Cathy O’Connor & Peter Charlton talk radio, ratings & talent fees

Former Publisher

NOVA Entertainment chief Cathy O’Connor took the industry by surprise on Monday.

The seasoned executive revealed her plans to exit radio after accepting the top job at outdoor business oOh!media, making way for Peter Charlton to become Nova’s new CEO.

Talking to Radio Today shortly after the news broke yesterday (August 31), both O’Connor and Charlton were optimistic about a changing of the guard during a global health crisis.

“I heard from Lachlan [Murdoch] a little over a week ago, who told me Cathy’s news and asked me if I wanted to be CEO,” Charlton told me.

“Australia media, and business generally, have had a tricky time. We all know that. Media businesses have been as affected as anybody, but we’ve refocused and adapted our business.

“We’ve done that as a group executive team throughout this difficult COVID period, and created a structure and a team for the future, and for the future as we see it.”

Pictured: Nova’s outgoing CEO Cathy O’Connor with owner Lachlan Murdoch in 2014.

O’Connor believes that after a 12 year run as CEO, fresh leadership is “a great thing” for Nova.

She has overseen a period of tremendous growth and success for the privately-owned media business, which came under the control of Murdoch’s Illyria in December 2009.

When she departs in November, O’Connor named two career defined highlights from her tenure.

“Bringing Paul Jackson into the country, who had the courage to take Nova from its slightly off-mainstream format right up into the mainstream position was courageous,” O’Connor told me.

“Many people said it would be the betrayal of the Nova brand. So just seeing that pay off over the longer term has been an absolute pleasure to this day.

“And of course, the lessons we learned from Vega and Classic Rock played into the development of Smoothfm. We’re so proud of that brand,” she admits.

O’Connor and Charlton also offer some words of encouragement for future radio hopefuls after mass redundancies across the sector and their thoughts about on-air talent costs and ratings.

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My Former Boss Gets Promoted
1 Sep 2020 - 10:22 am

When asked to give advice to aspiring radio people he says “there’s never been a better time to get into radio.” Peter Charlton sounds positive and full of energy which is great but where do we draw the line between optismism and ignorance?

Has there really never been a better time to get into radio?
Has he had a look at the industry over the last few weeks, months years?
Has he asked the 70 people he’s sacked in the last few weeks?

1 Sep 2020 - 12:57 pm

There’s only one way to see what the impact of Covid has been on radio audiences and what Nova’s share of those audiences looks like and that’s in a month when the next ratings comes out.

Given SCA and ARN have been very visible over the time and NE haven’t supported their brands, I’m sure the nerves will be high

2 Sep 2020 - 8:08 am

The issue that Covid has caused for Nova is that it operates in a calendar financial year (versus financial year for the other networks) and all the money and resources, marketing and activity is gone at least until December, whilst the other networks have new FY budgets.

So there’s no budget, no marketing capability left and no resources to implement anything outside of basic radio that will mean there’s so much pain ahead for NE

2 Sep 2020 - 11:13 am

Let’s not forget that Nova went through rounds of redundancy before Covid hit. Me thinks the business was facing tough times prior to the impact of Covid.


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