Figures released yesterday after the first radio survey period of the year show huge swings in the Canberra market – and a wide variety of interpretations for the fluctuation, ranging from COVID-19 to reality television.
The survey measured radio listening habits between 31 January and 27 March and is the first since two of three scheduled surveys last year were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Radio ratings usually vary by around two to four points, but HIT 104.7 has sustained a massive 10-point ratings drop overall. It’s not unprecedented: ABC Canberra’s Lish Fejer has clawed back top spot in the crucial Breakfast market after the station experienced similarly dramatic falls in their traditionally strong market over the past few years.
Last year Fejer replaced Dan Bourchier, who had been combining the demanding Breakfast shift with his role as an ABC News presenter.
This time around, Hit 104.7 breakfast presenters Ned Breward and Josh Torney’s audience experienced the cliff drop as their ratings almost halved, hitting single figures at 9.5.
Kristen and Nige on MIX 106.3 were third-placed in the breakfast market on 15, with Radio National breakfast presenter Fran Kelly sitting in second place on 17 per cent.
Radio National has experienced strong growth in the Breakfast time slot over the past few years, albeit in a market where it always enjoyed a loyal following. As recently as 2018, Kelly’s show sat on 10.1 percentage points.
Mix 106.3 is now Canberra’s most popular listening with an 18 per cent market share.
ABC Canberra has secured second place in the market at 15.1 per cent, while the 104.7 audience fell from 20.6 per cent to 11.2 per cent, and third place overall. Radio National sits in a close fourth place on 10.3 percentage points.
A movement of this size is unusual and industry speculation has largely centred around 104.7 weekend presenter Bryce Ruthven’s role as this year’s reality television villain on Married At First Sight, currently screening.
However, station management has denied that his role on the controversial program damaged the station overall, pointing out that Ruthven was never a permanent weekday presenter and was not on air during the ratings period.
There’s little doubt that the popular culture fallout from his MAFS profile has been spectacular. Speculation around whether Ruthven had a secret Canberra girlfriend and was “cheating” on his onscreen “wife” was rife, amplified by a widely reported falling out with fellow 104.7 weekend presenter and real estate agent, Jason Roses, played out in vivid detail on social media.
Ruthven moved to Melbourne in February and content director Rod Cuddihy said he had taken extended leave during filming before officially leaving the station.
By contrast, 106.3 drive presenters Neil Wilcock and Courtenay Kneen were clear winners in the Drive segment at 19.3, well ahead of ABC Canberra competitor Anna Vidot on 12.5. But the results were nevertheless a significant improvement for 666 Drive, which has languished in single figures for several surveys.
Youth station Triple J continues a solid showing on 9.6 per cent, while ABC Classic FM on 6.7 per cent and ABC News Radio on 3.7 per cent round out a strong market share for the ABC across all stations.
In commercial talk radio, 2CA Breakfast with Paul Holmes also increased 2.5 percentage points to 7 per cent of the market. 2CC’s choice to replace the imported Alan Jones Breakfast Show with former Coffs Harbour presenter Stephen Cenatiempo leaves it at 4.2 on Breakfast and 4 across the station as a whole.