How deep is your batting line up?

Watching the Australian cricket team this summer was like watching 2DayFM slowly recover from the unexpected loss of Kyle and Jackie O over the past 4 years. The similarities are uncanny.

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.

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Josh Olek
8 Jan 2019 - 9:30 am

Great article Ryan!

I think it’s harder for radio to pull talent now when you can become an instagram / online star overnight. I think the lack of a budget is also hurting the industry. You can’t have a good succession plan if young people who want a crack at media end up going and doing other forms of it.

Young people are getting shown all different kinds of content in 2019. When you have somebody playing video games well on twitch making 25 grand a month, that’s obviously going to be more enticing than slogging it out in the middle of nowhere where nobody gives you any direction.

Radio’s difference here is that it can give you an opportunity to develop within a company, under good content brains, whereas being an online star is all about the self grind and working it all out by yourself.

If radio did a better job of showcasing development and what it could do for talent, you’d have more people interested in it at the grass roots and PD/CD’s, in the long run, would have more talent to choose from for their succession plans.

8 Jan 2019 - 9:50 am

Warner / Sandilands … it’s hard to argue with a better-than-a-run-a-ball century.

8 Jan 2019 - 1:02 pm

Great article from Ryan. Wanted to pay my compliments to Guy Dobson with a comment also but there doesnt seem to be any comments ?? Does Dobbo own this web site ? I thought Craig Bruce did ?

8 Jan 2019 - 2:42 pm

Damo looks like comments are blocked on Dobbo. Shame.

8 Jan 2019 - 4:35 pm


8 Jan 2019 - 4:53 pm

Great read! I think radio comps should always look within their company for talents and give opportunities to shadow roles and to get recognised. I see the same people get promoted just because they made a name for themselves 20 years ago, a lot harder now to break in when you don’t have enough experience or a established status.


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