Cathy O’Connor on Nova Entertainment’s record year and podcast plans

Nova is looking to grow its podcast footprint

Nova Entertainment is outperforming its commercial radio competitors Southern Cross Austereo and HT&E’s ARN, according to Nova CEO Cathy O’Connor. Although Nova doesn’t need to reveal its books because it is a privately owned company, O’Connor told Mediaweek the business had a record year ending June 30.

Nova, like SCA with its PodcastOne partnership, is looking to grow its podcast footprint by expanding its relationship with Acast. The two partners claim to be the biggest podcast player in Australia with over 3.5m listens locally a month.

The strategic partnership between the two will now see the Nova Entertainment sales teams selling both Acast and Nova podcast inventory to clients in Australia.

MORE: How Acast is riding the podcast boom

“Audience behaviours in Australia are starting to show podcasting will be a strong emerging channel as it has been in other territories,” O’Connor told Mediaweek. “The tipping point in the US was the Serial podcast, which became a mainstream hit.”

Nova Entertainment previously invested in music streaming service Rdio. However, Nova sold its 50% stake in the Australian operation as the over-saturated streaming market contracted.

“Music streaming though is now part of the landscape as is podcasting. On-demand audio, as with on-demand video, is another way for people to consume a product that is quite intuitive to Nova.

“The possibilities are almost endless with regard to developing or co-creating new forms of content in verticals that marketers are interested in.

“You will initially see many people moving into the space and then if you fast-forward a few years you will see a few who are left standing. That is what we saw with music streaming. It is important that very early in the piece we need to understand the technology, the business and who the right partners are. That content needs to be easy to find and easy for advertisers to find as well. That is where the partnership with Acast comes in.

“With a technology partner we are able to fast-forward through a lot of lessons we don’t have to learn the slow way. We are dealing with a company whose heritage is in technology, is a global player and they are teaching us a lot. Each partner brings different disciplines to the table.

“The partnership offers great technology that is easy to use, with good data and measurement, and Nova brings not only its own content but a sales force with credentials for cross-platform selling.”

Like the major radio broadcasters, Nova has had some big podcast brands via its on-demand offering of existing content.

Kate, Tim and Marty is our biggest property,” said O’Connor. “It is national and it is a show that can be time-shifted easily. Drive shows tend to be more easily adapted to podcasts, although we still have success with our breakfast shows too.

“Although we have been able to work out over time the best practice for ad insertion, measurement and creative standards, we now have a wonderful resource in Acast which has been building podcasts from scratch. They now have the technology to insert ads, not just in new podcasts, but in our back catalogue too. People who might have recently discovered Kate, Tim and Marty might want to go and binge-listen to some of the back catalogue. We can now insert ads that are current into older podcasts.

Nova Entertainment’s record year

All the other major metro radio broadcasters are listed companies that have to let investors look at their books twice a year – SCA, HT&E and Macquarie Radio. As a private company owned by Lachlan Murdoch, Nova Entertainment doesn’t need to release too much detail.

However, O’Connor shared with Mediaweek that for the 12 months to June 30, 2017 it had been a record year for the business.

“In every measure we have been setting new records – EBIT, revenue – and posting strong growth well ahead of the market.

“We are delighted with the performance, in particular the contribution that smoothfm has made. Nova has had a year of growth, but smooth has absolutely started to really deliver an impressive performance.

“We think the radio market is improving. It has been a flat-ish six months for the industry for the first half of calendar 2017, but our forward bookings look incredibly strong. I am hoping that those metrics will be improving even further.”

While happy to talk about the growth at smoothfm, O’Connor said she didn’t want to detract from what the Nova Network continues to achieve. “It remains a fantastic business and it is improving. It has had EBIT growth in a very flat market in a very competitive part of the radio industry and by any measure that is a very strong performance.

“If you look at the Hit Network or the KIIS Networks and their annual results, Nova has outperformed both.”

This is an excerpt of the full article, which appears in the latest issue of Mediaweek magazine. 

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