2003 marked the start of a new era for players in the Perth radio market. Julie-anne Sprague reports on the often bitter battle for supremacy.
THE entry of Nova to Perth’s radio waves prompted a major upheaval in the industry.
When Nova went to air in December last year, Southern Broadcasting’s 96fm decided to switch from targeting the youth audience and instead attack Mix 94.5’s 30-plus market.
That left 92.9 to fight off Nova in the 18- 39 age demographic.
According to Initiative Media managing director Debra Neve, Nova’s entry helped advertisers gain better flexibility in terms of programming creativity and value-added benefits.
“When Nova came on the scene we saw different ways of promotion with fewer messages,” Ms Neve said.
“It prompted the others to sit back and do that too. Their entry has helped the radio industry because they are having to be more pro-active.”
But little separates the main players in terms of market share, she said.
“There is not a great deal of difference between 92.9, 96fm and Nova. There shares are decent and Nova has shown that it can create a niche for itself and consolidate and hurt 92 and 96,” Ms Neve told WA Business News.
“94.5 has been rather unscathed but it has been interesting to see 96 change its direction. If their core is 25 to 39 then they haven’t done it as successfully as they would have wanted to.”
96fm’s shift to an older 25 to 44 demographic has paid dividends, according to general manger Decklan Kelly, although he acknowledged there were significant inroads to be made in 2004.
“We set out to consolidate the younger end of 94.5’s market. And in six out of the eight surveys we did well,” Mr Kelly said.
“We had to put a new breakfast team and come out and say that if you are under 25 we’re not really catering to you any more.
“The move has been commercially viable and it’s paid dividends. Previous to Nova we were trying to be everything to everyone. We were the jack of all trades but master of none.
“Now that the market has settled and everyone knows what they are doing it’s time to put the foot to the floor. We have to make huge inroads into 94.5’s young end, they won’t be able to be everything to everyone anymore.”
Austereo owns 92.9 and Mix 94.5 and its general manger Linda Wayman has been impressed by the stations’ performance.
“We have maintained our number one and two overall ratings positions [market share of all people] by a very clear margin and reported $1 million more in revenue at the end of the 2002-03 financial year than the previous financial year,” Ms Wayman said,
“Our success in the face of relentless competition was based on a collective attitude by both stations where we approached the increased competition as an opportunity for motivation and being creative.
“We focused on our brand values for each station. Mix is a warm and familiar essence and 92.9 is fun and entertaining.
“For 92.9 to be 3.8 per cent ahead of Nova [in total people] after them spending about $1.5 million in television advertising is a bit like David hitting Goliath right between the eyes.”
But that is not how Nova managing director Gary Roberts sees it.
The only demographic he cares about is the 18-34 market sector.
“We don’t pretend to be anywhere else,” Mr Roberts said.
“We finished the survey year number one in 18-34 year olds and overall we have a 18.5 per cent share of that market.”
Nova’s ratings slid dramatically in survey five, an anomaly Mr Roberts believes was caused by inaccurate data collected by Nielsen Media Research.
If that was the case, the first clean survey for Nova was the last one of this year, survey eight, because of Nielsen Media Research’s rolling survey methodology.
In that survey Nova was number one in the 18-24 market but fourth among 25-39 year-olds.
While admitting Nova is “neck and neck” with 92.9, Mr Roberts feels Nova’s second year in the market will earn his station greater ratings ground.
“Everyone knows that launching a new brand into the market is difficult. We’ve achieved what we wanted to this year and next year we will consolidate,” Mr Roberts said.
“We built the brand this year and that’s very much what we’re about. Nova was the first radio network to do that, to come out and say ‘this is what we stand for’.
“We’re well placed for 2004 and don’t seen any major hurdles in our way.”
Ms Neve believes money spent on radio advertising grew this year and anticipates a rate rise in 2004.
“In the past few months we’ve seen growth in expense in the radio market,” she said.
“I’d expect to see them raise their rates in January because it’s a buoyant market at the moment.”