SCA’s Brian Gallagher talks revenue and audience growth

“We were able to push very hard on the change to Nine with radio advertising blanketing the market during the switchover”

In his current role for 15 months, the man responsible for securing revenue for Australia’s biggest radio and regional TV broadcaster has revealed just how well TV revenue has been performing recently.

Brian Gallagher laid out some ambitious revenue targets to Mediaweek after the deal was sealed with Nine to be its new regional affiliate. “We are meeting our targets,” Gallagher told Mediaweek, revealing that in weeks 28-38 (excluding Rio Games weeks 33 and 34) of 2016 the regional audience watching Southern Cross Austereo TV was up 58%.

“We were able to push very hard on the change to Nine with radio advertising blanketing the market during the switchover”

“We were very well organised with all the systems in place, and that gave us a bit of a head start as some of our competitors weren’t quite so well organised, perhaps getting caught short a little.

“For us the revenue followed straight away [after SCA started broadcasting the Nine signal].

“Ratings grew very quickly, but we had the benefit of having dual radio stations in most of the territories where we were broadcasting a Nine affiliation change. You wouldn’t think it – but advertising actually works! [Laughs]

“We were not going to make a change based on one person’s assessment of what the next quarter’s programming is going to look like”

“We were able to push very hard on the change to Nine with radio advertising blanketing the market during the switchover. We had the Nine branding which helped by being very clear and unambiguous. Plus Nine’s new schedule post-Olympics has just cracked it in regional markets. Over the past four weeks, quite often our share was actually higher or close to the Nine metro share. That hasn’t happened a lot in the past with there often being some sort of a lag.”

Gallagher said it was also important to remember one thing: “We haven’t launched our local news service yet. That comes in the New Year. The media buyers are extremely confident in what we are doing.”

Although Gallagher said having faith in the Nine schedule for this year was important, it wasn’t key to the deal. “We have a new five-year deal. We were not going to make a change based on one person’s assessment of what the next quarter’s programming is going to look like. We made the change on the heritage and value of the network. The Nine brand is a spectacular brand and has massive potential in the regional markets. The local news next year will be the icing on the cake for us.”

SCA now has a very cohesive national brand with a simple pitch to advertisers – radio nationally via the Hit and Triple M networks and the Nine offering across most of regional Australia apart from northern NSW.

“The move to Nine has had a halo effect on all the markets we operate in.”

“These changes respect regional communities. We are very strong on localism and we are very strong on the culture, but we are also very proud of our brands and we want them working with our regional communities to the same extent that they do in the metro markets.”

Although SCA feeds the Nine signal into much of regional Australia it still is a Ten and Seven affiliate in different parts of the country. “The market has worked it out pretty quickly – they know who’s got what,” explained Gallagher.

“We did spend a lot of time re-educating the market. Regional television had been suffering a similar sort of trend that had been apparent in metro markets with pressure on growth. During the course of the last 12 months as a Ten affiliate we did everything we could to get growth back. We were successful after having no growth in television in four years. A lot of what was driving that was a big focus on new business into regional markets. It was our feeling if we could double our ratings base and increase our audience over five million that in combination with our strong regional radio, which we have measured in new surveys for the first time in decades, we thought as a Nine affiliate we could move the needle on regional growth much faster.”

For the first time in years, regional TV grew 3% YOY when metro didn’t. Gallagher admitted that had something to do with the Olympic Games too. “With the right set of strategies, that is a sustainable proposition.”

SCA is working on improving post-campaign analysis to ensure advertisers get what they purchase and come back again. “We are aligning all of our data with a data strategy led by our head of data Kevin Morrell. We have 65 different data points coming into the business and we are cleaning that all up and with other third-party data sources we are creating a behavioural data tool. The first iteration of that will be available in November which will allow us to get into that space that MCN currently occupies exclusively. That will spur more growth and will help float all the boats in regional. We are bringing new business to the market now.”

There has also been growth in the other TV markets for SCA – in Tasmania, Central Australia, Darwin and Spencer Gulf where it doesn’t carry the Nine signal. “The move to Nine has had a halo effect on all the markets we operate in.”

Although those are small markets, Gallagher said they all add up to seven-figure revenues.

As to where the growth is coming from, Gallagher said agency sales of national television are going very well. “We also have 34,000 advertisers in the local market and they are embracing our proposition of being a Nine affiliate and a strong radio provider.”

Gallagher noted that SCA has 24 research projects live in the market for brand awareness tracking of various campaigns.

“One by one we will use them to exhibit to brand management how they can improve their situation.”

After a busy 15 months, Gallagher said he was having a pretty good time. “I am surrounded by a fantastic team and I am having a ball. I have never had a better time. This business has so much potential. We have been on an incredible journey across the past 12 months and everyone here is fired up like you wouldn’t believe.”

Image: Brian Gallagher (right) with SCA head of radio sales Carla Vella (black T-shirt) and Hit Network’s Rove and Sam

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