In November 2021, the newly rebranded ARN (formerly Australian Radio Network) announced its impressive acquisition of regional broadcasting group and rival company, Grant Broadcasters.
The new deal, in which Grant Broadcasters was renamed ARN Regional, sees the broadcast giant boasting a current share of 58 stations across 33 markets, as well as 46 DAB+ stations.
For such an extensive acquisition, CEO and managing director of HT&E (who own ARN), Ciaran Davis (featured image), told B&T the deal with Grand Broadcasters only took ten weeks of due diligence prior to being finalised, resulting from “the enthusiasm of both sides to do the deal” as well as the culture of both businesses being “quite similar”.
“It’s a business that we’ve obviously admired for a long time. A very successful family run business,” says Davis, who has been with ARN since 2010.
“We’re big fans of radio, and regional radio, and it’s an asset we’ve looked at before. Grant Broadcasters performed extremely well during the pandemic [and] were as effective as metropolitan businesses were.”
Last month, HT&E released its annual financial report, showing strong results for both ARN and its podcast platform, iHeartPodcast, throughout 2021.
In fact, despite rolling lockdowns in major metropolitan areas, HT&E still saw an uptick in statutory revenue of 16 per cent, a trend which may continue with ARN Regional’s introduction.
“Radio is still a very, very relevant medium in Australia,” says Davis.
“Audiences are continuing to grow. And the importance of regional markets is going to continue to expand over the next few years, as more people move out into [regional Australia].
“I think we will see regional centres growing. And if you look at the investment in infrastructure that a lot of these big markets are making in towns like Wollongong and Newcastle, that trend will continue as more people adapt post-COVID.”
While it’s all well and good for metropolitan businesses to champion growing regional centres, occasionally it can come at the cost of local businesses and locally produced content. In 2020, Bauer Media in the UK announced plans to fold 50 regional outlets into a national broadcasting platform, eliminating local shows and replacing them with nationally syndicated, bland, identikit programming from London headquarters.
However, Davis is certain no such measures will be taken here in Australia, due to ARN being “big believers in local content.”
“If you look at the unfortunate circumstances in the past four or five weeks with the floods in Queensland and southern New South Wales, the strength and power of local radio in towns where they broadcast is incredibly strong,” he says.
The ARN boss says that, since acquiring Grant Broadcasters, his company has been adamant it wouldn’t interfere with local radio and programming.
“It’s the lifeblood of the community, it’s the central part of what makes a great radio station,” he adds. “That’s the strength of radio, and that’s something we’re not going to mess with.”
According to Davis, each newly acquired local station has been added to ARN’s digital iHeartRADIO network, while encouraging listeners to download the iHeart app has become a primary objective for the company.
The ARN boss also says he’s excited by the opportunities having a widely expanded market can present, particularly when it comes to advertising.
“The strength of local advertising and the local market will be maintained, but we see the opportunity to grow $6 to $8 million revenue coming in this year, growing to about $20 million per annum over the next two to three years is the real opportunity,” he says.
However, for Davis and the rest of ARN, the goal is quite simple going forward.
“Being able to provide more integrated programming, better strategy, thinking more digital integration, and bringing it back to the Grant Broadcasters stable is something we’re guided by.”
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