Newcastle radio: Time for change as ratings hit new lows

I have long argued that Newcastle radio suffers from the commercial duopoly of NXFM / KOFM (one parent), and 2HD / NEWFM (one parent). To make matters worse half of the duopoly is totally ineffective and barely competes for audience or advertising share.

The result is NXFM and KOFM run away with the ratings and the bulk of the money and can afford to charge high advertising rates, while 2HD / NEWFM take what they can get.

Even worse, listeners really are left with very little quality to choose from. Lack of competition results in lack of innovation, little talent development and a general laziness. Its the same in any industry.

Steve and Kim on NXFM have been doing basically the same show for over a decade. David and Tanya have been working together for 20 years now and have done the breakfast shift on KOFM for over a decade. They’re all good people, but that is hardly an environment for innovation and excitement. Honestly, its a credit to them that they can continue to wake up early and put a show on after so long with so little competition.

Meanwhile the playlists between NEWFM & KOFM are interchangeable and half of NXFM’s music fits well with those two as well. How much 80′s rewind can we withstand?

I fear the problem is only getting worse after seeing the latest radio ratings for Newcastle. NXFM (20.8 share) has leapt out to a massive lead over stablemate KOFM (17.1), while 2HD has hit new lows (11.9) and NEWFM has dropped back down again (7.6). The disparity is alarming and bad for Newcastle.

The real problem is the lack of competitiveness by Sandgate stablemates NEWFM / 2HD. Why do KOFM / NXFM have to try any harder when they are leading by so far?

Guy Ashford was appointed by Bill Caralis as dual station manager of NEWFM / 2HD in mid 2008. At the time he announced they were about to build a new state-of-the-art radio facility. Three years later they are yet to break ground on the new studios.

In July 2008, after a modest ratings lift by NEWFM, Mr Ashford told the Newcastle Herald that NEWFM was about to “offer NXFM some serious competition” and that “within 24 months they’d be on a level playing field with NXFM.” Its now 3 years since those bold statements and NEWFM is basically in the same place it was then, whilst 2HD has dropped from 15.6 share to 11.5.

The NEWFM breakfast show is led by station program director Steve St John. He’s had a series of sidekicks on the show over the last 3 years and seems to have finally settle on Sarah Levett. The problem is that the show just doesn’t rate. Everyone in radio knows that Breakfast sets up the rest of the day and currently NEWFM Breakfast is the lowest rating show on the station. It makes it hard for the rest of the team to succeed when they are handed such a low audience from 9am.

The 2HD story is also grim. Breakfast has plummeted to new lows of just 10.6 with JJJ threatening to overtake soon. The John Laws program is the only shift left propping up any semblance of ratings. The cumulative audience has dropped to 85,000 for the week with more than half that audience over 55 years, 35,000 over 65 years.

In three years the gap has only widened and there seems to be no plan to fix the problems. Unfortunately its Newcastle radio listeners and advertisers who suffer.

If 2HD / NEWFM owner Bill Caralis cares at all about the quality of radio in Newcastle it time for him to do something. Please give the stations the resources and talent they need to perform or sell them to someone who will.

Survey #2 2011

Overall Share / Breakfast / Cumulative

2HD          11.5 / 10.6 / 85000

KOFM      17.1 / 16.8 / 148000

NEWFM  7.6 / 5.6 / 86000

NXFM      20.8 / 21.8 / 185000

ABC1233  12.4 / 15.2 / 93000

2JJJ          9.9 / 9.6 / 79000

Posted under Newcastle Media, Radio

Written by Craig Wilson

20 Responses to “Newcastle radio: Time for change as ratings hit new lows”

Basically the problem is who is in charge overall. I’m sure Caralis run the cheap model and take what ever profit they can. That’s their modus operandi…run low budget and cover their costs plus profit. So long as BC owns it, nothing will change.

Comment by Anonymous on July 29th, 2011

how much does a radio station cost these days? how much competition do the commercial stations with a music focus face with the ability to program your own listening material with digital?

Comment by HyperBrendan on July 29th, 2011

Well well well, no surprises here. Anyone who had real programming talent has long left the network. BC listens to the wrong people,especially when it comes to changing the fortunes of NEW/2HD in Newcastle. Gone backwards the past 3 years.

Comment by BJ on July 29th, 2011

As listeners shift to global/personalised content, is the revenue up for grabs in traditional radio in Newcastle worth fighting for? It sounds like the stations are happy to push the listeners to the other options (with the exception of a few including 1233).

Comment by David Rossi on August 1st, 2011

I view the death of my dog as more amusing than what is produced on a daily basis by the wacky twosome of ‘Steve and Kim’ on NXFM. It has the cringe factor of a kindergarten class presenting a Christmas Special. To me, the desperate plight of the NEWFM ratings seem all the more horrendous given the quality of the competition.

Comment by Go Knights on August 1st, 2011

The breakfast shows and the radio playlist in general of Newcastle radio is pathetic.

I know that regional audiences are less sophisticated than their metropolitan peers and the programing needs to be adjusted to refelct this but the level of crap that is offered up to us is insulting!

Throw open competition! simulcast capital city stations with local ads. Allow popular global stations to broadcast similar to the sirius network in the US. Then I don’t have to listen to Steve and Kim’s inane regional drivel

Comment by Novo on August 1st, 2011

It’s really sad to have watched and heard the demise of 2HD and NEW FM over the past decade. Both used to be such powerful radio stations in Newcastle and now they have hit new lows. The Breakfast, Afternoon and Drive ratings on 2HD are now the lowest ever recorded in the station’s history. NEW FM is not much better: Steve St. John has had a dozen different sidekicks, yet they don’t seem to realise that the common denominator in their lack of success is him ! Changes are definitely needed, but nothing will happen because nobody cares.
2HD’s disenfranchised listeners have all gone to the ABC and all they are left with are a few diehards and probably die-soons who are over 65 !

Comment by Jen Christie on August 2nd, 2011

What’s even more atrocious is that KOFM, the “Station that’s building something big for Newcastle” in its Essential 2011 countdown, is just playing the same songs in the same order that their Canberra station MIX 106.3 did just several weeks ago. The first 300 songs or so from the Newcastle Herald is exactly the same as the Canberra countdown which MIX had on their website. That’s a disgrace.

Comment by The Shadow on August 2nd, 2011

Newcastle Radio standards are at an all time low. NX/KO are successful because they have no competition in the market. The best thing about KO/NX was that Al Dobie worked for Austereo here. A really genuine radio person who was normal. Now he has left that operation,there ain’t many positives @ Charlestown either. He will be a bigger loss to them than most realise. He should have been the Group PD of both NX/KO IMO.

Comment by BJ on August 3rd, 2011

Getting Duncan back from DMG was a positive though. All they need is Mike Byrne and those 80s Guys and all will be right with the world again.

Comment by The Shadow on August 3rd, 2011

I personally think Al Dobie is a big loss for KOFM, but a gain with Mike Duncan coming back. I agree about Mike Byrne. Sarah Farley is leaving soon, would be good to get Johnno Keetels back – he was more open to giving newer Aussie acts a run, especially overnight, which made for an interesting listen.

Comment by Whoopsie Daisy on August 3rd, 2011

I agree. I love New-FM. Been a loyal listener since the first test transmissions, and it breaks your heart to see it going down the drain. Internet Radio is my calling. I can listen to innovative and different shows from all over the world. When the NBN is launched OZ wide, more people may jump to this too.

Comment by Me on August 3rd, 2011

Didn’t know Mike Duncan was back @ Charlestown. Now that is good news and a good move from Austereo there. Another one of the genuine nice guys in radio with talent. Poor old Sandgate must have nightmares. When you can’t beat the National Youth Broadcaster and are behind by a few points,it doesn’t say much for what you’re doing on air. On a positive for KO, welcome back to Newcastle Mike Duncan.

Comment by BJ on August 3rd, 2011

Uuuugh I cant stand Kim and Steve, they are just soooo boring. Having lived in Sydney for a few years where you actually have morning radio worth listening to, it came as a shock to come back and find Steve and Kim are as good as it gets here. What is it with that inane laugh of the third sidekick at Steve’s so unfunny jokes. When they play snippets back through the day at what is supposed to be funny one liners, I cringe and my kids say, what was so funny about that Mum? Put us all out of misery and get some fresh, enthusiastic talent on air in Newcastle, please.

Comment by C.L.R on September 21st, 2011

so Craig you do think there is room for another radio station in newcastle?

Comment by M- ossie on November 1st, 2011

I’m not sure that we need another station, we just need half of them to perform.

Comment by Media Hunter on November 1st, 2011

I cannot understand how David on KO has gotten away with his snide sexist remarks – always reminded me of someone hiding in an alley somewhere perving. Gave that station the chop a long time ago after hearing Bon Jovi for the millionith time!!The best station is 2NUR at least you hear different songs and the breakfast DJ Todd Sargeant is actually funny, original and refreshing to listen to. Maybe stupid question but why arent 2NUR included in ratings?? – Bites

Comment by RealityBites on November 8th, 2011

what listeners need is radio1629am style programing of music not the same general music styles as found on commercial radio
listeners love the music on the above station no sport or talkback, music they can relate to. give radio1629am a listen see what you think.

Comment by Ian Crombie on November 16th, 2011

I agree with Ian, there ARE good radio listening alternatives in Newcastle, and Unforgettable 1629 AM Newcastle is one of Newcastle’s finest music station. They play a great mix of music of many different genres and time periods programmed by the presenters who are passionate about what they put to air. You would be surprised as to how many younger listeners the station is attracting as of late too. The formula is simple; the station is all about pleasant music, pleasant personalities and community, not politics, not aimless talkback, and NOT treating the potential audience like they are simpletons.

Comment by J.W. on March 7th, 2012

[...] have been alarmed at the disparity between NXFM / KOFM and 2HD / NEWFM for years as it represents a major issue for advertisers and [...]

Comment by Newcastle radio: AM stations fall in Survey 1, 2012 | Media Hunter on April 20th, 2012

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