How deep is your batting line up?
The Australian cricket team lose their two heritage superstars Steven Smith and David Warner, virtually overnight, with their combined experience of 148 matches and test batting averages of 61.40 and 48.20 respectively. And just like SCA, the Australian cricket team has a great depth of talented players, alongside very experienced coaches, systems and endless resources.
However, both failed to maintain their winning positions because neither could have anticipated the need for real depth in their “succession plan”.
Just months before ARN signed Kyle and Jackie O, SCA decided to end the Matt and Jo show on The Fox in Melbourne. Despite the show still producing decent ratings, SCA felt it was time to move on, so they publicly announced the show was ending in October. A decision I doubt they would have made had they known they’d need to replace the 2DayFM breakfast show less than 2 months later.
This was significant, as clearly SCA didn’t know they’d lose Kyle and Jackie O so they eliminated their established succession plan, or at least part of it, with half of the network’s drive product, Fifi Box, needed in the Melbourne breakfast slot.
Suddenly 2DayFM needed to create an emergency succession plan for the biggest shift in Australian radio, to compete with arguably the biggest show of its generation in Kyle and Jackie O, in less than 2 months over Christmas.
When thrown into a position like that – and I know from experience at Nova Brisbane when we lost Ash Bradman from breakfast unexpectedly in 2009 – it takes time to find the right solution and build a new product that is worth marketing and that you can expect a result from.
It took Meshel Laurie, Tim Blackwell and I almost 6 months at Nova Brisbane before we were lucky enough to find Marty Sheargold… and then another 9 months before the audience connected with the new show and we started being competitive in the ratings again.
And it seems everyone has forgotten that ARN churned through ten breakfast shows in as many years trying to compete with Kyle and Jackie O before giving up on developing new shows and bought their way out of the problem with a genius move from Ciaran Davis and Duncan Campbell.
The real message here is for all senior radio executives – make an effort to build depth into your succession planning and place real importance on show/talent development. Content Directors should be excited about developing talent outside of the key shifts and networks should reward them for doing it with at least a budget to make it happen.
Remember everyone, including those in the baggy green, are vulnerable without depth in succession planning.
Ryan Rathbone runs talent coaching and development business Revolver Consultancy and is the network content director for Mediaworks radio station The Edge.