CEO Round Table – Tony Kendall – Part 2

In part two of our CEO Roundtable with ARN’s Tony Kendall, we talk about The Thinker Girls and their approach to night time content.  What are ARN’s plans with their Digital Strategy and who have they tapped on the shoulder to help out?

What are his ambitions for KIIS in Melbourne? “You know the ratings in Melbourne obviously haven’t been what we want to be.  We’re #1 and #2 in Sydney, #1 in Adelaide and Brisbane and in Melbourne we’ve got some clear ambitions”

And what will ARN look like in five years’ time?

Blair:  Thinkergirls on the KIIS network is a different offering, they also have a strong social media and podcast following – is ARN looking at bundling radio airtime and podcast commercial time

Tony:  Yeah, Thinkergirls have a huge following, and I think if you reference your earlier question about the talent pool in regional markets, Thinkergirls are a great example. The talent pool exists in podcasts and it exists on youtube and exists in a whole lot of other different places, so with the opportunity to take those girls from their podcast / youtube world and bring them to air, we think that is very exciting.

In terms of commercialising their podcasts, we’re looking more to do bespoke deals with clients to have the girls create great content for us and for clients.  They are very willing to work with advertisers as well, but most importantly they are producing a show that is highly engaging. It certainly has got some edge to it, it’s got some controversy to it, but given the time of night you make the choice about ‘do you listen to a couple of songs’ or a ‘countdown on one of the other networks of songs you’ve heard before’, or do you want to have some really engaging content to spend your time with?

Blair:  ARN’s Digital Strategy, how’s that coming along?  Are there any Media Groups that you would say are doing a good job with digital and radio?

Tony:  We’ve hired a Digital Director, Sarah Bell Murphy will start of April 1st so she’s going to be challenged with bringing ARN’s Digital Strategy together.  You know we currently have great social reach and great audience reach and all those sort of things, but we probably don’t have joined-up digital strategies so she’s going to be charged with that.  And if you look to Bauer in the UK do a very good job of integrating their digital and their radio businesses.  I think here in Australia we’re all on the same journey and I think everyone’s probably early in that journey together.

Blair:  Let’s talk just briefly on iHeart Radio, ARN’s obviously been fairly aggressive with it.  What’s ahead?

Tony: iHeart Radio we’ve got big big plans for, it’s part of our digital strategy as well and part of the broader business strategy.  It’s a clear point of difference that we’ve got with our competitors here.  It’s a fantastic global brand.  The events and the partnership we have with our commercial partners on iHeart is very, very strong so it’s probably a bit early to call it on exactly where we’re going to be by the end of this year but we’ve got big plans around iHeart, particularly in terms of integrating it into our commercial responses for advertisers and even getting a lot more into custom radio where iHeart provides a great solution to do custom radio for our advertising clients.

Blair:  What do you see as being the biggest challenge facing radio?

Tony:  Probably in the next few years the biggest challenge is in car, and some of the car manufacturers building direct relationships with people in Silicon Valley and effectively taking radios out of cars to be replaced by connected devices to people’s mobile phones. That will be an interesting challenge for us to face.  I would have thought that’s probably the biggest one.

Blair:  Locally here in Australia, Media Law changes.  The two out of three rule. Do you think it’s going to impact ARN in the year ahead?

Tony:  Again it’s crystal ball stuff.  It’s hard to know which way the cards are going to fall in that particular space around whether Southern Cross comes into play, whether we come into play.  Like I said it’s reasonably unlikely but to me there are too many variables in terms of a) what the laws end up saying, and b) who actually then gets a seat at the table.  Typically these things lead to a lot of speculation, a lot of it driven by the bankers, the deal makers who want to get their fees out of any potential deals but quite often it doesn’t end up eventuating in much change.

Blair:  KIIS Melbourne, is it the biggest priority for you?

Tony:  Yes. You know the ratings in Melbourne obviously haven’t been what we want to be.  We’re #1 and #2 in Sydney, #1 in Adelaide and Brisbane and in Melbourne we’ve got some clear ambitions to get to certainly at least #2 in the Melbourne marketplace.  It gets back to the national product we talked about earlier, if you can deliver again a bigger national audience then you are going to win more of the advertising revenue, and Melbourne is where we need to grow our audience in that space, which is why we have invested in who we think is the best talent in the marketplace, across both KIIS and Gold down there. 

The Gold show sounds fantastic at the moment with Jo and Lehmo, and Matt and Meshel again are creating a radio show that’s got real talkability about it, that’s got some real chemistry between them and it’s quite different to the other shows on the air which we hope resonates with the marketplace down there.

Blair:  Do you have any ratings expectations for KIIS this year in Melbourne?

Tony:  Without putting a ratings number on it, we clearly want to get to at least a #2 position in FM Breakfast down there.

Blair: What will ARN look like in 5 years time?

Tony:  Oh look I think it’s still going to have music entertainment as the core of its business.  But I think you’re going to see our content that we produce become platform agnostic and you’ll see our content going out across a lot more devices and through a lot more channels through social and digital and effectively reaching a lot more people.  So we’re going to be in 5 years’ time a radio business that is more of a content led radio business that produces great audio and video content across many platforms.

Blair:  Let’s talk the culture of ARN, what drives it?

Tony:  You know I haven’t been here for long, but it’s a love for music, it’s a love for radio and it’s a love for entertainment.  The passion people have for radio is enormous.  Most people have worked here for a long time, they love this business.  A lot of people have left and come back to this business, so our culture and the culture here is work hard and enjoy the work. 

Work hard, play hard is probably the best way to describe it.  Everyone’s very keen on winning, but everyone’s very, very passionate about our brand and about radio broadly.

Blair:  What are some of the key attributes you look for in people?

Tony:  Just mainly people that get shit done. You know I think that smart people that work hard are key to your business. There’s not enough room in any business today for politics and jockeying and lobbying.  You know we’ve all got a job to do and I think as a group we’ve got to set a vision and set a path and set a strategy and then you just want people to get on and get it done. 


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