Inside SCA: Blackley’s plan for Hit Network drive & 2Day FM breakfast

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SCA boss Grant Blackley has told Radio Today that a local Hit Network drive show in each market is a definite possibility, but said the company plans to keep us all guessing – at least for now.

“We have multiple options to consider, and at the appropriate time we’ll make those announcements,” he told Radio Today, adding, “we believe we have suitable options to choose from, so watch this space.”

As you’d expect, there are plenty of obvious names being bantered around by the industry; Rove and Sam, Carrie and Tommy, plus Ryan and Tanya – or a combination of the above – and all are inside the Hit Network stables ready for deployment.

But there are alternatives, and not all of them are current SCA on-air residents.

Radio Today understands a Sydney breakfast and drive show from competing networks will be renewing their contracts at the end of this year, leaving a number of high-profile talent open to offers and ripe for the picking.

Strategically, some of the potential talent moves would be a smart and brazen play, which is exactly why it makes sense, and shouldn’t be ruled out. Given that Hamish and Andy‘s exit will free up some coin –  the boys are reportedly paid about $4million each – SCA could move in on a prominent talent acquisition.

Another option, as Blackley alluded to, is the idea of local metro drive shows which is, as he stated, very much on the table. The Hit Network are already grooming talent on its local Saturday morning breakfast shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

But for now, the network is carefully considering its options while maintaining a poker face and clutching its playing cards close to its chest, just as it should. But you can be assured there will plenty of key talent discussions happening behind the scenes as Blackley looks to “make Austereo great again”.

On the impending hole that Hamish and Andy will inevitably leave as they depart radio and return to TV – following a remarkable tenure with the network – Blackley confirmed the obvious, “I think they are outstanding talent and have been for many years.”

He also said that SCA management had sat down with Hamish and Andy some months ago, likely in a bid to retain them, but Australia’s favourite comedy duo elected to do their year-long farewell, “a bit like Seinfeld”.

But there’s a more pressing and immediate challenge for the SCA-owned Hit Network that needs little introduction, and that’s 2Day FM breakfast.

The station ended 2016 at the bottom of the FM leaderboard with a disappointing 4.4 share in survey #8 – a long stretch from its Melbourne counterpart Fox FM who finished the marathon in front, with a 10.6 share.

“There’s no question that if we can improve our breakfast, that all other dayparts will improve with it, because of the tent-pole effect,” he said.

“There’s no question we would get more enquiry from a broader group of advertisers, which is a place that we’ve been in before, but we need to aspire to be back there again.

“And fundamentally, we are putting the appropriate amount of time, effort and resource behind it because we see it as a wonderful opportunity to improve the position that we have in front of us.”

Blackley is, of course, referring to The Em Rusciano Radio Show with Harley Breen, which is only just getting started; it’s unlikely that today’s survey results will show much movement from the 3.8 share that the shift ended on in 2016 with Rove and Sam.

According to Rusciano, it was the Hit Network’s head of content, Gemma Fordham, that persuaded the outspoken comedian to make a return to the airwaves; first on national Sunday nights, and now on Sydney breakfast.

“Gemma is the reason I’m back in because, to be honest, I’d lost faith in commercial radio,” she told Radio Today from Hit’s Sydney studios last week.

“She [Fordham] said that my voice is an important one for women and needs to be on a bigger platform.”

Even among the intense pressure that comes with the primetime gig, Rusciano declared she’s enjoying herself, and that management – including Fordham and 2Day FM’s content director, Jase Allen – are giving her the creative freedom to make the show her own. Although it was widely reported last week that she had attempted to resign, twice.

“I really love my co-host so much; he’s a joy. I had no desire to come back to commercial radio, or breakfast radio,” she said. “I’m enjoying it because they are just completely letting me be myself.”

But the Hit Network, and in particular Blackley and Fordham, have placed hopeful bets on Rusciano’s star power as a much-needed wildcard to revive the coveted slot and bring the station back to the dominant force it once was.

As Fordham told Radio Today back in December, “I will not rest until it [2Day FM] gets into its rightful place.”

From 9:30am this morning, Radio Today will bring you the metro ratings, analysis and comments from radio’s top programmers.

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