The toughest job in media right now is CEO of Southern Cross Austereo. Since Kyle and Jackie O left the network in 2013, the stations have suffered with loss of audience share, and loss of revenue. Mediaweek’s James Manning speaks to new CEO Grant Blackley about the challenges ahead, and the plan for 2DayFM breakfast in Sydney. Highlights of the session are included below.
Manning: Let’s start with the lineup issues and the challenges you’ve had in Sydney. A big signing this week with Rove. Give us some background.
Blackley: I’ve had about 10 years with Rove. We felt it was a core issue we needed addressing in Sydney. When we scoured the market, we wanted someone who was very visible, and Roves name came to the top. He was finishing his house in LA, and we asked him to pack up and come home. So he’s coming back. We haven’t worked out the format of the show, and will announce that in due course. Radio is very different. In TV it’s about format, but in radio the talent is the format, and it’s the talent that make stations successful. Rove asked me what I want him to do. I answered “make us proud.”
Manning: Was Rove worried about the challenge?
Blackley: It’s a reason why I took the role at SCA. The station has been to the bottom and it’s on the way up, and Rove understands that. He has to make it a great show and we will stand behind him with a 3 year arrangement. HIs view is there is opportunity. He is going to fill a place in the morning, and will bring back value to the 2Day stations and network.
Manning: Apart from 2Day FM, the network is in OK shape?
It’s performing well, but not as well as it used to be. We have to play in the big pool again (where the listeners and advertisers are), because when Kyle and Jackie O left and a few other things, we moved to the little pool. But I want to play in the big pool again.
Manning: Can you drop the 2Day Fm name?
Blackley: We could. But there is a lot of heritage in those brands. Before I came on board, I listened alot and I was a bit confused. I was being introduced to a new station. I think it’s important that they keep their heritage and name, and be a part of the hit network.
Manning: You released a new management structure this week. Is there going to be more ownership with your new management team?
Blackley: At one stage in SCA’s life, the CEO had 19 direct reports. I believe with 5 senior managers, I can spend more time with a team of experienced leaders. There is very clear guidelines of what is expected of each individual.
Manning: Was the market expecting more personnel change?
Blackley: I’m not sure what they were expecting. We’re there to do the best job for the company. The board has had a renewal, and it’s important that we say we have a strategy. I’m not going to make a change for the sake of making changes.
Manning: How do you see the regional arm of the business, and how important is regional broadcasters?
They have enormous things to contribute, both radio and television. With 94 broadcast towers, we’re (SCA) almost in the infrastructure business. The critical thing in regional areas is local content It starts with the local community.
Manning: SCA bought alot of digital spectrum. How do you see the value of this purchase?
What I do understand is that SCA bought spectrum. We’re currently the largest owners of spectrum. Do we think digital radio is the future? Absolutely. Yes we’ve got it, but we have to treat it well. Could I see Hamish and Andy’s show streamed and available on a visual form? Absolutely.
The key to digital is how do we use it. How do we market digital, and how to we make digital radio more visual?
Blackley’s final thoughts:
Radio is growing
If we can’t entertain and connect with the audience, I don’t know what we’re doing.
If you can’t get live reads for a premium, don’t do them. I’ll take them all out, and put them back one by one for those that can get a premium.
The level of talent and leaderhship in the industry ensures it’s success.