The king is dead. After 20 years and 100 surveys at the top of Perth radio, MIX 94.5 has been toppled - and by the most unlikely of its competitors, Fairfax Media's 96FM.
Yesterday's Nielsen survey, the fourth for the year, showed 96FM securing a 13.3 per cent overall audience share across the week, pipping MIX by just 0.1 per cent to take the crown as Perth's most popular radio station.
Marginal as the difference might be, it brings to an end a reign unlikely to be repeated by a radio station in any market.
96FM gained audience share in every demographic and timeslot, except drive, which was static. The only demographic and timeslot MIX won outright was weekend audience share.
The writing has been on the wall for MIX for some time - Southern Cross Austereo stablemate 92.9 has been nipping at MIX's heels to be Perth's most popular station for some time and last month Nova's Nathan, Nat and Shaun beat Botica's Bunch in the breakfast slot.
What makes 96FM's achievement remarkable is it has come from almost nowhere.
It has been a tumultuous couple of years for the station, which has endured terrible ratings, an almost invisible market presence and high-profile sackings.
The station responded with a total overhaul. In February it rebranded, changed to a rock music format and told listeners its charter was to "keep real music alive".
96FM general manager Martin Boylen said yesterday no one expected the strategy, developed by local marketing agency Meerkats, to pay dividends so quickly.
"We had to work out what we stood for and what we offered the Perth audience," he said. "We found a hole in the market and worked solidly at the strategy.
"It's been a lot of hard work to make it possible. Looking back on it now, we had to go through that tumultuous period to get to where we are today."
Southern Cross Austereo general manager Linda Wayman said the result was disappointing but her team were "emotionally prepared" for it, given the previous survey and the way ratings were calculated.
"After more than 12 years at number one, we're confident MIX will trade its way out of that one rogue survey and regain the crown as Perth's favourite radio station," she said.
NOVA general manager Gary Roberts was also celebrating yesterday, with the station winning "the bit we care about", its key demographic of listeners under 40."It's not about overall share," he said. "It's lovely to be number one station but in the end that doesn't drive revenue - it is about winning the demographic profile of the radio station and anyone who talks any differently is having a lend of themselves."
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