The race to top the stations: Perth radio in 2013

The radio ratings battle has begun again for another year and each station has its own recipe for success in 2013.

Nova is looking to use big cash competitions to increase its lead on 92.9, 6PR and ABC 720 will fight it out over election coverage and 96FM is hoping its strong new music positioning will be enough to claw back listeners from Mix 94.5, which is in turn sitting pretty in the knowledge that it's on to a winning formula.

The final radio survey of 2012 had Mix 94.5 sitting atop the radio roost, followed by 96FM, ABC720 in third place, Nova 93.7 and triple j on equal fourth, then 92.9, 6PR and finally 6IX.

For every station except the government-owned 720 and triple j, it all comes down to the bankbook; good ratings allow radio stations to sell more advertising spots and the higher the ranking, the higher the price at which those ads can be charged.

The always popular The Bunch.

#1: Mix 94.5
Mix 94.5 is the monster of Perth radio and has barely missed a beat since it began its winning streak more than a decade ago; it notched up 100 consecutive wins before 96FM knocked it off its perch for one survey last year.

The ratings goliath has the luxury of being able to stick with what works.

"We don't change for the sake of it," Mix 94.5 content director Russell Clarke said.

"We have with a strong-rating heritage breakfast show, a drive show that's been on the air for six years and the good thing for us too is that all of our on-air teams are Perth locals, which is quite unique."

Last year, The Bunch breakfast host Fred Botica celebrated his 20th year on the station and Clarke asserts the team will continue together as long as they rate well.

"If it was a breakfast show in decline you would look at doing something, but the whole station ended the year very strongly," he said.

Mix 94.5 kicks off the year with its biggest community event, the Australia Day Skyworks and will bring back its "big heritage cash contests" Cash Call and Perth Words.

Blackers, Carmen and Fitzy.

#2: 96FM
After a couple of tumultuous years in which a flood of presenters left the station and the sale of the station was up in the air, 96FM program director Brad McNally is focusing on consistency in 2013.

"We've had enough changes here so we're keeping things as they are," he said.

It's the second year for breakfast combination Blackers, Carmen & Fitzy, who took the reins after Phil "Ugly Phil" O'Neil left the station.

"It's always about breakfast," McNally said.

"I spend an enormous part of my day developing the breakfast show but that's a two-year project.

"It takes a long time to change people's habits."

The station had a surprising coup when it knocked its main competitor, Mix 94.5, from the No. 1 spot at one stage last year.

"We'd like to get back there again; our battle is constantly with Mix," McNally said.

"They've done very well with what they're doing and they hadn't been challenged until 96FM relaunched and changed our format."

McNally said the 96FM brand was so badly damaged prior to its relaunch – he cites the belief of some people that it played Lady Gaga as the "scariest" aspect – that it had almost been completely renamed.

The station will take Mix on head-to-head on Australia Day too; 96FM is taking part in Fremantle's Indian Ocean Skyshow for the first time since the 80s.

Mr Perth, Eoin Cameron.

#3: ABC 720
Eoin Cameron's breakfast show is ratings gold for the ABC; he maintained his stronghold on the number one spot since survey two, and with a state election looming there are hopes his market share will increase.

"Eoin is a broadcasting local legend in Western Australia," said ABC local content manager Deborah Leavitt.

"He is Mr Perth and audiences tune into him because he has a terrific warmth and understanding of WA."

Heading into the state election, Leavitt said 720 would focus on getting "out in the community, talking to the candidates and getting to the heart of local election issues".

With government funding in its pocket, the station has no need to link ratings with advertising revenue and Leavitt said the focus was on informing and entertaining audiences.

Nathan, Nat & Shaun.

#4: Nova 93.7
Heritage breakfast show Nathan, Nat & Shaun are kicking off their year by teaching Premier Colin Barnett how to surf.

It's this fun-loving, relaxed style that program director Daniel Underhill says has kept them on-air so long; Nathan and Nat will celebrate 10 years together in 2013.

"They've got their own sense of humour, their own style and Perth loves them," Underhill said.

Nova will continue their big cash contests in 2013. Fresh from giving away $1 million in Perth last year, the station is hoping for a survey one boost with "No Strings" in which someone in Perth will win $50,000 just for getting on-air.

#4: triple j
triple j is the only station which has no local content in the Perth market, but it rates extremely well in the youth market.

It finished 2012 with a 24.7 per cent share with 25-39 year olds; a figure unmatched in age groups for over 18s.

Its breakfast show, Tom & Alex, rated the worst of all its shows in the Perth market, finishing seventh.

triple j begins 2013 as it begins every year; encouraging Aussies to vote for the Hottest 100, which will be blared out across speakers nationwide on Australia Day.

Paul, Baz and Lisa.

#6: 92.9
With a new content director and new executive producer for 92.9, there are changes ahoy for its breakfast show, Lisa, Paul & Baz.

Content director Todd Campbell said the aim is to "be clever and make it palatable for a broad audience" and that "moving forward, smut is not part of our agenda".

The absence of segments like "What's in Paul's pants" so far this year suggests the show has already gone through some cleansing.

Like 96FM, it's only the second year for the breakfast show, after Paul Hogan joined the team in 2012.

"A year is nothing in radio when you're forming a new relationship and Paul - we'll design the year so listeners can get to know him even more," Campbell said.

While Nova has the money bags to lure listeners, 92.9 will focus on "real human stuff" instead.

The station could see a rise across the workday when Hamish & Andy return to the daily line-up with their Business Brunch 9-10am Tuesday to Friday (their Friday drive show has been shifted to Monday and Fifi & Jules will finish the drive week).

#7: 6PR
Like the ABC, 6PR is also pinning its ratings hopes on being the go-to station for politics.

"Paul Murray has one of the sharpest political minds in the state and talk radio is the forum to get things done and get your opinions heard," program director John Solvander said.

The station will be relaunched in February with a "marketing refocus more on community interaction and involvement".

According to Solvander, the recent appointment of Jane Marwick to Afternoons will also help "freshen up" the station.

"Like every radio station, we always want to rate better," Solvander said.

"We've got some ground to make up on the ABC.

"They are a formidable organisation; extremely well funded, no commercials and they integrate across their entire platforms very well.

Solvander expects a ratings spike in March when the AFL begins.

"We are the only radio station in Perth that has a person in the studio 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," he said.

"Another big thing for us, which is a big thing for WA people, especially footy fans, we're the only commercial AFL station."

Perennial housewives' favourite, "Baby" John Burgess.

#8: 6IX
6IX is the poor cousin of Perth radio; ranking eighth in both the key breakfast timeslot and as a station in general.

Not even the recruitment of former Wheel of Fortune host "Baby" John Burgess could resurrect 6IX's ratings; his Classic Breakfast show holds just 5.3 per cent of listeners.

The results for the first six-week ratings survey period are due on March 5, with another seven to be released throughout the year.

6PR, 6IX and 96fm are all owned by Fairfax, which is also the owner of WAtoday.com.au.


The story The race to top the stations: Perth radio in 2013 first appeared on WA Today.

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