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Radio results: The Edge bounces back, The Breeze blows up and Newstalk ZB refuses to be knocked down

There were a lot of ups to celebrate as the first radio survey of the year was released yesterday. We take a look at the top performers and how 2018's set to be a bigger year than last for many.

By Erin McKenzie | May 4, 2018 | news

GfK's first radio survey of the year is out, showing 3.39 million New Zealanders (10+) listen to commercial radio, equivalent to 80 percent of New Zealanders (10+).

And breaking that down, 2.4 million tune into a MediaWorks station while 1.9 million tune into one of NZME’s offerings.

MediaWorks’ share of the pie can be seen in it having three of the top five stations for weekly cumulative audience 10+. The Edge, The Breeze, More FM and take out first, second, third and respectively while ZM and Newstalk ZB take fourth and fifth spot.

And while the survey results bring out a healthy competitive spirit between MediaWorks’ and NZME as well as the stations, all are celebrating the performance of radio as a whole.

MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson says whether it’s on air, via digital, social media or through events, radio in its many forms is “undeniably a media juggernaut in New Zealand”.

NZME’s chief commercial officer Matt Headland adds the 3.39 million New Zealanders tuning into commercial radio is a great result and its continued relevance for advertising as an effective medium to reach specific demographics.

But who is reaching the most people and pulling in their target demographics? Let’s take a look at the winners:

The Breeze

Hats have to be raised for The Breeze for its impressive audience growth. For all listeners 10+, the station grew its cumulative audience by 52,100, giving it a reach of 580,700.

That growth is seen across all age groups except 45- to 64-year-olds where it dropped by 2,000. The age group making the biggest switch to The Breeze was 25-44 where it increased 24,300, from 148,800 in the previous to 173,100 this time around.

But despite its growth, the station remains firmly ranked in second position for cumulative audience for listeners 10+, behind The Edge and ahead of More FM.

The survey also shows it dropped to number three for share in across all listeners 10+ behind Newstalk ZB’s 9.9 percent and More FM’s 8.4 percent. However, The Breeze’s share remained stable on 8.2 percent, the same as the last survey.

The Edge

New Zealand's biggest station, The Edge, is on the up again after it lost momentum last year.

While it has long maintained its position as number one for cumulative audience for listeners 10+, last year’s four surveys saw The Edge’s cumulative audience and share slide. The station’s overall listenership dropped from 662,000 listeners in the first survey of 2017 to 613,100 in the last survey.

Now it’s crawled back up to a reach 639,800 listeners 10+.

MediaWorks group content director of radio Leon Wratt credits the increase to the work its team has been doing on the brand and the audience’s response to the line-up changes.

It’s breakfast show started the year with a new line-up after Jay-Jay Harvey left at the end of the 2017. Megan Annear then stepped in to take over the hot seat alongside Dom Harvey and Clint Randell.

Wratt says listeners can be negative toward change but the reaction to the new trio has been amazing.

While the Dom, Meg & Randell show runs from 6am to 10am in the weekdays, the results show 325,000 listeners tune in during 6am – 9am, up 22,700 from the last survey. In both survey’s it’s ranked third.

And while Wratt says it’s a great result for The Edge, he does point out that its past drops could have been contributed to by Mai FM’s growing popularity—another MediaWorks’ station.

Radio Sport

Another station showing a significant increase in audience size is Radio Sport. For all listeners 10+, the station grew its cumulative audience by 20,500 giving it a reach of 181,100.

The growth saw its moved up a rank to 14, behind Flava (196,600) and ahead of Magic (181,000).

Radio Sport’s growth is reflected across all age groups except 25-4 where it dropped 3000.

NZME managing editor Shayne Currie says the growth is the result of a busy period for sport over the summer, with a lot of cricket action and the Commonwealth Games. However, the Commonwealth Games was spread across this survey and period currently being surveyed so will give the next results a boost. 

Magic

Magic was another strong performer and while its rank isn’t as high as the other top performers, it showed the biggest share increase, going up 0.8 percent for all listeners 10+ since the last survey. It now has a share of 3.9 percent, putting it in 11th position, up from 12th.

Having launched in April 2015, Wratt says the station is starting to find its audience.

“It’s always great to create something new and have the audience find it.”

At the time of its launch, MediaWorks’ identified its target audience as 50- to 69-year-olds who have a youthful, active approach to life, and will feature the music and culture that shaped their formative years.

Looking at the survey’s 55-74 age group, the station has grown since the first survey of last year. It now reaches 103,700 in the 55-74 age group, up from 79,700 this time last year.

Its cumulative audience of listeners 10+ shows it reaches 181,000, up from 166,500 in the previous survey.    

Newstalk ZB - highs and lows

Taking the biggest slide in this survey, was Newstalk ZB, with its cumulative audience of listeners 10+ down 17,900 during the survey period. Its total audience is now 488,900.

It was the 45-64 age group making the biggest departure from the station, with 13,000 tuning out, leaving 161,700 listening.

Meanwhile, Newstalk ZB’s share of total audience 10+ remained stable, dropping 0.8 percent to 9.9 percent to keep the station in top spot.

It also maintained its rank of number five for cumulative audience 10+ and maintained its position as number breakfast show.

In the 6am-9am time slot, Newstalk ZB sees 345,000 listeners 10+ tune in, followed by More FM’s 340,200 listeners.

For the Mike Hosking Breakfast show, which runs 6am to 8.30am, 328,000 listeners tune in according to GfK's figures.

More FM even increased its audience in that time by 26,100 from 314,100 in the previous survey.

Meanwhile, Mike Hosking’s competitor, The AM Show on RadioLive, sits in 11th position in its 6am-9am time slot. This survey shows its audience was down 4,300 to a total of 131,300 listeners tuning in.

Looking at Newstalk ZB’s result overall, Currie says summertime is traditionally more subdued for news, which makes the results for Newstalk ZB that much more pleasing.

“What we’d expect to see now with a fair few events starting to happen it will have its strongest results coming up,” he says.

Currie also gives credit to the new arrivals, Kate Hawkesby and Heather du Plessis-Allan for boosting the line-up.

Hawkesby joined this year to host the Early Edition programme while du Plessis-Allan also joined this year to host Mornings in Wellington, Kapiti and Masterton from 8.30am to noon.

Looking at Wellington’s survey, Newstalk ZB’s performance in the 9am-12noon is up 15,800 listeners from the last survey to reach 16,700.

And while the new hosts are off to a good start, it's now awaiting the arrival of Simon Barnett who will join early next year from MediaWorks.

Barnett gave possibly the longest notice period ever when his move was announced in July last year while he had 18 months remaining on his contract with More FM.

Special shout outs

Another NZME station line up change that are proving to be successful is Sarah, Sam and Toni. The trio’s breakfast show launched in February last year and NZME chief commercial officer Matt Headland and group director of entertainment Dean Buchanan are happy to have seen it increase its commercial target audience of 25-54 in every survey since.

Looking across the station as a whole, the first survey last year showed its 25-54 audience was 211,200 and a year later it's 238,9000. The 6am-9am slot in which the Sarah, Sam and Toni show runs also shows growth, with 200,600 tuning in during the first survey of last year and now sits at 222,500.

Meanwhile, The Hits' cumulative audience for all 10+ was 397,900 in the first survey of last year and now sits at 423,600.

In this survey, that growth can be seen in the fact the station grew in all age groups.

For MediaWorks, another station being celebrated is More FM for its growth across all major markets. According to the Major Markets survey (including Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Northland, Waikato, Tauranga, Rotorua, Hawke's Bay, TaranakiManawatu, Nelson, Dunedin and Southland), the station is up 31,2000 from the last survey to reach 440,500 listeners 10+.

Wratt says Auckland, in particular, is a highlight for More FM as it’s had its highest survey in the market since 2002. This time, it’s 10+ audience is up 6,300 to reach 125,600. It’s ranked seventh in Auckland market for cumulative audience.

“In 2002 there were a lot of stations that weren’t there that are now,” he says, demonstrating just how well the station has performed.

Speaking of Auckland, Wratt also gives a shout out to Mai FM for holding top position for cumulative audience. Each week 246,500 Aucklanders 10+ tune in, up 17,700 from the last survey.

It’s held the position, as well as top breakfast show in the Auckland market since the first survey last year. It now has 154,200 Aucklanders tune in from 6am-9am weekdays.

Going digital

While the listeners tuning in to listen to radio through linear broadcast are worthy of celebration—particularly given the questions floating around about the performance of traditional media—the way radio has responded to digital changes and embraced a new way to reach listeners is also worth celebrating.

And looking at the Advertising Standards Authority’s advertising revenue reports, not only was radio’s revenue growing, its digital platforms’ revenue is also on the up.

Between 2016 and 2017, radio increased its revenue by $6 million to reach $277 million, while radio digital’s revenue increased $2 million to reach $6 million.

That revenue increase is reflected in the performance of both NZME’s and MediaWorks’ digital offerings iHeartRadio and Rova, respectively.

NZME has seen iHeartRadio grow 24 percent year-on-year with over 749,000 registered users. It also has an average of 2.7 million listening hours each month, up 27 percent year on year.

In the mobile space, downloads of iHeartRadio are constantly increasing, and are now over 398,000, which is year-on-year growth of 118 percent.

“It’s a medium that advertisers are embracing because of strong audience engagement and its ability to target audience segments based on criteria such as age or location, to name two,” says Headland.

Meanwhile, for MediaWorks’, Rova has tripled its downloads to 300,000 since May 2017 with 14.9 million streams served.

And it’s no doubt hoping that the new features in store for Rova, which are under development, will only increase its performance further.

The updated platform will be released later this year.

Taking it to the floor

With the first survey of the year now under the belts of commercial stations, the wait is now for Radio New Zealand’s results to be released. How will it stand compared to its commercial talkback competitors? While we wait, The Rock’s Roger Farrell and The Breeze’s Robert Rakete are having their own battle but not over radio waves. They've taken it to the dance floor.

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