The Talent Arms Race

Staff Writer

At last years CRA conference, dmg radio australia’s CEO Cathy O’Connor made this comment when asked about a key challenge moving forward :-

“We don’t want to get into an arms race over talent, we’re going to lose here guys…..and do non-commercial things to our cost bases….”

With the announcement last week that ex-Nova hosts Maz Compton and Dan Debuf are about to finish their non-compete clause and begin a late drive show on the Today network, the poaching of talent is obviously alive and well.

We asked Craig Bruce, Head of Content at Southern Cross Austereo, for his opinion on the 'Talent Arms Race' :-

"We see ourselves in a continuous race to find the next amazing show or person who can transform our business. We want to get to them before anyone else does.

Or in the case of talent and shows on other networks, we want to create a culture where talented people feel like they have their best chance of reaching their potential working at SCA.

I completely disagree with the notion that a "talent arms race" is somehow bad for the industry.

Unique communicators are the difference between this industry being relevant in the future and not. The radio industry has to be seen as a media platform that talented performers want to be a part of.

I would rather invest money in developing the next Hamish and Andy than giving it away in a cash contest.

Right now our competitors are spending extraordinary amounts of money trying to buy the next survey result, that is a model where there are no winners (unfortunately we've been sucked into this game to protect our share).

Radio needs to be better than that.

Making unique and compelling content that connects with our fans has to be the aim. Not caller 10 at the end of a winning song.

Is there a talent arms race? You can call it whatever you like, but I will very proudly say that we are completely committed to building amazing shows that our fans will love.

This creative process takes time, great coaching on the part of our content directors and senior leaders and the scary thing is there are no guarantees that every show will be a hit, but for us it's the thing we love most about the business.

Put it this way, I would rather be in a talent arms race than a music distribution race – radio can't possibly win that in 10 years from now."

When asked for his opinion, Duncan Campbell, National Content Director of ARN said:

“There are two angles to this. Commercially you would have to agree with what Cath said at the CRA conference given the tighter economic environment and the pressure on costs. I’ve been in the middle of a ‘talent arms race’ and it can get out of control.

From a Content perspective the importance of great talent that generate ratings cannot be underestimated and we need to find or develop that talent as it’s one of the key elements that are unique to that station or network.

Depending on the company you work for the balance will tilt one way or the other.

I do think Radio needs to be smarter with how it develops talent and how it invests in talent as we move forward as an industry.

At ARN we place a lot of emphasis on the relationship we have with talent and the environment we create for them and while we don’t shy away from investing in key talent we’re not reckless with that investment either.”

Cathy O’Connor declined to comment further.

What do you think ? To remain competitive, is getting the best talent on your network crucial, even if it costs a lot of money ? Have your say below and see the result of our poll here.


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