License article

Mix's Chrissie Swan has 'hysterical and historical' win over Eddie McGuire in radio ratings

Show comments

Commercial talkback station 3AW has clawed back a narrow lead over 774 ABC, while classic hits station Gold has again trumped all its commercial rivals. 

But the real surprise is that Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall have usurped Eddie McGuire - who criticised Swan's 2011 Gold Logie nomination - to give Mix its first-ever breakfast victory. Only a few years ago, Mix was languishing behind nearly all its competitors. 

"First we cried," Swan says. "Then we kept asking our boss if the ratings people made a mistake. We got him to check it a thousand times. He said, 'I know how you feel, but this has really happened.

"They actually don't know what to do at the station today. There's no contingency plan for winning because it's never happened before. I'm sure other radio stations have a stockpile of verbs for these occasions but we certainly don't."

There are now four FM stations with precisely the same market share of 6.9 per cent: Fox, Triple M, Nova and Smooth. It's aparticularly impressive result for Smooth, which has transformed the 91.5 FM frequency from industry joke to big player. Mix is in second place with 7.1 per cent and Gold is the clear FM winner on 8.8 per cent.

But while 774 ABC (12.3 per cent) lost its crown to 3AW (12.5 per cent), it retained its lead in the key shifts of mornings (where Jon Faine scored a 13.8 per cent audience share to Neil Mitchell's 13.6 per cent) and evenings (where Lindy Burns rated 13.5 against 3AW's Bruce and Phil on 12.5 per cent.)


In drive, 774's Rafael Eptsein and Tom Elliott scored an equal 10.2 per cent share, while both stations also came neck-and-neck on weekends with 10.7 per cent. 

Except this is where it gets tricky.

The company that measures ratings, GFK, has to determine appropriate times for each shift. Drive, for instance, is deemed to be 4pm to 7pm. 

Yet few stations air just one program in this three-hour slot. Many FM stations, for instance, broadcast their drive shows between 4pm and 6pm, then another show at 7pm. And Epstein on 774 and Elliott on 3AW air the first hour of their drive shows in the afternoon slot, which does not show up in their audience shares. Yet their ratings are affected by the programs that air even after they finish at 6pm.

While Epstein and Elliott  appear to be equal in today's official survey, a comparison of their 3pm to 6pm ratings reveal Elliott won by a sizeable margin: 10.9 per cent to 9.3 per cent. Indeed, while 774 appeared to win drive in the previous survey, a comparison of the actual timeslots shows that 3AW was the victor. 

The rivalry between 774's Jon Faine and 3AW's Neil Mitchell is another example. Both programs start at 8.30am but their ratings are officially measured from 9am. Therefore, their ratings reported above are not entirely accurate. (When comparing their real timeslots, Faine's 14.3 per cent share beat Mitchell's 13.6 per cent.)

Naturally, many stations are happy to release the ratings breakdowns for their winning programs. Sometimes, they're coy about their losing announcers. Chasing and comparing breakdowns for every single program is near impossible. But it does pay to keep all this in mind when looking at the figures. 

While 3AW gained 1.2 points in this survey, helping it inch in front of 774, its sister station Magic declined by exactly that amount to a 5 per cent share. (Fairfax Media owns 3AW, Magic and this website.)

Breakfast kings Ross Stevenson and John Burns claimed the biggest increase in the slot, gaining 1 percentage point to claim a 17.3 per cent share. Rival Red Symons on 774 increased his slice of the pie to 16.0 per cent. 

Former FM champion McGuire shed 0.3 points to 7.1 per cent on Triple M, allowing Swan and Hall to surge past him with an 0.9-point gain and snatch the FM breakfast trophy. 

The champagne is now flowing at ARN, which owns Mix and Gold. 

"Mix is the little engine that could," Swan says. "The fact we've never been No.1 in breakfast, ever: it's hysterical and historical all in one."

When asked how she feels about overtaking McGuire, Swan says: "Look, he's a cheeky squirrel. [The Logies criticisms] are all water under the bridge. I respect Eddie immensely."

Three years ago, McGuire took an unedifying swipe at Swan, comparing her Gold Logie contention as a "vote for the dumb kid in the class to be the class captain just to gee up the teachers".

McGuire's minor loss was offset by Triple's overall gain of 0.5 points. This is no surprise: the four stations that broadcast football (Triple M, 774, 3AW and SEN) all tend to rise once the footy starts. 

Craig Bruce, content director for Southern Cross Austereo stations Fox and Triple M, points out that Melbourne's FM market is both tight and in a state of flux. 

"You have a point-and-a-half separating first and sixth," Bruce says. "You had two really big FM shows finish last year at the same time [on Fox and Nova] and now the audience is floating around looking for somewhere to settle. There's opportunity for Fox in that."

Though Fox's breakfast show Fifi & Dave is now behind those on Gold, Mix, Triple M and just 0.1 point in front of Nova's, Bruce is confident the station can regain its lost audience. 

"We were concerned about the slide in numbers last year with [former breakfast show] Matt and Jo, to be honest," he says. "It had been in decline for most of last year. Dave Hughes put his hand up and pulled the pin [on Nova], and obviously the Hughesy & Kate show fell over after that. That sort of forced our hand. 

"Even before then, we were sort of concerned that were were coming to the end of what had been a really successful run for Fox [breakfast]. New shows bounce around. They just do. If we do a good job in the next year or two, we'll have a really good fanbase and that's where you get consistency of result."

Shane Healy, general manager of 3AW, says he has long seen 3AW improve in the third survey of each year, when the football ratings kick in and the disruption of summer holidays ends. (This survey includes figures from early March to late May.)

"It was very competitive with the ABC; they put in a higher performance than what the market is probably used to," Healy says. "But it was a fantastic survey for AW. All our competitors get a bit of a nudge from the footy too, so it's much a muchness, which makes returning to No.1 even better."