After working for a commercial radio station for more than 15 years, sports broadcaster Andrew Moore jumped ship and moved to a public broadcaster in 2015. Moore has hosted ABC Grandstand’s NRL coverage for two years now with the 2017 season being his third.
“It was a very different change – it was one that I was more than ready for,” Moore told Mediaweek. “I wasn’t particularly enjoying calling the rugby at 2GB at the end and thought I would give this a go.” (See the Alan Jones below for more.)
Even during his time with Macquarie Media’s 2GB, Moore was a routine consumer of ABC Grandstand, he admitted. Having worked at the Sydney commercial broadcaster for a long time and now at the ABC, Moore is well placed to comment on the audience crossover between the two stations.
“The way we have been presenting rugby since 2015 is very different from how it had been done at the ABC before,” he said. “We will see how we are doing this year when the ratings come out.”
Being a public broadcaster, the ABC doesn’t carry advertising. Therefore, it doesn’t use the radio survey results to attract ad dollars. Moore said he still keeps a keen eye on the movements each survey. As to why, he said: “For me there is a fight to win the ratings. Whether it’s on the charter of the ABC to worry about the ratings or not, I don’t know. For me, I want to be talking to more people than the opposition.
“There’s no point doing a product that is not good enough and is not going to be competitive. I was really proud of what we achieved last year. We won a couple of Sundays in Sydney, which is very tough up against 2GB, which has dominated for the last three decades.
“2GB and Triple M have so many resources and big names. The money that they spend on their rugby league product would be 20 times what we can spend at the ABC. So I was really proud of what we achieved.”
Contrary to its competitors Triple M and 2GB, ABC Grandstand has the broadcast rights for all the NRL games this season. This could be a drawcard for listeners who choose to keep up with the live action via radio. However, there are times when all three of the stations are calling the games at the same time. When this happens, ABC Grandstand’s coverage of the game is not only competing with the two other stations, but also the coverage the sport gets on Fox Sports, Nine, NRL.com.au, and social media.
“At the end you have to hope that people try your product,” Moore said. “In terms of winning listeners over, it’s a little bit difficult. We don’t have an advertising budget. You have your promos being played throughout the day and week [and that’s really it].
“I would like to think that if we are doing this in another three years’ time, so five in total, then we will have reached a really solid listenership.”
Speaking about the atmosphere during the games when the media boxes are full, Moore said: “It’s a good atmosphere out there. If you do get a game when there are three radio stations there, as well as Fox Sports and Channel 9, it’s pretty packed in those corridors on those days. The number of people involved in the coverage is bigger than it’s ever been.”
With the minimal ad budgets for ABC Grandstand, Moore has taken on some of the responsibility for marketing his work. Before working for the ABC, Moore had no public presence on social media.
“I joined Twitter – that’s the only social media platform I have engaged in,” Moore said. “In terms of content, we do four or five videos from the ground every week with the rugby commentary team.
“We do concentrate on engagement with that. That’s one of the few ways we’ve got for promoting our product. We are all becoming aware of that and learning what to tweet, retweet, follow and all that sort of thing. It’s certainly a learning experience for me.”
Asked if he would call himself a marketer, as well as a journalist, Moore replied, smiling: “I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a part of it.
“If we forget to do a video one day or everyone is tired after a broadcast and goes home early, you get your backside kicked for not doing the social media stuff.
“Sometimes if you have been on air for six hours without a commercial break, the last thing you want to do is another video.”
At this stage of the NRL competition, Moore can be heard on ABC Grandstand from Thursday to Sunday. The pre-game show depends on the scheduling of each game.
“The big difference of doing a show on the ABC is doing six-hour shows without ad breaks, as opposed to 12 minutes an hour for ad breaks on commercial stations,” Moore said. “I do enjoy the news breaks where you get four to five minutes to stand outside the broadcast box.”
Including Moore and his on-air colleagues, there are about eight people involved in producing the live NRL coverage and the pre-game show for ABC Grandstand. “Then I look to the next box and see 2GB or Triple M and there are three times that many people,” he said. “So compared to the rest, we have a smallish operation.”
Moore said it’s nice to turn to other boxes and see his old colleagues from 2GB there. “If you are not social with them, it’s going to be a pretty uncomfortable day,” he joked. “They are all good guys. Everyone gets along well.”
Access to football clubs and players
As the rights holder for NRL, ABC Grandstand has the same access to talent and executives from the sport as anyone else. When it comes to the ease of access to the talent, that depends on the individual clubs. Some are harder to deal with than others, Moore revealed.
“The players are outstanding. Getting through to media managers is a running battle with all media at the moment,” Moore said.
However, Moore said that more media managers have been helpful this season than in previous years.
Asked about his thoughts on clubs making it more difficult for media to get access to players, Moore replied: “I sat down with a chief executive of one of the NRL clubs very early this season talking about this issue. We had a problem with that club and the media manager the week before. He was telling me that the players almost have every 15 minutes of their day documented by the coach. So a lot of this comes back to the coach.
“North Queensland Cowboys have star players like Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott, Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote and are one of the most accessible clubs that we deal with. This is the same with Cronulla Sharks, who are the premiership winners and have heaps of star talent. The clubs that actually treat their players like adults and let them make decisions for themselves end up doing the club a great service.
“There are some clubs, though, that we don’t even bother trying to get players from now – Manly and Brisbane are two of them. We haven’t been able to attract a player from there for years, so we don’t even bother with them any more. I feel sorry for their supporters, because you can never hear from them. That’s a shame for the game.”
How Alan Jones helped Moore at 2GB
Moore was previously employed by Macquarie Media’s 2GB. He worked there for more than 15 years. He was the station’s sports reporter and presenter of Wake Up Australia. He would also fill in for Alan Jones’ breakfast show during survey breaks and holidays.
Towards the end of his tenure at 2GB, Moore had a reported fallout with one of the station’s high-profile presenters Ray Hadley. According to The SMH’s Private Sydney column, “Moore had fallen foul of Hadley over a scheduling change that effectively saw Moore lose his Sunday gig so Hadley could expand his presence on the station. When Moore refused to fill in for Hadley, observers said their working relationship became ‘completely toxic’.”
Jones had come out in Moore’s defence at that time. During Moore’s last shift at 2GB on 16 January 2015, Jones and another high-profile presenter at the station, Ben Fordham, rang in to thank and farewell him on air.
“People can say what they want about Alan Jones,” Moore said. “He was so good and loyal to me. I didn’t enjoy my last year at 2GB for a few reasons, but Jonesy kept me on the straight and narrow. I would’ve gone crazy without him being there.”
Asked if he has spoken to Hadley since the reports of the fallout first came out, Moore said, “No, I haven’t spoken to him since about 15 months before I left. He doesn’t worry me any more. I’ve moved on. He does his thing and I do mine.”
Photo: Moore with former professional NRL player and co-host of NRL on ABC Grandstand Andrew Ryan