Grant Blackley on JobKeeper, staff cuts and having LiSTNR at the ‘centre’ of SCA

Former Editor & Content Director

The CEO of Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), Grant Blackley, has thanked the Federal Government for its JobKeeper wage subsidy program and revealed how the cash injection from the Government assisted the business’ transformation.

After presenting the company’s financial results for the first half of the financial year to investors, Blackley did the media rounds. Radio Today asked how he balanced job cuts and cost efficiencies with making sure there were still enough people within the business to do the work and bring enough money in to keep the business afloat.

“I think the first thing I’d say was JobKeeper was very welcomed by the broader market and by SCA,” he said, “because what it delivered, which it was intended to deliver, was a level of support for those markets and the companies that were deeply affected by COVID and the closing of borders and the closing of certain economies within the marketplace.

“So it did the job that the Government intended it to do, and gave us an allowance to keep more of our people employed more often, and it gave us the opportunity to restructure the business – we took advantage of that moving forward.”

In addition, Blackley said the onset of COVID, and the technological advances it forced in media businesses, simply accelerated the trajectory SCA was already on.

“The second thing to say is that there’s no question that there’s a series of things that we do organically within the business on a pre-COVID basis and we’ve done throughout the middle of COVID, and that is, how do we continue to invest in smart technology to actually deliver greater effectiveness and efficiency, to create a more sustainable operating model? And you do that very carefully.

“So we have a mantra of ensuring that we are proudly national and fiercely local, given that we operate in over 100 markets around Australia, so you navigate that very carefully, and certain decisions where people may have left the company because we implemented a technology framework that was going to simplify that process were well underway pre-COVID – it may have been maturing within COVID, but those are the things that are always occurring in the business.

“We work very, very hard to keep our people fully informed and secondly employed for the most part. So thank you for JobKeeper, and as the markets are now recovering, that is replacing the need for JobKeeper, because we’re seeing revenues starting to return to a level of normality.”

LiSTNR, the company’s new home for all things digital audio, was in the works anyway, he said, with three years of research and development. It isn’t a side project, he noted, but the new core of SCA’s operating model, sitting at the centre of everything it creates, produces and markets.

“The future success of LiSTNR requires the business to rethink how we operate, and the implementation of a new digital-first operating model, supported by ongoing investment in new technology to deliver further operating efficiencies will be a key part of our business transformation,” he told investors yesterday.

“It doesn’t sit on the outside of the business. It is an aggregator to all of our audio streams and we’re adding new audio streams. So [I’m] very proud of the work that’s been done over the last six months to achieve this result. Very proud of the effort from every office and every person that’s contributed to that, and extremely proud that throughout this period we’ve accelerated a number of initiatives, namely LiSTNR, which will actually create new revenue streams and new earnings moving forward,” he added in his chat with Radio Today.

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26 Feb 2021 - 12:27 pm

Am I the only one who thinks the name “Listener” or “LiSTNR” as it’s technically named, is missing the mark?

We, in the business, refer to our audience as “Listeners”. Listeners don’t refer to themselves as that, they are just people. Why brand an app the way that we as an industry refer to the audience?

Surely a more “real world” name would be something along the lines of how that “listener” would consume the product?

26 Feb 2021 - 12:44 pm

The “thank you” to the Govt is all good and well, but would they have needed it more than others, if they cancelled the rebranding that happened during the pandemic? Or was that money found when the regional talents were shafted?


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