By Stephen Mayne, regular on ABC Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania:

We mentioned yesterday that 774 ABC Melbourne had delivered close to
its highest ever cumulative audience in the first ratings survey of
2006. In fact, it was actually the highest on record and Aunty is
flogging its arch-rival 3AW when using this measure, which is what happens in Britain.

Cumulative audience is the total number of different people who listen
to a ratio station for at least 15 minutes a week over a ratings period. This
is different from ratings share which also accounts for how long each
listener tunes in.

Like 2GB and 2UE, 3AW has a very old audience and retirees have plenty
of time to listen for hours on end. Therefore, whilst 3AW’s 12.9% share
in survey one was still ahead of 774’s 12.4%, Aunty’s cumulative
audience is a stunning 240,000 larger.

774’s cumulative audience soared from 739,000 in the final survey
of 2005 to the record 883,000 in the opening survey this year. By way
of contrast, 3AW’s fell from 701,000 to 643,000. Doesn’t it seem odd
that we all report that 3AW won the ratings, when in fact 240,000 more
people actually tuned in to Aunty than 3AW at some point each week over
the past six weeks?

So what’s behind this unprecedented success? Firstly, unlike its sister
stations in Brisbane and Sydney, which have both slumped to eighth
position, 774 has only had minimal change to its line-up.

Red Symons is going into his third year on Breakfast and Jon Faine
started doing Mornings way back in 1997. Derek Guille is into his third
year on the Evening program and before that he was doing afternoons.
Even Richard Stubbs has now notched up a year doing Afternoons, so only
Virginia Trioli’s replacement in Drive, Lindy Burns, remains a complete newcomer.

Unlike other stations, the main 774 players were all back on deck for the
start of this year’s ratings season and the significantly increased fire
coverage, part of an official collaboration with Victorian fire fighting
authorities, also appears to have helped boost audiences.

The tennis and the cricket were two other important factors, although
it is a little puzzling that everywhere else in Australia, Aunty was
down for the ratings period.

774 traditionally has a strong opening survey of the year, but equivalent surveys in 2005, and 2004 didn’t match the latest performance in either share or cumulative audience measures.