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Radio survey: The Rock boasts biggest growth, More FM's numbers drop but it remains stable

With the final radio results of the year out, it brings with it the news that New Zealand radio is in a good place. With 3.32 million New Zealanders (10+) tuning into commercial radio each week, MediaWorks and NZME have reason to celebrate. We break down the results to see how The Rock, Rhema and Newstalk ZB had great performances while The Sound and More FM lost some footing.

By Georgina Harris | November 30, 2018 | news

Both NZME and MediaWorks are celebrating the results of the fourth, and final, GfK survey for 2018, with the findings showing commercial radio is on steady ground in New Zealand. Total radio listening numbers sit firm with 3.59 million (10+) listening to the radio, and 3.32 million listening to commercial radio.

MediaWorks’ combo saw its total cumulative audience down 44,500 listeners to 2,359,000 New Zealand listeners (10+) while NZME combo was down 76,800 listeners to 1,892,100. With 466,900 separating the companies, the gap has increased slightly from the 434,600 difference in September’s results, but isn’t as large as the gap of 493,800 in July’s results.

There was only a slight change to the top 10 lineup, with The Edge sitting on top with 613,700 listeners (10+) followed by More FM with 558, 600 listeners and The Breeze’s 527,900. Newstalk ZB has switched places with ZM for fourth position, with 507,300 listeners (down 5,700).

Winners

The Rock

The Rock gained the biggest growth in the survey with its total audience of New Zealanders (10+) growing by 17,400 listeners to reach 436,300.

The station sits at number six in the top 10 lineup, one position up from the last survey.  

When looking at the demographics, the most significant growth came in the 25-54 age group, up 11,400 to 285,800 listeners, followed closely by the 45-64 age group, up 11,300 listeners to 105,800.

The Rock also had the largest growth in the total audience breakfast slot (6am-9am weekdays) with an increase of 5,200 listeners to 238,500.

Leon Wratt, MediaWorks Radio group content director, attributes the growth to “passionate listeners, great work that the team have done, and really strong breakfast shows and strong shows”.

He added that the station had the annual The Rock 1500 countdown which is “always key and very popular with the listeners".

There will be fresh faces for 2019 with the announcement of Jay Reeve to join Duncan Heyde as the presenters of The Rock Drive with Jay and Dunc from early December.

Newstalk ZB

Newstalk ZB took home the top commercial breakfast slot (6am – 9am weekdays) with 361,600 listeners, down 4,500 on the last survey, and 14.8 percent station share nationwide, a .5 percent increase.

Newstalk ZB also switched places with ZM to fourth in the top 10 lineup with 507,300 listeners tuning in each week. 

NZME head of talk Jason Winstanley says the team is “really stoked” with Newstalk ZB’s result.

“Survey four is always a difficult one for talk stations, always a little bit softer as there normally aren’t as many issues floating around.”

With the Mike Hosking Breakfast Show (6am-8.30am) getting high audience numbers in all regions bar Rotorua, Winstanley says Hosking is a "stand out again".

"He’s dominating the breakfast landscape around the country and especially in Auckland, which is absolutely brilliant."

Simon Barnett will join Newstalk ZB mid next year after having to give an excessively long notice period at More FM

“He’s had an incredible couple of decades on More FM,” says Winstanley.

“We’re extremely excited that he and Phil Gifford will be joining Newstalk ZB…I think 2019 is going to be a very interesting year for radio.”

Winstanley also paid tribute to Leighton Smith who is leaving at the end of the year. Smith has worked on Newstalk ZB for 32 years.

And with a massive year ahead including the rugby, cricket and netball World Cups, Winstanley says it will be a big one for Radio Sport.

Rhema

With the second largest growth for total New Zealand listeners (10+) was Christian radio station Rhema, up 12,200 listeners to 84,400. The follows on from growth in the last survey of 2,400 listeners to 72,200.

The most significant growth came in the 45 – 64 age group, up 9,300 listeners to 32, 600. There was also growth in all time slots aside from the Mon-Fri 12mn -6am timeslot, down 1,600 listeners to 9,600. 

Losers

The Sound

The biggest drop in this survey was The Sound, with its total New Zealand audience (10+) down 31,600 listeners to 357,900.

The latest blow comes following a drop in September’s survey of 9,800 to 389,500 listeners.

The drop was across all demographics apart from the 10 – 17 age group, which was up 5,200 listeners to 27,500, a rise from 22,300 in the last survey. The largest drop was in the 45 – 64 age group down 20,000 listeners to 182,500.

Despite these drops, The Sound remained in the top 10 lineup in tenth position, the same spot it was for the last survey.

More FM

A big change from last survey where More FM had the biggest audience growth (10+) to reach 586,700 listeners, this time it had the second largest drop for total New Zealanders (10+) to 558,600 listeners – a drop of 28,100.

However, the station retained a ranking of second in the top 10 lineup, and Wratt says it still continues to have really strong results around the country.

“It had 20 percent breakfast share for the team in Christchurch and strong in many other places.”

Digital

It's been a good survey for the digital side of radio, with growth for both iHeartRadio and Rova. 

NZME’s chief commercial officer, Matt Headland, says iHeartRadio continues to grow year-on-year with a 19 percent increase to just under 820,000 registered users.

“NZME is doing a great job strategically to migrate our linear audience into a digital environment.”

Rova has gained a further 35,000 downloads since September, recording 385,000 downloads to date. The number of unique monthly users has also increased to 93,000, an increase of 9,000 users per month, according to Adobe Analytics.

Wratt told StopPress in the last radio survey that MediaWorks have a new version [of Rova] to be released early next year, "with a bunch of new features that we hope will extend our digital offering even further".

"It’s going to be an important part of our future."

While it was a better survey for some stations than others, Dean Buchanan, NZME group director of entertainment, says it was a “great year for commercial radio for both MediaWorks and NZME."

“We all celebrate and commiserate the ups and downs through the year, but overall it’s been a great year, highly competitive, and in the end, the winners are the listeners and advertisers.”

And with big changes in the radio world, such as the merging of Radio Live and music station Magic to create Magic Talk with Peter Williams announced as the first confirmed host of the hybrid station, it will be interesting to see the results for the first GfK survey of 2019.

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