They're doing it tough at a post-Laws 2UE
Nick Tabakoff | June 02, 2008
THE man who is heading Fairfax Media's push into radio - following its acquisition of Southern Cross Broadcasting's metropolitan radio network last year - has admitted life after John Laws has been "tough" for the network's flagship Sydney station, 2UE.
However, Fairfax Radio boss Graham Mott said he had always expected 2008 to be a "rebuild" year for the station following Laws' late 2007 retirement.
In an interview with The Australian, he conceded Laws' shoes had been big ones to fill, given his importance to 2UE and the substantial income he generated for the company from affiliated stations in regional areas across the country.
"It's fair to say everybody had a tough start to the year," he said.
"When you take someone out of the equation like John Laws -- who has been there for 20 years -- that's a significant brand that 2UE no longer has. It's a bit like changing one of the major characters in a TV series."
Fairfax Radio now controls the former Southern Cross metropolitan radio network, which includes 2UE, Melbourne's 3AW, Brisbane's 4BC and Perth's 6PR. The loss of Laws had an immediate effect on the ratings in his former Sydney morning shift, which was taken over by former 3AW broadcaster Steve Price.
After Laws departed with a 7.3 per cent audience share at the end of 2007, Price started the year with just a 5.2 per cent ratings share, before recovering in the latest survey to a 6.2 per cent share. The overall ratings for 2UE also took an initial hit before recovering in the latest survey.
There was added spice when Price took over the morning slot in January, after Laws launched an extraordinary attack on his soon-to-be successor in July last year: dubbing him "a risible dwarf" and counting him among "three real offenders in (the) category of jerk or weasel", along with fellow broadcasters Bob Rogers and Derryn Hinch.
But Mr Mott has given Price full marks for courage after taking over a slot established by a departing radio legend for the second time in six years. In 2002, Price took over Alan Jones' 2UE breakfast show, after Jones departed for 2GB.
"I'll give him (Price) a AAA+ rating for taking on such a huge challenge twice," Mr Mott said. "When a new person takes up the role from John Laws, people will judge and compare. I'm pleased with the progress he's made to date ... we've made some subtle changes (to Price's show) to make the flow a little better."
Mr Mott said there had been "some loss of revenue" with Laws no longer being on air, but money had been saved from no longer having to pay his salary. "In net terms, the station's in a better position from a bottom line perspective." He said Fairfax Radio would "continue to look for opportunities to make it a more cost-effective operation".
The company was also planning to maximise its revenue opportunities, as it looked to "bundle" advertising packages with Fairfax's newspaper and digital media operations.
Mr Mott said Fairfax Radio would this week announce a new full-time national ad sales head -- the first time it had done so -- in part to capitalise on bundling opportunities.
"In the new modern media, bundling comes into play," Mr Mott said. "You need someone to champion it. If we can cross-promote between the three of them (radio, print and online), and provide an environment for advertisers to extend their reach, we've got the market well covered."
Mr Mott is particularly taken with potential advertising synergies between Fairfax's radio and digital operations.
"For the talk radio listener, the radio station is breaking news. For those who do not listen to talk radio, online is the news-breaker."http://www.theaustra...3-30540,00.html