Craig Bruce explains the ‘talent pipeline’

Southern Cross Austereo have made a number of moves at a major regional level lately that have a lot of you fired up.

It started with NXFM dropping the Steve & Kim breakfast show after 11 years, replacing them with Heath & Normy.

Then last week Paddy & Ciel were taken off Sea FM on the Central Coast after 7 and a half years (a month after co-host Dan Taylor left the station).

On Wednesday, SCA announced Sea's new breakfast show would be Dani Pola and Nath Cera, both of whom are from Perth and have been doing a development show on 92.9.

These moves have led to many varying opinions from you, which is awesome, we encourage this dialogue.

But in an effort to get inside the head of the man making the decisions for SCA, Radio Today spoke with Craig Bruce, Head of Content for the network. Below, he gives his perspective and reveals the strategic plan behind these recent changes…..

Craig: Since the merge, almost 2 years ago, we’ve had an internal focus on what we call ‘the talent pipeline’. We think one of the best ways to secure our future in the metro’s is to grow and nurture our talent in the regionals by giving them the focus and coaching they need to be their best.

We’ve got a core group of us – myself, Dave Cameron, Derek Bargwanna, Sam Cavanagh, Fitzy and Jamie Angel. We have a hands on role with all of our new breakfast shows. From Cairns to Bunbury and everywhere in between.

For those in the industry that are looking at this in a negative light, why not call Tom or Heidi, who are working in Bunbury at the moment, and ask them what it’s like to have Dave Cameron coaching them on a regular basis. Or how it feels for a Kristie Mercer and a Ben Erbsland, the new breakfast show in Albury, to be flown down to Melbourne and have our entire national content team help build their new breakfast show.

All of us get a great amount of satisfaction and enjoyment out of working with Kyle and Eddie and Mick, but we get an equal amount of enjoyment from developing new shows.

We are radio people who are wanting to develop new shows, new talent for this industry.

I’m really confident that from this new batch, whether it’s Heath & Normy, Ben & Kristie, Nick & Woody or Dani & Nath – one of these teams will be a breakfast combination for one of our metro radio stations.

Radio Today: Steve & Kim and Paddy & Ciel were 2 long running, successful breakfast shows. Why end them ?

Craig: It would have been really easy, based on ratings, for us not to make a change in either of those markets.

We had a situation at B105 many years ago, which we’re probably still paying for. We knew that Jamie Dunn had got to the end of his time with B105, the brand fit wasn’t right, but the ratings told us to hold and eventually when we did move, it was too late.

Steve Graham is about to move to KOFM to do drive and it’s the perfect fit for a guy in his 40’s.

In the same way that Paddy is going to have a fantastic extension to his career because we’re going to have him on a brand that makes sense to him at this stage of his life.

The alternative strategy is to just leave everything as it is, let Steve Graham work until he’s 60 on NX and the ratings will always hold up, but where’s the win from an industry perspective?

How does that work for new talent coming through who want to do breakfast ?

Radio Today: So this isn’t a cost cutting exercise ?

Craig: The idea that this is about saving money or about centralising our programming, nothing could be further from the truth.

Radio Today: There have been some comments suggesting that breakfast hosts in these markets should be locals. Your thoughts ?

Craig: This idea that we can hire Coasties for the Coast, where do I start with that comment ? We’re not going to find quality talent in smaller markets that are ready to go. We’re putting Dani & Nath in there because we’ve spent 18 months developing them, they’re ready to go, it’s a good quality show and they’re potentially an option for us in Perth in 5-10 years.

They deserve a chance.

It is a bit confronting for new talent going into those markets. We know we’re going to get negative comments, but we also know that if we build the right show that in 6-12 months we will get the positive feedback. The immediate backlash will settle over time and we just have to put the runs on the board with good content, done consistently.

Radio Today: What do you say to those that believe you need to be on a reality TV show to do breakfast these days ?

Craig: Fitzy’s a great radio talent, Chrissie Swan is an amazing media talent. We’re in the talent development business, we’re in a permanent race to find the next Hamish & Andy. Whether they come from a reality TV show or a Masterchef, I don’t care, I will take and work with creative, interesting individuals from wherever they come from.

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