ABC Sydney, Josh Szeps shed listeners as host announces departure

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ABC Sydney has shed listeners in the latest ratings survey, with outgoing afternoons host Josh Szeps, who announced his departure on Wednesday, recording a modest drop of 5.8 per cent share to 5.3 per cent in his final survey.

The survey results were released on Thursday morning, the day after Szeps announced his resignation live on-air, devoting a full 10 minutes of his program to promoting his future activities, which include podcasts, live speaking events and a YouTube channel.

Outgoing ABC Sydney presenter Josh Szeps.

Szeps on Wednesday claimed he had grown the audience for the afternoons show since taking the chair at the beginning of 2022.

“The only shows on this station that are competitive with 2GB are afternoons and drive,” Szeps claimed, adding “this show does better than its Melbourne counterpart in the ratings”.

In fact, Trevor Chappell saw his share rise from 5.1 to 5.9 per cent of the audience for afternoons in Melbourne, and an increase in his average audience from 36,000 to 42,000 listeners.

Szeps’s average audience, meanwhile, dropped from 35,000 to 31,000 over the survey period, which ran from August 13 to October 28.

2GB, the commercial talk station owned, like this masthead, by Nine, saw an increase of 1.3 points to a market-leading 12.4 per cent share of audience across the week.

The afternoon slot is categorised as noon to 4pm by ratings agency GFK, so time periods and programs do not always align perfectly.

When James Valentine’s imminent move from Afternoons to Breakfast was announced in October 2021, he had just recorded a 12.7 per cent share of the audience. The breakfast team of Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck held a 15.7 per cent, and the ABC’s overall share was 13 per cent.

In this survey, breakfast was 8.4 per cent (behind 16.3 per cent for KIIS and 16.2 per cent for 2GB), while ABC Sydney’s share overall was 7 per cent, down from 7.3 per cent in the prior survey.

Steve Ahern, acting head of ABC Capital City Networks, said of Szeps’s exit: “Josh’s mixture of playfulness, intellect and fearlessness is one of a kind. We wish him all the best and hope he can contribute his significant talents to the ABC again in the future.”

With the ABC’s lineup to be announced in a fortnight, there was no guarantee that Szeps was in the broadcaster’s plans for 2024. But he clearly hopes the audience will figure in his plans.

Urging listeners to sign up to his website, where a top-tier membership costs $390 a year, he said: “I would hate to think that this is the end of our relationship because it’s the beginning of the main event.”

In his announcement on Wednesday, Szeps spoke favourably of ABC management while taking a thinly veiled swipe seemingly at other parts of the organisation and audiences.

”Having truly rational, bullshit-free conversations about controversial issues is risky these days,” he claimed. “The penalties for speaking bluntly, the penalties for trying to coax people out of their thought silos and their echo chambers are very high.

“The fact that it’s risky only makes it more important to me. The fact I have found a way of doing it independently that is financially viable leads me to the question that I have been mulling over ever since chatter about the 2024 [ABC] line-up began.”

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