brand with females?

CB: Whilst we’re firmly targeting and aim to win under 40’s women, the end game is to have as many people under 40 with a pulse listening to us. But you have pick a mark when you’re starting up a new brand of who you want to win first.

Saxon: How many songs per hour will HIT107 be playing in Breakfast?

CB: In our trials we’ve been playing 10. 

Saxon: And that’s up from?

CB: Previously four. But if you listen next week, you’ll hear a very different structure for breakfast. And you won’t think, ‘wow, why aren’t they talking?’ 

You’ll hear a different approach to news and information which reflects the way that our audience is getting information which is through that thing there (pointing to a smartphone). No one’stuning into our radio station at seven in the morning to hear the overnight news because they’ve already got it from their screen before they tune into the radio.

We’ll have updates at 6 am, 7 and 8, but less likely to have them at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30. This gives us some time back so when some other stations are talking and playing ads we’ll have music.

According to our research, there’s certainly still an appetite for radio among under 30s but gee you’ve got to be careful with the amount of talk. As soon as the mic is open, you’re at risk of losing a listener, no matter how good it is.

Saxon: Let’s get to the main game, which is Sydney. Many people will see what you’re doing here in Adelaide as a pointer as to what will happen in Sydney.

CB: Sure.

Saxon: You’ve got three stations there, 2Day, NOVA and KIIS all targeting under 40’s. One of them will be forced to leave town. 

CB: Yep

Saxon: And you don’t want it to be you…

CB: No. We don’t.

Saxon: Clearly, you’ve given the others a very long start. And no one’s going to believe that you did all this rebranding here without any plan to extend it to other stations…

CB: I’ll answer your question this way - because I can see where it’s going. Firstly, even if I had a plan for Sydney, you know I’m not going to tell you.

If you were advising us, what would you do?

Saxon: I don’t know. I’m vexed! On one hand Hamish and Andy in breakfast could certainly be another game changer and would take the fight up to Kyle and Jackie O. Or, with the HIT format, you could try to out NOVA NOVA, which is already an 11 year old brand.

CB: Thankfully Hamish and Andy still work for us and we have a history with them and we’d like them on our roster for next year. Let’s see how that plays out.

In regards to the opportunities around for a change of roster for Sydney… right at the moment, to be honest, we’ve really just been focused on Adelaide. It may not seem such a difficult move to change a radio station and put a new breakfast show together, but bloody hell, it’s been a huge focus!

I like the look of the brand. I like the feel of what we’re doing. I love the production. The new packaging that starts on Monday, I feel for the first time in a long time, is in genuine sync with the target audience. That’s not to say I was unhappy with the previous sound or that I was unhappy with the other format. I just think that what we’ve don, given a clean slate, is a real step forward.

So, if you can imagine the HIT brand in Sydney, then obviously that gives us another option.

Saxon: If you got Hamish and Andy on Breakfast, you might claw back some of the listeners you lost to Kyle and Jackie O, but you wouldn’t be playing 10 songs an hour, would you?

CB: I have my own view on Kyle and Jack - and it’s not the reason they’re not with us anymore. I think that as they grow older, they’ll become less of a challenger for the under 35 audience. Of course, they have a massive brand and a huge audience. But these are people who made decisions 15 years ago as to what they were into. And you look at their profiles and many of them are into their late 30s and early 40s.

So I don’t see it as a three horse CHR race forever in Sydney because Kyle is in his mid 40s already.

I have a firm belief that radio works in cycles. And that’s not just me hoping. If we get the tone and feel right here in Adelaide, some of what we’re doing may get to Sydney. But we’ve got to get this right first.

 

 

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