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    Running Melbourne’s #1 radio station: Stephen Beers on 3AW’s magic mix

    The Melbourne radio wars are getting plenty of media coverage. Except for the winning side. When it comes to audience share, there is no competition for 3AW.

    The FM stations currently battle it out for second place. That is the trophy that Kyle and Jackie O will compete for first. If they secure that #1 FM ranking, the hosts and their KIIS team are ambitious enough to have a crack at unseating 3AW. Something that will take a bit of beating. They managed to unseat 2GB in Sydney, is #1 overall out of the question for them in Melbourne?

    When it comes to cume audience, the FM stations shine. As we pointed out last week, 3AW scores big on share because its audiences listen longer.

    Running Melbourne’s #1 radio station: Stephen Beers on 3AW’s magic mix

    Looking over the running of 3AW is station manager Stephen Beers. In Mediaweek’s final stroll through the corridors of Melbourne’s #1 radio station, we spent time with the talk radio veteran.

    See also: Breakfast radio with Ross and Russ: Inside the 3AW engine room

    2024 schedule changes

    Although 3AW has different hosts in morning, afternoon and drive slots this year, Beers noted it has really only introduced one new announcer.

    Tom Elliott [morning] been here some time. So has Tony Moclair [afternoon]. Jacqui Felgate [drive] is the major new addition. Tony did seven years hosting 3AW midnight to dawn.

    “The drive change is not unlike when we went from Derryn Hinch to Tom Elliott. The audience just has to get to know the new host.”

    Beers said he spends a bit of time with Felgate’s team. He noted she was in good hands with 3AW’s morning producer moving to drive. Neil Mitchell is still connected to the station. He continues to record his podcasts for Nine. Beers said, “Neil gives advice where it’s been sought. It’s great to still have him around.”

    Beers has been at the station since 1987 – long enough to remember when Ross Stevenson started on air. Coming across from community station 3RRR he sounded very new compared to the previous team. “It was very different to anything that had been before and it can take a long time for the audience to get to know the new host.

    “In that case, it took two or three years. We were number five in the market. It was not a great time at the radio station.”

    Sharing with the audience

    One of the trademarks at the station over the years is 3AW shares everything with the listeners. The good and the bad. Listeners feel like they get to hear (and see if they are streaming video) what happens behind the scenes.

    “Once there was a lot in the press about Neil Mitchell when 3MTR was starting up,” remembered Beers. There was plenty of speculation about whether Mitchell would or would not be leaving 3AW for the Russell Tate-backed new Melbourne talk station. “Is he going to MTR or isn’t he going. On his 3AW show, Neil was taking talkback calls with people saying, ‘We’re going to miss you. We love you, Neil, but we’re going to miss you.

    “Melbourne is such a different market. In Sydney, you can move from one station to the other. It’s happened plenty of times there. It just hasn’t happened here.”

    The phones run hot

    Beers: “We’ll get calls when things happen in Melbourne. Sometimes when bad things happen listeners ring us before they ring the police. I don’t know where else you get that level of engagement. You just earn it. You earn that sort of trust. You can’t just snap your fingers and get trust like that. The 3AW phone lines will be full all day.”

    3AW station manager Stephen Beers

    Nine ownership

    Stephen Beers has been at 3AW under a number of different proprietors. But he reckons they are in good hands now.

    “It’s going to sound like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but I have seen a lot of owners of the business.

    “I’ve seen some owners that have been really hard work in terms of protecting our brand. There were times there I was worried that we might not come through some things. If we didn’t have Nine during Covid, I’m not sure we would have come out as strong as we are today. I’m certain of it.

    “There were some concerns when [Nine] first came in. People wondered if they were going to leave the station alone. They have been great supporters and they already had a team in place in Melbourne that we knew very well.”

    Although there is lots of cooperation with Nine, including newsroom integration and a shared news theme, there is room for other partnerships too.

    “We still have working relationships with Seven. We still do a lot of stuff with News Corp and the Herald Sun.”

    For example, the breakfast sports guru Jon Anderson still contributes to the Herald Sun. The breakfast show’s music guru Alan Howe is an editor at The Australian.

    When Nine first arrived, Beers briefly left the station, before Nine Radio boss Tom Malone brought him back.

    3AW has the Olympics covered

    “Ross and Russ are going for the first week. That is something 3AW has done with the Olympics dating back to Sydney.” Beers himself has been part of the coverage too, working with the breakfast team during four Olympic tours.

    3AW breakfast was on board for the two weeks of the London Olympics in 2012. The memorable shows including one day broadcasting from inside the Abbey Road studios.

    Beers continued: “In Paris we will have our own radio commentary team. Ray Hadley is heading that up. We will have a few others which will be separate from the television commentators.”

    2GB’s Ben Fordham will also be hosting his breakfast show from Paris during the Games.

    The post Running Melbourne’s #1 radio station: Stephen Beers on 3AW’s magic mix appeared first on Mediaweek.

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