Ready For Battle: Ciaran Davis is back & ready to fight for the future of the KIIS Network
Davis is no stranger to the network, or to radio for that matter, having previously held the CEO position from 2011 to 2015.
During that time he oversaw some fundamental changes in the business, including the launch of the KIIS Network with Mix 106.5 becoming KIIS 106.5 (and of course, the recruitment of Kyle & Jackie O from 2Day FM).
He also oversaw the rebrand of the old Classic Hits network to Pure Gold, while iHeartRadio was also launched into Australia by ARN.
Safe to say, he’s remained hands-on at ARN and understands radio well, and Davis tells Radio Today that while he’s excited for next year, it’s business as usual for the time being.
“I’ve always had a very close overview of ARN and the team and the business. So our priorities are still around maximising our ratings, getting our fair share of revenue as a result of that.
“We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up next year as we position ourselves around audio and digital audio future. It’s about simplifying the structure around HT&E and ARN.”
Earlier this year, Davis flagged the possibility of selling ARN if the right offer came along.
“For shareholders we will always do what maximises value,” he says.
“At the end of the day this business is probably the most exciting media business in the country and we operate in a fantastic medium.
“From our balance sheet perspective we’ve got no debt, cash in the bank, so we’re all about driving maximum operations efficiency for the business. Making sure we’re #1 in every market, driving revenue and positioning the business for the future.
“If there are opportunities that come our way, we’ll have a look at them.
“We’re in no rush and certainly, the business is not ‘up for sale’.
While he’s excited for next year, Davis is under no illusions that there’s plenty of improvement to be had in a number of markets.
KIIS 101.1 in Melbourne is one market with a new Breakfast team (Jase & PJ) and new National Drive team (Will & Woody), neither of whom have stuck with listeners quite as well as ARN would have liked.
KIIS 101.1 Breakfast’s Jase & PJ
“At the end of the day we made a fundamental change to strategy to find people who already had chemistry and were already broadcasting,” Davis explains.
“We knew they weren’t known in the market and that there was going to be a period of awareness-building for them. The content that they’re doing is something I am pleased with, and Duncan Campbell is pleased with.
“On Gold, we’ve only had Christian there for a couple of months, I think he’s made a good impact on the market already. We’re pleased with that acquisition as well.”
In Brisbane, 97.3FM has found itself falling to 4th place in the ratings recently.
Davis puts down these results to a tightening of the market, as opposed to anything that 97.3FM is doing poorly.
“Brisbane has become a very tight market — it wasn’t previously — so you’ve got four stations there all jockeying for #1 and it’s close.
“To be honest we love a battle like that, we’re very much up for it.
“The Breakfast show is improving a lot. We’ve made a number of changes there in the last 24 months as well, but we’re pleased with that Breakfast show.
“It’s an important market as part of our national offering. We are putting in place and looking to improve performance in Brisbane next year, which hasn’t been where we want it to be this year. But we’re focused on it next year.
Perennially struggling 96FM in Perth is undeniably a station that needs to improve, and even Davis admits that ARN may have aligned the station with the KIIS Network too quickly.
96FM Breakfast’s Paul & Lise
“When we bought 96 it was very much a rock-driven station, lots of heritage. As we integrated it into our network we had to make some changes.
“We probably moved too far too quickly [with the rebrand] and audiences were a little bit unsure.
“What we really like is that the heritage in 96FM is still very strong. The Breakfast show is improving and doing well, and our music position is doing well.
“We do market studies two or three times a year and the feedback is that it’s improving. Again, not where we want it to be, so it’s again the focus of Duncan and the team to get it back.
“K&J are quality broadcasters in their own right,” he says. “It’s very important that you have a strong back end team working in the background.
“Back end teams come and go and Kyle and Jackie O continue to produce great output every day.
“The back end team is very important and I know they’re well advanced in terms of the process to replace Bruno. We’re pleased with who we have there, it’s not just one person, its not just the producer.”
KIIS 106.5 Breakfast’s Kyle & Jackie O
Davis also echoed comments made by Duncan Campbell earlier this year, confirming there will be no changes to the primary talent lineup at ARN in 2019.
“We’ll have a look at the edges, but in primetime, there’ll be absolutely no changes,” he said
And while Davis is especially the future of digital audio for ARN, he also believes that there’ll always be a place for traditional radio in Australia.
“The foundation for ARN is that it’s a radio business built on strong audio content. I’m quite excited by the digital audio future that is coming our way,” says Davis.
“I don’t believe that radio is going to lose it’s relevance in this market because people are always going to want to wake up to their favourite personalities and want to know what the traffic is like, what the weather is like, what’s happening in TV and entertainment news.
“We can grow new audiences and start to monetize those audiences within the ecosystem of what we do here at ARN.”