ARN Media has published its half year financial results – their first major report since dropping the HT&E name.
ARN Media CEO and managing director, Ciaran Davis, spoke with Mediaweek to delve into the results and the story they convey in further detail. These were the key takeaways from the discussion.
Technical headwinds for media companies
At a time when advertising and media budgets are constrained for many, radio as a medium appears to be doing well. Davis commented: “Our role in the media mix is well known and understood. And in challenging times like this radio probably does better than other mediums.
“If we stand back and look at the medium itself, overall audiences are growing not only in broadcast radio, or traditional radio but radio in digital environments is growing a lot. Our streaming numbers are up a lot.
So from that perspective, I’m quite upbeat about the medium of radio and its relevance in today’s world, and continuing relevance.”
Radio and podcasting
ARN has experienced momentous growth with their podcast network, iHeart radio, to the extent that ARN’s podcasting audience has grown by around 60%, according to Davis.
Speaking to the interplay of radio and podcasting, Davis elaborated: “Podcasting is growing audiences that are complementary on top of digital audio.
“We have spent a lot of time with our sales teams on simplifying the buying and packaging over podcasts, looking at key target clients. What we’re finding is that brands are using podcasting in a different way to radio, which is good news for us because podcasts are much more of a brand-building exercise as opposed to the reach and frequency of call-to-action that radio tends to be.
He continued, adding, “The other positive thing is that we’re increasingly using digital audio and bundling it with radio campaign responses. So we’re building a complementary and additional nature of revenue coming into the network.
“The trajectory of consumer uptake making podcasting and mass medium, and the follow-on through commercialisation of that will see us have a profitable model within the next 12 to 18 months.”
Local content is driving audiences
ARN has built a strong reputation for their robust range of localised content. When asked whether he believes the current business model of having a different breakfast shows for different markets is sustainable, or whether there may be a future overlap with shows such as Kyle and Jacki O, Davis responded:
“We have 148 localised shows across the country, 26 newsrooms, [which] is something that we see as very important to our sustainable future, because it’s something that other media operators are not doing, and particularly a lot of global operators won’t be able to replicate.”
Davis described the localised content for regional networks that ARN has in smaller communities as “a key differentiator” and an investment the company will continue to make.
“People are seeking out the content we have between songs, the connection with personalities that we have, the connection to communities that we have.
“Regardless of what market you’re in, if you have a connection to a local personality, you will keep listening in, and that’s something that is overlooked. So we’re certainly committed to the localised breakfast shows, and you can see the performance that we’ve had around Bundaberg, the Gold Coast, [and] Hobart that’s driven by very strong, localised breakfast shows.”
Looking back at the Grant Broadcasters acquisition
It’s been just over twelve months since ARN acquired regional radio network, Grant Broadcasters.
Sharing his thoughts about how the deal impacted ARN’s overall results, and his sentiments about the deal in general, Davis reflected, “We’re still very positive on the deal.
“Our investment in local content is driving audiences [and] our local revenue performance has been very, very good.
“From my perspective, the maintenance of the localised content, the engaged audience that we build, and the advertisers’ sentiment that we build on the back of that is proving very positive.”
“From a culture perspective, I think we’ve made good progress, aligning everybody, and creating a workplace where people are interested in and looking at the power of radio.”
Prospects about the future
Overall, Ciaran described ARN’s 1H performance as delivering “very good results”, especially against the backdrop of significant federal and state government spending reduction.
As a final observation, he asserted: “The medium of radio is just as relevant as it ever was, and will stay relevant. We’re continuing to invest in localised content and personalities.”