SCA’s Grant Blackley on revenue, ratings growth & after Dobbo

• “We have well and truly outperformed the market”

Among the media companies reporting last week was national radio and regional TV broadcaster Southern Cross Austereo.

Chief executive officer Grant Blackley spoke to Mediaweek about what was driving revenue, executive moves and the growth of their new podcasting platform, PodcastOne.

Metro radio revenue up with audience growth

Blackley: We have well and truly outperformed the market which has been driven by the stability of our schedule and an improvement in ratings with the FM + DAB plus audience coupled together.

There has been an 8.5% increase (367,000 people) in our reach because of our strategy of joining those audiences together.

You are having good performances from Fox breakfast, Triple M Brisbane and Hughesy & Kate’s national drive. What else would you list?

We saw a lift in Sydney, which we were pleased with, but the job is not done yet. At Triple M we are very confident about Moonman in the Morning and we think it will be broader and more appealing than The Grill Team. Mix in Perth had a wonderful year. Our Hit Network drive strategy is more than just Hughesy & Kate, don’t forget Carrie & Tommy. When we launched it people were asking why we had dual drive shows, they are no longer asking that question because of our dominant position in that longer drive slot. [From 3pm weekdays.]

There is also plenty of opportunity to grow to with Kennedy Molloy and the new Bec and Cosi show in Adelaide.

You no longer had cricket on radio or TV this summer

For radio, we advised Cricket Australia we wouldn’t bid for the rights. After two wonderful years of cricket we had to question the economic value and we made the call accordingly.

With regard to TV we didn’t have any choice with the move from cricket to tennis. I was one of the first people to congratulate Hugh Marks on that decision. The transition across has been seamless and there was a good result for Nine and for us. It did have a $4m impact to our television business in December. We will get a lift from the tennis though which will be included in our second half results.

Nine saved money by moving to tennis, but does it have any cost impact for SCA TV?

No. We have a fixed affiliation fee, which is a variable percentage. If they pay more or less for rights it doesn’t impact our agreement.

Is Guy Dobson proving to be irreplaceable?

At the moment what we are doing is doubling down on what is a very strong group of content executives. We are in a luxurious position of having very strong talent at the executive level and are examining how best we can use them. Our priority is to make sure whatever decision and changes we decide to make improves the content team. The furthest thing from our minds is replacing that role. We are about ensuring the right structure and the right people are in place. We are close to making a set of announcements with regard to that.

We have recently brought in some wonderful talent in Laura Bouchet and also Dan Bradley. They are adding further strength to the team.

When we finalise our content structures we will then know what may be required to lead that team. I think the skill sets needed to lead the team will be very different to the skillsets we’ve had in the past.

Is speculation about who might replace Guy Dobson premature?

If anyone is speculating and it’s not me it is very immature!

What is the timeline for PodcastOne profitability?

We have built what is now the preeminent premium podcast platform in Australia.

A year ago were had 35 authors and 50m downloads, now we have 60 authors and close to 100m downloads. We have educated the market well with what is an appealing product for listeners and investors via agencies and advertisers.

The market will continue to accelerate and we will tell more stories with more experts and authors over the next year or two.

It has become an investable media and it certainly wasn’t as recently as 12 months ago. Advertisers are recognising it is a very targetable media and a premium media that should be part of the their normal repertoire.

We said in the first two to three years we wanted to break even. We are now 18 months in and we would like to think we would reach profitability within that timeframe.

Mediaweek podcasts are available on the PodcastOne platform.

Top Photo: Grant Blackley (left) and Guy Dobson (right) at PodcastOne launch 18 months ago

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