‘There’s no kings or queens here’: Why SCA is hiring a content chief
Grant Blackley is on the hunt for a rockstar.
Southern Cross Austereo is hiring a chief content officer, but Blackley tells Radio Today that the successful candidate is not a replacement for Guy Dobson.
“When Dobbo left, we looked at the business structure which hadn’t been addressed in any capacity for probably 20 years.”
That review, over ten months in the making, signals a shift in the age-old pyramid structure that has ruled the broadcaster’s hierarchy for decades. Now, it seems, Blackley is ready to blow it up.
“What we want to do is implement a structural change to the business because it represents about 40% of the people that work at SCA.
“So what you’ve got is 80% of your people front of house, 20% of your people back of house, but when you look at the front of house capability,” explains SCA’s chief executive, “we had this pyramid and, personally, I didn’t think there was enough attention being paid to music.”
Blackley says music represents about 60% or more of the schedule. So the solution was to appoint a head of music for both the Hit and Triple M networks in Irene Hulme and Mickey Maher.
The second factor in play was the once-great divide between the metro and regional radio businesses, which lived separate lives before coming together in harmony. Or, as Blackley puts it; “nationalise the business in a positive way”.
“The regional network didn’t necessarily talk to the metro network, there was a TV network and a group of digital people that pretty much did what they wanted. And I said, ‘Listen, this can’t be’.
“You know, there’s no kings or queens here,” Blackley says with a smile.
“John Kelly, our chief operating officer, now manages 55 offices so that we have the one set of information and one set of values, that actually operate throughout the business and it’s no longer ‘us and them’.
“Secondly, what we want to do is make sure digital was inherently within the business, because it’s generated from content, and then merchandised accordingly, so they shouldn’t sit on an island; they should be part of the mainland.”
Now that’s all done, Blackley felt the timing was right to install a chief content officer to oversee all programming.
“This person will need to have strong leadership capability, be highly collaborative” and will require “a centre of excellence in creative execution,” he says.
“We’ve brought about 25 or 30 executives in over the last couple of years with different skillsets, views, you name it, and that’s really made us stronger and fitter.
“So this [chief content officer] has to deliver that outcome,” he affirms. “They have to deliver.”
“I want a rock star music outcome that says every break’s fantastic. It’s like being at a Sunday barbecue and you’ve got my phone or the iPad, as long as you keep us entertained.”
When pressed by Radio Today as to the front-runners, Blackley says a promotion from within would be “fantastic”, but the search is wide open.
This could mean both the Hit and Triple M content heads, Gemma Fordham and Mike Fitzpatrick, could have a new content boss, or become the new boss, within weeks.
“There’s a whole range of people who’ve already expressed interest, and some of them will meet the brief, and some of them won’t,” he says. “We want the single best person for the role, whoever they are, and wherever they come from.”
“It’s an exciting role. We’re the biggest network in Australia. We’re getting bigger, and we have aspirations to be bigger again.”
Whoever does successfully woo Blackley and the SCA board will have a long and winding road ahead. There’s work to be done.