The sporting banter between Andrew Mulligan and Mark Richardson is no longer restricted to weeknights on Prime. Since 25 November, The Crowd Goes Wild, the popular television show the pair co-host, has also moved into the FM/AM realm with a morning show on Radio Sport.
The 30-minute TV show first aired on Prime in 2006, and ever since it has been popular with viewers, who voted it New Zealand’s best television sports show for three consecutive years at TV Guide’s Best on the Box Awards. And now, Radio Sport is hoping to tap into this success by giving the well-established brand the breakfast time slot.
TRN’s chief content officer Dean Buchanan described the cross-media collaboration between Prime and Radio Sport as a “natural fit” that could lead to further opportunities in the future.
“The brand extension to radio will only continue to grow [the show’s] winning formula. The beauty of Andrew and Mark is that they can talk about the technical elements of sport for the fanatics while covering the entertainment aspect of sport for the fans. They are naturally funny so they appeal to a broad audience, ” says Buchanan.
Despite this optimism, Buchanan concedes there was no guarantee the show was going to be successful. “There was quite a bit of risk involved. Some of the humour on the TV show relies on the facial expressions and on-screen chemistry of Mark and Andrew. You don't get that visual aspect on radio. Furthermore, the radio format is also very different, because they have to produce three hours of daily content as opposed to 30 minutes for the TV show,” he says.
Thus far, the co-hosts have enjoyed their joint foray into radio, and they aren’t finding it too difficult to transpose their unique brand of self-deprecating humour from the television setting to a strictly audio environment.
“Obviously we’re very excited to now have The Crowd Goes Wild radio breakfast show,” said Andrew Mulligan. “As well as our trademark wit, good cheer and a healthy dose of sarcasm, we do actually know what we’re talking about and, after all, Mark is no good by himself.”
Not allowing himself to be outdone in a battle of wit, Richardson, a former cricket player, retorted in a similarly humorous vein.
“Don’t be fooled by Andrew’s over-confidence,” he said. “This is serious stuff. We are going to be making sure Kiwis are heading off to work secure in the knowledge that if there is something sporty they need to know, then they’ll know about it.”
This combination of humour and knowledge seems to be working for the radio show, which has already accumulated over 880 Twitter followers on its CGWBreakfast account. And the Facebook love has also been streaming in, with Buchanan saying that approximately 5000 people joined the Crowd Goes Wild Breakfast page within seven days of the first show.
“Normally, we would expect to give a new show a few months to establish itself, but The Crowd Goes Wild had already found its groove by last week Friday,” says Buchanan in response to the early success enjoyed by the new show.
But he doesn’t find the strong start surprising. “The change came down to listener- and consumer-driven strategy, and it’s really a case of giving modern listeners what they want,” he says.
And according to the chief content officer, what listeners want is to be entertained. He says that the decision to bring on the popular pair of pundits was made because they present hard-hitting sports news in an entertaining way.
“This is why shows like Top Gear are so popular. You don’t have to be a car fanatic to find the show entertaining, but it offers something that a wider audience can enjoy,” he says.
Buchanan admits that the decision to pursue a more entertaining approach hasn’t been met with approval from all sports fans, with some hardliners saying that it dilutes the importance of the issues at hand.
But he counters this remark by pointing out that both hosts have excellent pedigrees when it comes to reporting sports news, and that their shared empathy allows them to approach challenging interviews in a way that doesn’t descend into rudeness.
He says that Radio Sport is going through a necessary transitional phase, which makes the loss of some listeners and the gain of others an inevitable part of the process.
By adopting a more entertaining approach, Radio Sport hopes to improve on its slow growth rate published in the October radio survey.
“Historically the station has done well, but in recent years it hasn’t been the performer that we hoped it would be. We are thus working on evolving it to make it more appealing to all types of sports fans,” he says.
And to push its entertainment appeal even further, Radio Sport will also be bringing back Martin Devlin early next year.