More data, scale and simplicity: Grant Blackley on SCA’s annual results

Speaking to radioinfo after the release of his company’s annual report, SCA CEO Grant Blackley said the company’s business strategy is working.

While there was a downturn in reported results, there were a lot of abnormal items in that figure. Looking at the underlying fundamentals, the business seems to be moving in the right direction, with revenue up in various areas.
“We are aggregating our audience, for the benefit of our advertisers,” said Blackley, explaining that the strategy to brand all the company’s radio stations with either the Hit or Triple M network brand is paying off.
“We own half of the commercial DAB spectrum, so that allows us to create two brand families… we are aggregating the audience. We have 12% more audience available to advertisers than last year in a brand safe environment.”
With the expansion of the Triple M network almost complete, the heritage brands 4TO Townsville and 2GO Gosford will now be branded Triple M. Has Blackley had any blowback from the decision to change the names of these iconic brands?
“I would be naïve not to think that someone somewhere was not uncomfortable with our decision, there are surely some small groups who would have preferred these stationsnames to stay the same, but we have not had any noticeable objections… 74 other stations have already been rebranded successfully… This change has enhanced the stations and we have maintained or grown local content.”
The new network branding has been part of the reason for the increase in national advertising for regional markets, but it is not the full story according to Blackley:
“We have organised the assets so that it is easy to visualise the 41 stations in the network, but there is more to it. We also now have 25 more surveys, which give us  more data.
“We now have good data, scale and simplicity to make it easier for advertisers.”
The other element of success in the SCA strategy is re-educating advertising buyers. “We are calling out advertisers and challenging them that the proportion they spend on regional advertising is not enough. 9.1 million Australians live in regional areas, that’s 36% of the buying population…
 “This is a viable profitable community… we are educating the market.”
Asked if the drought will have an effect on profitability, Blackley challenged the stereotype of people wearing Akubra hats sitting on tractors being the only people who live in regional Australia. “There are many high population large expenditure communities such as Canberra, Newcastle, Gosford, Gold Coast, Townsville, Hobart, Bunbury and others which are vibrant communities.”
He says there is enough money in these markets to make them desirable to advertisers.
Blackley was also upbeat about the growth of Podcast One, which has already had 45 million downloads so far since launching in August 2017. “Last year was about developing our position… the platform has now been validated.”
SCA didn’t start selling advertising for its podcasts until mid January this year and is now building its podcast sales team further. There will be a single advertiser per podcast. Blackley says there is a high number of enquiries about placing advertising in podcasts.
After getting its house in order by paying down debt, selling assets and restructuring its brands, is SCA now ripe for a sale?
“That’s not the intent,” says Blackley. “We wanted to stabilise the balance sheet to become healthier, strengthen the company and end up in more control… We are performing well, but we are open to conversations if they occur.”

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