Radio network Southern Cross Austereo needs to stop splashing around in the little pool and come back to where the big players and ad dollars are in the big pool, as well as start operating as one company instead of four, says the network’s CEO Grant Blackley.
Speaking at the National Radio Conference on the Gold Coast on Friday, Blackley admitted the loss of radio duo Kyle & Jackie O at the end of 2013 – the duo moved to rival network Australian Radio Network – and various other events, was tough.
“Austereo used to play in the big pool. And the big pool is where the audience were and it was where the advertisers migrated to,” he explained.
“The network’s performing well. It’s not performing as well as it used to be. These are not uncharted waters. These are waters Austereo’s been in before.
“I think through a series of events, when Kyle & Jac left and a few other things happened, I think the guys, as I would describe it, probably went to the little pool, hiding behind the tree. My role is to get them out from behind that tree, stop being in the little pool, looking at the big pool and actually getting straight back into that big pool.”
Referencing some of the challenges the 2DayFM Hit Network has faced, moderator James Manning, editor of media publication Mediaweek, asked whether SCA could just “bite the bullet and drop 2DayFM”.
“We could,” replied Blackley. “I think there’s a lot of heritage in the brand of 2DayFM and Fox.”
When Blackley said he was an “outsider looking in” he would get confused with the brand and the radio stations’ continuity when one had just gone and another beginning.
“I think you have to be very careful with the branding and how you actually bring those brands to market. So I don’t mind all of our brands in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, being part of the HIT Network. But I think they have to maintain the identity and the heritage that listeners have been used to.”
One issue the company faced was its acquisition of Austereo in 2011 by Southern Cross. Blackley said he believed a merger never really happened and that the company was operating under four different companies rather than one.
“Some years ago there was the acquisition of Austereo. Now unfortunately the thing was I don’t think there was ever really a merger. But I think there was an acquisition,” he said.
“So what I can see more clearly now, in actual fact, there’s probably four businesses within Southern Cross Austereo.”
Joking about the network’s logo, Blackley assured the audience he would be getting to that.
“That’s a great example of two groups coming together rand everyone saying ‘well I’m not dropping the A’, ‘well I’m not dropping the star’. So we’ll just put them together.”
“In essence there were four companies. Metro radio, regional radio, and two separate companies. There was regional television who didn’t have any association necessarily with the other two businesses, and we were building a standalone digital business.”
Blackley wants to get the company back to where it used to be, and believes they’re on the right strategy.
“Radio will get us there,” he said, however added the TV portion of the company may struggle.
One concept Blackley said SCA had drawn from in the past was “if you cut enough costs, you’re bound to grow”.
However, for Blackley, his school of thought has been media companies should invest in media. “And they need to invest in talent, marketing and monetisation.
“If you get that right, you’ll actually project the confidence in the market, the attractiveness in the market and momentum will grow.”