ARN CEO reveals acquisition ambitions & potential subscription products

The CEO of the Australian Radio Network (ARN) and its parent company Here, There & Everywhere (HT&E) has revealed its ambitious plans for media consolidation and dominance in the coming years.

Ciaran Davis told Radio Today it is “open to anything” when it comes to acquiring assets or striking media partnership deals – and it doesn’t just have to be in the audio space.

“We’ve got a board and management team and a very clear vision for how this market is going to move in the next three to five years. Consolidation is absolutely going to happen, because advertisers, CMOs, brands are looking for a partner who can offer scale, reach, multi-platform content delivery and increasingly offer addressable IDs so they can engage on a much more one-to-one spectrum,” he said, citing Nine and its integrated offering of TV, broadcast video on demand, subscription video service Stan, newspapers and radio as a successful example of this consolidation.

He will look at any opportunity which will help the company grow its balance sheet and business beyond what it has today, he said.

And despite selling outdoor street furniture business AdShel after a bidding war between APN Outdoor and Ooh Media for $570 million in 2018, David didn’t rule out getting back into the outdoor advertising game. HT&E already has a strategic investment in Ooh Media, and this may not be the end.

“We have a very deep understanding of out-of-home in building AdShel, we’ve got a board that has got very broad advertising, communications, corporate financial, media experience. We’ve got a very strong balance sheet. And we’re looking to see how we can grow our offering in the market to be a much larger media player in this country,” he added.

In addition to diversifying and shoring up its revenue streams via mergers and acquisitions, ARN is also looking at moving away from being purely advertising-funded and instead looking at subscription models.

In its Annual General Meeting late last week, Davis flagged the company was looking at new monetisation opportunities.

Asked by Radio Today for more details on what this could look like, Davis conceded it would most likely be consumer-funded subscriptions for certain podcasts or niche audio offerings across its iHeartRadio and iHeartPodcast Network platforms.

“Obviously we are all aware that our reliance on an advertising model in years to come is going to be challenging,” he told Radio Today. “It will still be very important, hugely important, but it will become challenged. So we’re looking at things like obviously subscriptions is a very important one.

“And again one of the advantages of iHeartRadio is they have trialled subscription services for different types of niche radio stations, or podcasting, or special interest audio [overseas], and that is something that is of interest to us in terms of trialling it over here,” he said, also noting Bauer’s recent introduction of paid radio platforms in the UK.

“So it’s trial and error, there’s no specific plans in place, but over a period of time we will look to try and not rely 100% on an advertising model, although it will still be the mainstay of what we do.”

Davis also said that by the end of 2021, he hopes iHeartRadio’s local growth has been fast-tracked “with a lot more partnerships coming through”.

You can listen to the most recent Radio Today Tonight podcast for more of the inside word from HT&E’s AGM as well as the most recent financial results coming out of SCA.

Read more:

LiSTNR vs iHeart: Has SCA’s move reset the market?

SCA back on top in ASX battle as it overtakes HT&E

iHeartRadio & TikTok break ‘all the radio rules’ for new station, TikTok Trending

ARN in ‘advanced discussions’ for several significant iHeartRadio partnerships

Profits for ARN’s parent HT&E down 52%, but company says it has emerged ‘stronger’ from pandemic

Ciaran Davis says honesty and transparency helped ARN navigate the pandemic

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David Wicks
10 May 2021 - 2:05 pm

The 7 Network, anyone?

Investor
11 May 2021 - 9:18 am

Great radio business but they don’t do acquisitions well – I’ve been watching their annual reports for about 7 years now and there’s lots of examples;

gfinity esports, conversant media, even 96fm spent many years at the bottom of the ratings after ARN bought it.

Brett Cameron
11 May 2021 - 5:15 pm

They need to expand their radio network as l mentioned a few times. Acquire stations in new markets like Hobart, Darwin, Newcastle, etc. Maybe Grant Broadcasting?? Perhaps another Perth station or larger regional towns.

Alex
12 May 2021 - 10:03 am

They need to concentrate on some of their existing radio stations first.

97.3 in Brisbane is just a horrible listen. It doesn’t know what it wants to be and just plays safe and repetitive songs 24/7. It could easily be dominating the ratings but instead it’s being beaten by it’s AM sister station 4KQ.

ARN should also be pressuring the ACMA to find a way to get 4KQ and Cruise on FM, or at the very least actually promote the fact they’re on DAB+. These 2 stations are doing well despite the complete lack of attention/promotion by ARN.

Brett Cameron
12 May 2021 - 2:51 pm

All stations should be converted to FM now. Ridiculous we still have AM stations.

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