What ARN’s acquisition of Grant Broadcasters means for the stations’ music strategies
Late last week, HT&E, the parent company of metropolitan radio giant ARN, announced it was buying regional radio operator Grant Broadcasters. Not only does this significantly boost ARN’s scale and reach, it means the owners of the KIIS and Pure Gold Networks will now be determining the music heard throughout much of the country. TMN’s outgoing editor Vivienne Kelly speaks to the CEO of HT&E and ARN, Ciaran Davis, about the radio behemoth’s music strategy once it owns all the Grants stations, and why he believes the notion that radio doesn’t do enough for local artists is unfair.
58 radio stations. 46 DAB+ radio stations. 33 different markets.
That will be the scale and reach of ARN’s radio assets once its purchase of Grant Broadcasters is complete on November 30. That’s also a lot of opportunities to dictate the music that metro and regional audiences are discovering.
In the metro markets, ARN has two distinct music strategies. The KIIS Network (KIIS 106.5 in Sydney, KIIS 101.1 in Melbourne, 97.3FM in Brisbane, Mix 102.3 in Adelaide and Mix 106.3 in Canberra), is “Energetic. Upbeat. Connected.”, according to ARN, offering “A vibrant network alive with influential personalities who energise, engage and excite, immersing audiences in the best music their city has to offer”.
The Pure Gold Network (WSFM in Sydney, GOLD 104.3 in Melbourne, 4KQ in Brisbane and Cruise1323 in Adelaide), meanwhile, promises “better music and more of it” to its older-skewing crowd – “An iconic network making audiences feel young, positive and full of life, immersing listeners with the Pure Gold hits they know and love”.
The only potential outlier is 96FM in Perth, which is sold as part of the KIIS Network, and carries some of its programming, however skews older and leans more into rock than pop.
Now though, there are lots of outliers, with Grants’ brands such as Power FM, Wave FM, River, Hot Tomato and Zinc not necessarily fitting the KIIS or Pure Gold mould.
CEO of ARN Ciaran Davis, however, says that’s no problem, and he has no intention of reprogramming the stations.
When two become one: ARN and Grant Broadcasters will come together at the end of the month
“From a content perspective and a music perspective, they’re very successful at what they do,” he says of the Grant Broadcasters stations his company has just collected. “They’re very popular in their local markets.
“We’re not going to be interfering in any way, because how will I know how to program a Ballarat station or a Nowra station or a Port Lincoln station?”
ARN, he says, believes in the necessity and longevity of live and local content, and thus intends to let the local GMs and content directors, as well as group content director Ryan Rathbone, continue to lead the charge both musically and content wise.
Instead of interfering, Davis says he’ll be looking at the bigger-picture implications.
Davis believes there’s huge opportunities for iHeartRadio in regional markets
The deal, he says, means ARN can now reach 9 million Australians, as well as introduce its digital audio platform iHeartRadio to more potential listeners.
The iHeartRadio platform is really gaining traction now, Davis says, whether it’s the recent Woolworths Radio contract, the pop-up TikTok Trending station or this week’s iHeartAustralia offering celebrating ARIA Week and Ausmusic Month.
All of these digital stations have spotlighted local musicians, with Davis saying this points to ARN’s passion for Australian music and content – something he thinks can get lost in debates about quotas and obligations.
“We’re unashamedly Australian,” he says.
“We’ve long worked with ARIA and wanted to do more, and we’re delighted that we’ve been able to launch iHeartAustralia for the month of November in association with the ARIA Awards.
iHeartAustralia is celebrating nominees of the ARIA Awards this week
“Equally, we’ll be looking for new talent to come through. We’ve got some exciting plans around The Edge into early next year, and certainly that is going to be another opportunity for new artists to come through.
“I think radio gets some unfair criticism in terms of ‘It just plays the big hits’, but actually hopefully people see that we are giving back, we are trying to promote new talent, new artists coming through. And we will do whatever we can with either the iHeart platform or KIIS, Pure Gold, and increasingly The Edge, to help promote that and work closely with ARIA and work closely with the record labels. That’s an important part of our strategy.”