Q&A with Grant Blackley: What's his plan for SCA?

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 28 May 2015

SCA announced Grant Blackley as its new CEO today. AdNews sat down with him, and executive chairman Peter Bush, to talk about what needs to be done to turn around the embattled media business.

Blackley has been in the media for 30 years, and was CEO at Network Ten from 2005 through to 2010, spending a total of 24 years with the network. Speaking to AdNews Blackley said he's eager to sit down with the key stakeholders in the company to get started. 

“I think it's probably a bit early to focus on a particular area. I'll be putting my feet under the desk in four weeks time, on 29 June, and shortly thereafter or immediately, I'll be meeting with each department and also with marketing partners and agency partners, so that I get a 360-degree view of the company,” he said.

Read the full chat between AdNews, Blackley and Bush below.

AdNews: You've been given the quite the remit - “Reinvigorating Southern Cross Austereo’s sales strategy, programming and talent management” - How do you plan to tackle that?

Blackley: It's quite an exciting portfolio. You know my history and I've spent many years in media and I know the company of Southern Cross very well. I was very excited to be chosen and, yes, there are a number of facets one must look into. Ratings and revenue are core to that strategy, and I would like to think I’ve got the skills with the support of the management team and – most importantly, with the talent Southern Cross has across its brands – that we can actually make a really positive difference to Southern Cross very quickly and all of that intermingles.

It's very hard to do one job without the other, it is related and you actually have to look at each part of the company to get them to come together in harmony, and then you'll get your result.

AdNews: SCA is having a hard time, ratings and revenue haven't been doing that well, so looking from the outside in, what are some of the first things you think need to be changed?

Blackley: I don't have a very clear view at the moment, because, respectfully, I need to sit down with the board, I need to sit down more clearly with Peter and the board members, certainly with executives and certainly with the talent, to find out what everyone’s respective priorities are. Get a very good and clear vision where the company has been and what the plans are moving forward. I think it's probably a bit early to focus on a particular area, I'll be putting the feet under the desk in four weeks' time, on 29 June, and shortly thereafter or immediately, I'll be meeting with each department and also with marketing partners and agency partners, so that I get a 360-degree view of the company.

Bush: The thing that made Grant attractive was, he's got an exemplary track record. When Ten grew to its best result, Grant was boss of sales for most of period and was out selling their market share substantially, year in and year out, and I was on the other side when that was going on, so Grant has a very clear track record in achieving these kinds of results and we think he's a great asset in that context.

AdNews: Peter, Grant said that he very much wanted to work with the board, what, from your perspective, is it that you want Grant to tackle or that should be tackled in his first 100 days?

Bush: Every CEO, Grant and I talked about the board and the board’s role and the reality is it's management's job to run the business – not the board's. I made that quite clear to Grant that we're putting the ball at his feet to try and develop a strategy. So as executive chairman for the last little while, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with senior management and I started to develop a very clear view of what some of the opportunities are, and areas we could do better in. I'm not going to go into those now, but there are things that Grant will discover and I think he'll work collaboratively with the board and his management team to work out in his first 100 days what he thinks his strategies are.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure he'll think long and hard about what he can do more in 2DayFM Sydney. There are some issues to do with our balance sheet as well, the general performance of our share price and our business over time. Our role is to create shareholder value at the end of the day, everything that we're doing has to be about improving the bottom-line and putting some money back in shareholders' pockets.

AdNews: During the last financial results SCA flagged that 2015 would be the year it starts the climb back up and starts paying off debt – we're nearly six months into the year and do you think it now warrants a more radical strategy to get that back on track?

Bush: I think we can distill a lot of continuous improvement that can go on within the organisation – we can definitely do better. The issue on our balance sheet is not one of gross financial mismanagement by the management or board, it's really a result of a big chunk of revenue we lost through a talent decision. Now that talent decision is way behind us and something that we're dealing with the consequences of.

It's not as though there’s been poor fiscal management in that respect to do with the balance sheet and I think there’s a level of short-term tolerance from our shareholders. Certainly those I've spoken to understand that we are selling off some lazy assets and doing some other things while we focus on the main game, which is getting our revenue up and getting our audience up.

AdNews: That talent decision has been countered with another one, with Hamish and Andy coming on board. At a recent ARN event, the boss there said Hamish and Andy might not be the silver bullet you'd hoped for – do you have any response to that?

Bush: I can't comment on what was said elsewhere, we think Hamish and Andy have a proven track record and we have a set of expectations around what they can bring to the table. They're quite conservative in the context of what their fabulous talent has brought to the table in their previous role, so we're actually pretty relaxed.

AdNews: I'd really like to quickly touch on the issue of regulation, and how you hope to tackle that one.

Blackley: I once again need to consult with the board, that's an ongoing position, but I'll talk on behalf of the company for a second. The company will have a set of views, and I know they will have expressed those to the appropriate stakeholders in industry and in Canberra and virtuously debated that platform, but I'm not sure if today is the time to declare what those are and what that structure is.

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