Best of the Week: Radio's new talent conveyor belt
SCA and ARN are both giving radio gigs to podcasting Bachelor contestants. With cutbacks in regional programming, podcasting is the new way to develop talent
Welcome to Unmade, written in the UK while you were sleeping on Saturday morning.
I find myself living in Bizarro World, where Friday’s daily infection total in the UK fell below 100,000 while Australia’s hit 130,000. A lot can happen in a few weeks.
Happy National Bagel Day.
Today’s writing soundtrack: Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate. I’m embarrassed to say this is the first time I’ve heard it.
Radio’s new entry point
One of the most depressing media moments of the pandemic was the August 2020 decision by Southern Cross Austereo to axe 19 of its regional breakfast shows and replace them with a single program for each state.
Learning how to do radio away from the spotlight, at smaller stations, was once the main route into the industry. Along with doing weekend and late night shifts at the bigger stations, it allowed presenters to gradually build their experience where expectations, and the stakes, were lower. In theory, it meant that they would be ready when they began to talk to bigger audiences.
Back when Austereo was a force to be reckoned with, some of its biggest stars had gone exactly that route.
Kyle Sandilands did his time on local stations, and then the national Hot 30 alongside Jackie Henderson before the pair finally moved into the bright lights of Sydney breakfast.
Similarly, Hamish Blake and Andy Lee were gradually developed in late night and weekend spots on SCA’s Fox FM before their networked drivetime program became the most successful national show this century has seen so far.
There’s more to the basic skills of radio presenting than is immediately obvious. The risk of throwing somebody into a big on air role before they are ready is that a short term failure can kill off their career.
In 2015, a desperate 2Day FM put the inexperienced, but promising, radio duo of Dan Debuf and Maz Compton in the slot only recently vacated by Kyle & Jackie O, before they were ready. Then the management lost their nerve after less than a year when the ratings did not come straight away. It badly derailed the duo’s careers.
The next year 2Day paired the radio rookie Sam Frost with comedian Rove McManus in the station’s breakfast slot in what was almost a cruel act. Frost, previously a contestant on The Bachelor, wasn’t even close to ready. It would have been a challenge for a natural, and she wasn’t that. Too many people were listening for every mistake, and the poor quality of the show became the story.
Now though, podcasts are becoming the new pipeline. Particularly when they involve Bachelor contestants.
In November, Australian Radio Network unveiled its Podcast to Radio strategy, with former Bachelor contestants Brittany Hockley and Laura Byrne taking their Life Uncut podcast to a Saturday show on Kiis. On Thursday the Australian Podcast Ranker for December placed Life Uncut fourth for the month, making it ARN’s top podcast. The move to weekend radio seems a natural next step.
And this week, SCA did the same thing, with Abbie Chatfield (yes, another former Bachelor contestant) graduating from her It’s A Lot podcast for Nova Entertainment, to a new Hot Nights show to go out nationally across SCA’s Hit Network. She’ll be paired with anchor Rohan Edwards.
Radio purists hate the idea of reality TV contestants jumping straight into big jobs. But at least this time they are not being thrown into the deadly breakfast slot.
Chatfield’s Hot Nights show is particularly interesting because it’s the 7-9pm timeslot that was once a key one for developing talent on what was then the Today Network and has since rebranded at Hit Network.
As I mentioned, the Hot 30 Countdown was where Kyle Sandilands and Jackie Henderson got their wings.
The show ran from 1996 until it was axed in 2012 in the wake of the Royal prank call, when a nurse in the UK committed suicide after being tricked into giving out information about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge. That disaster was the moment SCA lost its appetite for risky radio.
Behind the scenes things are changing. The head of Hit Network Gemma Fordham was axed just before Christmas, with a new head of SCA metro content yet to be appointed.
In Chatfield - if the content of her podcast is anything to go by - the risk taking will return. It will also quickly reveal whether she has the talents to move to a bigger slot.
The Hot 30 rarely had a stable lineup - because its stars kept moving on to bigger shows. During its entire run, three presenter lineups (Ugly Phil O’Neil and Jackie O; Kyle Sandilands & Jackie O; and Tim Lee and Carla 'Biggzy' Bignasca) lasted more than a year. The other seven lineups quickly broke up - mostly because of bigger opportunities.
Chatfield’s hire into that slot says a lot about SCA’s hopes for her. With the current 2Day FM The Morning Crew show in the doldrums (in terms of both ratings and energy levels), Hot Nights looks a lot like an audition. At least this time it’s off-Broadway.
One more thing…
Damian Francis leaves Mumbrella
Mumbrella’s head of content and editorial Damian Francis is leaving the organisation after nearly five years. Francis was Mumbrella’s most senior journalist, leading both daily editorial output, curation of events content and awards judging.
In a post on Linkedin last night, Francis said he resigned at the start of December and is doing his final handover over in the next few days.
With managing editor (news) Olivia Kruimel on maternity leave, Mumbrella’s editorial output is now being led by Andrew Banks, who joined as deputy editor about a month ago.
News Corp diluted at HT&E
HT&E’s takeover of Grant Broadcasters has seen the stakes of major shareholders including News Corp diluted as a result, points out Crikey’s Stephen Mayne.
News Corp’s 15% stake in HT&E - which was the maximum allowed under competition law - is now down to 13.12%. According to Mayne, Allan Gray Funds is the largest shareholder with an 18.87% stake, ahead of Perpetual’s 13.24%.
The Cameron family, who owned Grant Broadcasters, have emerged as HT&E’s fourth biggest shareholder with an 11.55% stake.
Google gets nervous
Google is aggressively lobbying policy makers in Europe as the EU reaches the final stages of legislating its Digital Markets Act, reports the Financial Times. The legislation would limit the ability of Google to give preferential treatment to its own products in search results.
“I get a sense they are worried. And they should be,” parliamentarian Andreas Schwab told the FT.
Like the European Union’s 2018 GDPR (General Data Protection regulation) privacy law, the DMA will have global ramifications for how Google does business when enacted..
TalkTV - another News Corp network
News Corp is investing heavily in the launch of its new UK-based television network TalkTV. The company has poached journalist and commentator Piers Morgan on a three-year deal worth nearly $100m, according to former News Corp executive Kelvin MacKenzie - making him the best paid journalist outside of the US.
The deal includes Morgan’s TV show being shown on News Corp’s Sky News in Australia, TalkTV in the UK and Fox News in the US. Morgan is also writing a column for the company’s UK tabloid The Sun.
News Corp has not had a stake in a British TV network since Sky News UK’s parent company Sky was sold to Comcast in 2018. There was speculation last year - denied by the network - that Sky News Australia might rebrand now it has no ownership connection to Sky News UK.
The TalkTV trademark has not yet been registered by the company in Australia.
This week, Sky News revealed its 2022 schedule, including political quiz The Blame Game hosted by Joe Hildebrand on Friday evenings, a daily 4.30pm business show with Ross Greenwood and a new daily show for Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi.
News Corp and the party scandal
News Corp’s The Sun has been drawn into the scandal over the partying at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street base while the country was in Covid lockdown.
To widespread anger in the UK, it emerged on Friday that the night before the Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral, Downing Street held a boozy leaving party for communications director James Slack who was leaving to join The Sun as deputy editor.
Last month, photographs were leaked of a separate group of Downing Street staff enjoying cheese and wine in the Downing Street garden while social gatherings were limited to two people. Slack was reportedly among those in the picture.
The Sun has lagged behind other British newspapers in covering the scandal. The Guardian’s Jim Waterson writes of the issue: “It is also prompting scrutiny of the Sun’s own coverage of the unfolding Downing Street party scandals and raises the awkward question of why they had not broken the news of this No 10 event, given they employ a witness who was present.”
Unmade Index - A bloody day on the market
The Unmade Index suffered the biggest fall in its history (which is admittedly only a week and a half) on Friday.
Almost all of the listed media and marketing companies fell, with the Unmade Index dropping by 2.2%. The fall was more pronounced than that of the ASX All Ordinaries, which was down by 1%.
Since the start of the year, when The Unmade Index was set at 1000, the sector has declined by about 7%.
Enero Group, parent company of ad agency BMF, saw the biggest percentage fall, down 4.94%. The market capitalisation of out of home advertising company Ooh Media slipped back below $1bn.
The only company to improve its share price yesterday was ARN’s parent company, HT&E, which has been trading this week at its highest price in three years.
Time to let you enjoy your weekend.
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