Zanda Wilson
Assistant Editor

Content Kings: Dean Buchanan

Dean Buchanan remains in a programming role today, having served both as managing director and group director of NZME in Auckland.

He is best known his work as group PD at DMG Radio (now NOVA Entertainment) leaving a legacy to Australian radio via his role in launching Nova 96.9 in 2001.

Dean helped to devise the unique and audience-driven strategy branded as “sounds different” after finding a gap in the competitive under 40’s radio market.

He also pitched and established the sales strategy of “no more than two ads in a row” that took Nova 96.9 to #1.

Dean reveals his keys to programming success in part four of Radio Today‘s ‘Content Kings’ interview series.


What are the common factors you see when looking back on the great programmers of Australian radio?

All those things plus courage, strategy, creativity, work ethic, a great boss (especially Paul Thompson for most on the list), great eyes for talent on and off the air, timing and luck.


What changes have you seen in the programmer role compared to when you first started out?

Internet, social media, video, writing, smartphones, smart speakers, smart TV’s, user-generated content, iHeart Radio, Netflix, Apple TV, Apple Car play, multi-channel content development – you get the picture! Thus the time to focus on execution has fragmented.

The business of radio and the commercial demands on programmers has also changed significantly.


How do you see the future of the programmer or group PD role developing?

It is inevitable that we will be working in merged and multi-media environments. The opportunity to learn new skills in TV, Publishing, video, social and events is exciting and stimulating as many of the strategic principles are the same.

The more things change the more things stay the same; great people making great content will always be in fashion.  The mix of art and science, creativity and people, will remain at the centre of the role.


What are your proudest moments developing talent?

It’s my favourite part of the job and I’m proud of all my kids. The thrill is being a part of people becoming better than even they thought was possible.

My proudest moments are the underdogs; the talent that were overlooked, the talent the “experts” said would never make it in commercial radio because they came from reality TV, or non-commercial backgrounds, or non-radio backgrounds, or had funny voices, or had not succeeded at various competitive networks. Go you!


Who is the best programmer working right now?

Whoever is programming and commissioning for Netflix. Imagine having his or her $US 8B budget…


What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring programmers today?

You’re only as good as the people around you, so hire great people and people who are awesome at the shit you’re not good at.

Have the courage to take risks on people and back them in 100%; have their backs. Think differently; when everyone else is zigging, what’s the zag?

The answers lie in understanding your audience (research) AND trusting your gut.

Find mentors you trust, LISTEN, think, learn and try stuff…. In the end, remember it’s all about performance and results.


Radio Today also spoke with Jeff AllisGreg Smith and Brian Ford in the ‘Content Kings’ series.

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Recent comments (4)
Bianca Dye
30 Jul 2018 - 4:51 pm

Go Deano!!! You took a chance on me and I will always be grateful ❤️

CM
31 Jul 2018 - 2:06 am

So Dean is responsible for Bianca.

Wade Kingsley - The Ideas Business
31 Jul 2018 - 1:25 pm

Can Deano please start using an up to date headshot?? He’s still using pics from when he was in his 30’s and it’s embarrassing.

Dave
1 Aug 2018 - 9:24 am

I have worked with more on this list than not, some of them are excellent content guys. But not all, some of them are down right average with the ability to manage up and surround themselves with great programming people. It makes them an excellent manager and great at recruitment. Don’t misunderstand what i’m saying it can bring success and is a different way of skinning the cat. It does’t make them a content king in the spirit of a great program director.