ARN Group PD Jeremy Millar speaks to radioinfo

radioinfo this week spoke to ARN’s recently appointed Group Program Director Jeremy Millar, who talks about his background and his plans for the network.

Where have you worked in your career?

I worked my way up from DJ to Group PD in NZ and then moved from Auckland to Sydney in January 95 to take up a consulting role with BPR. In my time with them I worked with stations in Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, Newcastle, Gosford, Wollongong, Wagga, Albury, Rockhampton, Maryborough and so on. However I ended up doing most of my BPR work in Europe – which was fascinating as there’s some outstanding radio in Europe. Two years after moving to Australia, my wife and I took up citizenship – we love being based in Sydney and citizenship seemed a very natural step for us. About this time I also completed a Bachelor Of Broadcasting Communications degree – something that proved surprisingly enjoyable as the theory was a great contrast (and sometimes a challenge) to all the practical I had done over the years.

After three years with BPR I was approached about a role for WorldSpace Satellite Radio in Washington DC so we spent about 18 months in the US. On returning to Sydney I did a variety of consulting projects – plus some work for DMG. By way of contrast I spent a year with British Telecom helping them on content strategies in Korea and Japan. However BT was so in love with its technology that it seemed to be “a solution looking for a problem”. The useful lesson from this experience was that it has helped me keep digital radio in perspective (I’m a fan of the promise of digital, but also a realist as to the time frames required).

Returning to radio consulting I then joined Greg Smith’s team at ESP to assist with business development – again mainly in Europe. In this capacity I worked with terrestrial broadcasters in Germany and satellite operators in Luxembourg. When Bob Longwell the CEO from ARN called I was really excited at the opportunity to join ARN, this is a well-established business with a lot of integrity and a strong vision of its future.

As a consultant did you do work for ARN or Clear Channel in any markets? Is this what led you to your present job as Group PD for ARN?

At BPR we consulted to ARN, so I was involved with 4KQ and WS some years ago, but that wasn’t how I came to this role.

The Mix stations have had a rough ride over the past 12 months as they have been re-branding and retargeting. Will you be continuing the aim of taking the stations younger?

My predecessor Alan Furst chose to re-brand 5AD to Mix and TT to Mix – it’s easy with the benefit of hindsight to say that was an ugly decision, but from a group perspective it was the right decision long delayed.

The four stations using the Mix format have been tailored for their local markets (although they are variations on a theme). Our stated targets with both the Mix and Classic Hits streams is 25-54, obviously with Mix at the lower end and Classic Hits at the upper – but both are happy to take 25-54 listeners and we’ve had great success with this strategy.

Mix Sydney did well this survey, but Mix Melbourne and Adelaide are still struggling. Are the formats of each station very different?

As noted there are format difference as each market has a different competitive landscape and our music research tells us that listeners in each market like a slightly different music mix. I think Adelaide is a little behind Sydney (musically) and in addition we’re working at polishing some of the day-parts while remaining focused on 25-54 overall.

Your Gold stations in Sydney and Melbourne picked up this survey, have you done anything different there lately?

Not really. The PD’s (Dave Smith in Melbourne and Graeme Edwards in Sydney) would say it’s business as usual which means playing the hits as researched in their markets, but that might be to brush over the great work these guys put in. Likewise the work that Ken Wall has done with Mix in Sydney is really starting to pay off – six up books in a row isn’t all bad is it?

New97.3 Brisbane has had great numbers since it launched, but will the effect of being a new player in the market wear off soon? What do you estimate to be a healthy but sustainable figure for New97.3 in the long run?

New stations tend to have a honeymoon period and then the market settles down. This is a known trend, but we’re very pleased with the work Barry and his team at 97.3 have been doing. No estimates, but we’re focused and will remain a major force in this market.

Radioinfo has heard that a lot of your main personalities are currently out of contract. Does this signal some big changes coming?

Not necessarily, but as a rule I won’t comment on personnel issues.

Any truth in the Sydney Morning Herald report that ARN have been trying to poach Wendy Harmer away from 2DAY?

We didn’t make an offer to Wendy.

You got a bit of a pasting in the newspaper about voicetracking your Sammy and Jason Sydney Mix breakfast show for a week while they were on leave. Why did you do that and would you do it again?

We voice track a variety of voice breaks and you’d never know it most of the time. It’s called virtual live, where the jock does a break shortly before it goes to air. However like any new technology there are sometimes a few speed bumps on the way – so yes we had some problems with the “best of” components while Sammy and Jason were on vacation, but what I liked was that we got plenty of complaints – those guys have a growing fan base.

What are your personal goals for the next 12 months in this job?

Keep focused 25-54.

Our shareholders (ARN is 50% owned by APN News & Media and 50% by Clear Channel) enjoy a stable business with strong returns. We’re very focused, driven for growth, and believe great people are what makes great radio for listeners and advertisers alike.