The longest-running winning streak in Melbourne radio history has ended with a Bradman-esque asterisk for 3AW Breakfast kings Ross Stevenson and John Burns, who have had to settle for shared ratings honours with Red Symons after 99 survey wins on the trot.
Officially, 3AW* actually lost the breakfast slot, with the ratings released this morning recording a 17.2 per cent share for ABC 774 against 16.8 for 3AW. But the ratings provider registers the breakfast slot from 5.30am to 9am. In Stevenson/Burns actual on-air hours from 5.30am to 8.30am, the figures show a dead heat - 17.3 per cent each.
For Symons, who has been surging in the ratings all year, it was a sweet result - though he was loath to be triumphal. "I'd prefer to keep my head just below the parapet to tell you the truth," he told Fairfax Media. "It’s not going to make terribly much difference to the nuts and bolts of the way we work."
But he jokingly suggested a possible reason for his surge to the top.
"For the first time really we’ve had a competition with a prize - a chicken dinner and a box of wine. The rules were that you had to produce a receipt and I would furnish a cheque via return mail. After about six months someone finally called me on it and sent me a receipt so I sent him a cheque."
He was unaware Stevenson and Burns were gunning for their 100th survey win. "That’s cruel, isn’t it?" Symons said.
But Burns was philosophical about the result, telling Fairfax Media: "It's not a bad effort. We're very pleased, really. It could have been better but we're not really upset about it."
And he offered congratulations to Symons: "Good luck to him, he's done very well. He's been nibbling at our heels and he's had a very good survey result. Congratulations to him."
At 3AW they were still going ahead with celebrations planned around the expected 100th win. But the biggest smiles this morning were at the ABC’s Southbank studios after the fourth survey of 2014 delivered Jon Faine his third victory of the year over Neil Mitchell in mornings - 14.2 to 13.8 - and ABC 774 claimed honours in the overall AM battle, 13.1 per cent to 12.8.
In the FM contest, the battle is the closest it has ever been - with the top five FM stations separated by just 0.9 per cent. Triple M and Gold FM are on top on 7.6 each, followed by Fox FM on 7.2, Mix 101.1 on 7.1 and Nova 100 and Smooth on a joint 6.7 per cent.
In the key breakfast showdown, the Eddie McGuire-led team at Triple M surged back to number one after the stunning first-time victory by Mix’s Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall in the previous survey. The Triple M team lead on 8.5 per cent - up from 7.1 last survey - with Swan and Hall off slightly on 7.3 to take second place.
Fox’s Fifi Box and Dave Thornton came in third on 7 per cent, Gold’s Brigitte Duclos and Anthony Lehman fourth on 6.5, Nova’s Meshel Laurie and Tommy Little fifth on 6.3.
"It's as tight as we’ve ever seen it," Craig Bruce, head of content for Southern Cross Austereo which owns Triple M and Fox, told Fairfax Media of the overall FM result.
He said the breakfast result for Triple M reflected the station’s traditional football season strength. “Football always helps with Triple M. There’s no question there’s momentum built around the brand from March through to October with what we do on the weekends and with Eddie in breakfast. And it has been a news intensive year for the AFL."
*3AW is owned by Fairfax Media.