CRA CEO Ford Ennals: Radio M&A Activity Will Be A “Net Positive” For The Industry

CRA CEO Ford Ennals: Radio M&A Activity Will Be A “Net Positive” For The Industry

Today marks 100 years of radio in Australia. To celebrate, B&T sat down with CRA CEO Ford Ennals. 

One of the biggest trends in radio right now is the amount of deals and takeover bids happening. Last week Seven West Media announced it bought a 20 per cent stake in ARN, and back in October, ARN made a bid to buy 100 per cent of SCA. 

Ennals made it clear that he has “no favorites” when it comes to radio, however, he did say that the increased investment could be a “net positive” for the industry as a whole. 

“I think it’s kind of interesting that people are seeing the value in radio and audio assets. And I think the perception is that they are probably a bit undervalued. So I think anything that brings new investment, and new thinking into radio and audio will be beneficial,” he said. 

“I mean, these markets are huge markets. They’re growing. And there’s a lot of potential within them. And I think what’s going on at the moment with seven and ARN and SCA is underlining the value in having commercial radio and audio assets”.

Looking back at the previous 100 years of radio, Ennals said that Australia’s geography has marked it a world leader in radio. 

“I think Australia is probably one of the healthiest, most vibrant radio markets in the world,” he said. 

“It’s something to do with thegeography. And the fact that you engage with your local markets”. 

“This is the only place you’re going to get local news,” he added. 

Looking forward, Ennals said that smart speakers and podcasts will be two of the biggest sources of growth for radio. 

“You know, 30 per cent of Australians have got a smart speaker in their home and the primary use is to listen to the radio. So that’s been a real source of growth,” he explained. 

As with connected TV, the increased reliance on big tech means that there is more need for the regulator to put pressure on tech providers to keep service free and accessible. 

In Australia, 70 per cent of smart speakers are Google, Ennals explained. So when their radio app failed a few months ago, a large group of people were left without radio for a week. 

In the UK, pressure has been put on tech providers to ensure their services won’t fail and Ennals is hoping for the same in the UK. 

Another issue is the car dashboard and ensuring new cars (such as Tesla) continue to feature the radio. 

“We feel very strongly that, you know, radio ought to retain its visibility and prominence in car dashboards, because listening to the radio in the car is what people do,” Ennals says. 

In terms of what he listens to in the mornings, Ennals remained diplomatic. 

“I am a closet country music fan,” he confesses. 

“I like American country music – so I saw Luke Combs when he was in Melbourne. I’m a big country fan. So that takes me to either iHeartCountry or Triple M Country. But I understand that’s not for everyone”.

 




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