Just waiting and itching for the next opportunity…

Cathy O’Connor and Peter Charlton speak with Peter Saxon about their new roles.

The phone rang for my slot in the round of interviews. I heard a cheery voice with perfect diction say, “Hi Peter, it’s Peter Charlton here with Cathy O’Connor from Nova.”
But when I ran the audio through the ‘you beaut’ transcript software, “Cathy O’Connor from Nova,” came out as “Catholic O’Connor from Dover.”

In this age of conspiracies, it occurred to me that the error may not be that the software simply misheard what was said but rather it had inadvertently leaked private information from its database about Ms O’Connor’s religion and place of birth. And they say that AI isn’t gathering information on us…
But that wasn’t the point of our chat today.
In a rare piece of happy employment news these days, Cathy O’Connor announced that she had been head hunted to head up oOh!media. The beneficiary of her departure is Peter Charlton who moves into the CEO role from Chief Commercial Officer. 
Coincidentally, Peter came to Nova some eight years ago from the out-of-home space while Cathy’s moving to it.  
radioinfo: How long have the two of you and, I guess, the chairman known about Cathy leaving and have been prepared for this day. 
Cathy: I resigned two weeks ago but the succession planning process has been in place for a number of years. When I was able to take some extended leave in 2018 and again in 2019 Peter acted in the CEO role.
Digital and digital audio has been building and he’s built a great depth of talent beneath him in the commercial function as well which allows him to act more as a generalist working with me on strategy and so forth. So that’s been a very natural process and as the business has grown Pete’s grown within it. And at a point where I finally expressed my intention to leave. It was a pretty simple series of conversations, first with Lachlan (Murdoch) and then Lachlan with Pete and the plan was put in place – as you would like it to be.
radioinfo: So, Peter, when they offered you the CEO’s job, I guess it took you at least three nanoseconds before accepting…
Peter: I’ve worked with Cath for eight years and we’ve had a successful eight years working together. Along with some of the other senior execs like Paul Jackson we’ve been quite a strong knit team working on and growing the business and we’ve had a successful run. So. I think my aspirations in terms of what I want to do to succeed Cath when the day came were pretty obvious. So, I think Lachlan knew what I was going to say when he asked, and I didn’t disappoint him.
I’m very proud, very pleased and very honoured. I’m really, really happy for Cath. Her experience in media and her reputation in this market was one of the reasons I joined the business, to be frank.
radioinfo: Cathy why did you decide to leave?
Cathy: Well I wasn’t looking to make a move but when I was asked to go and have a coffee with some of the directors at oOH! I just felt that the job that they wanted done in this next era with Brendan, the founder, expressing his intention to go about a year ago. Clearly, he’s a very well-known, iconic figure in the out of home industry. And obviously they saw his leaving as an opportunity to bring in someone else. And you know, they built a lot of scale in various acquisitions and they have a strong brand and I think they’re really looking for someone to come in and bring it all together and prepare for this next era of its development and digital future. 
So, I just felt a great match with what I had achieved at Nova and the high growth strategy that we’ve put in place here that’s been very successful… and I could see a lot of parallels with what the directors at oOH! wanted and it just felt like the right time for me, after to 12 years in this role, knowing that I had a great successor in Peter just waiting and itching for the next opportunity. It just was an intersection of a whole lot of things that just meant it was right for everyone. So, it’s just been a fantastic day for all that coming together.
radioinfo:  I don’t know much about out-of-home. I know it’s media but it’s media without talent… exciting people and blow ups every day and stuff. Are you going to miss that about radio?
Cathy: No. Look, it’s been such an exciting and fun job because of all of that but I don’t I don’t think it will be any less exciting at oOH! It will just be different. 
I’m really looking forward to experiencing radio as a as a listener now and you know reading about it just from the outside looking in will be just fantastic. I’ll always be passionate about it I’ll always be a listener. And now, as I listen to the radio, I’ll have a few more extra things to look at as I drive past roadside inventory.
radioinfo: Peter having been in the C-Suite for the past eight years or more you know how the place runs and the staff know you quite well too. So, what are the major challenges you see for yourself going forward?
Peter: We’ve had a good run. And I think the challenge is to build on that success Not blowing our own trumpet but you’ve seen the ratings performance across this business particularly with the advent of smooth and what that means for our overall numbers. Revenue has followed ratings and therefore profitability of the business. 
We’ve had growth on every measure every year since I’ve been in the business. So, I guess the biggest challenge is to continue to do that. I feel like I know why we’ve done those things. We’re a very inclusive team it’s a collaborative, collegiate bunch of people I work with that Cathy has led. 
Obviously, there’s been challenges this year but we’re not unique in that. We’re focusing the business to come out of those challenges as quickly as we possibly can to adapt in the right way and make sure that we’re fit for progress and a return to normality when it comes.
radioinfo: Final question, what do each of you see as the big challenges for all Australian media in the foreseeable future.
Or, is nothing really foreseeable at present.
Cathy: I think that there’s been a lot written about digital platforms and the unfair treatment of established media relative to the impact that those platforms are having on the businesses. More generally see what’s happened in regional Australia with content and newsgathering restructuring still going on everywhere in television, radio and the whole bit. I think it’s about continuing to push for that level playing field and I know that those negotiations are going on right across the industry at the moment. That needs to continue to happen. 
Beyond that, it’s digitisation and the way in which media companies, Nova is not excluded from this, understand more about their audiences and educate the market accordingly. Audience numbers are great and Nova has them in spades, but equally the intelligence you can mine through your digital listening and your podcast listening in the way that you can broaden out and enrich that lens on your audience and probably evolve your measurements to be able to do the same. 
There are going to be big opportunities for radio, and you can see that happening in outdoor with the sorts of audience led propositions that are now coming to the fore as opposed to location based selling.
Peter: er… what she said.
radioinfo: She didn’t leave you much…
Peter: What we’ve all got to get used to is the dynamic nature of what we’re working in and to be able to cope with the short-term changes. I think what Covid’s proved is that consumer habits have changed and that some of them may never change back. And we’ve got to adapt media. And engagement with media to those changes. No longer can you just produce the same plan and produce the same media schedules as you always have done. You’ve got to make sure that you are following the audience and their new habits and bring an exciting, dynamic approach. But at the same time, it’s difficult to plan a long term.

Peter Saxon


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