TRN has announced the launch of a new Auckland-based radio station and the extension of the ZM radio brand onto TV in the same week that MediaWorks is set to unveil the Edge TV.
Speaking to StopPress from Sydney Airport, TRN’s chief content officer Dean Buchanan said that these changes once again indicated the willingness of those in the radio industry to adapt their offerings.
And these changes don’t only imply the introduction of new elements; they also involve a shuffle of the current TRN lineup.
To make way for Mix 98.2, TRN reverted Radio Sport—the station that previously held that frequency space—to 1332AM on 22 June.
A quick look at the statistics from the most recent radio survey reveals that this decision could be attributable to the fact that Radio Sport suffered a year-on-year loss of 17,200 listeners.
Buchanan admits that the decision to move Radio Sport was made for commercial reasons, but adds that this doesn’t imply that TRN plans to discontinue the station entirely.
“Our commitment to Radio Sport absolutely continues. It’s an Auckland-only change. FM frequencies are hen’s teeth: they’re expensive and hard to come by. So, it was purely looking at what the best opportunities are for our company. And rather than just cutting off Radio Sport, we looked at what we could do to invest in growing the brand. So, we’ve chosen a digital path, but it doesn’t apply to the rest of the country,” he says.
Despite the struggles of the sports station, Buchanan points to a range of changes that TRN has incorporated in an effort to grow the audience.
“We made a lot of enhancements to Radio Sport. We believe in it strongly, particularly in its digital future, which is why we’ve added a Radio Sport omnibus to iHeartRadio; the tone of the content has changed quite dramatically in the last six months, in the sense that we added the Crowd Goes Wild breakfast show with Mark and Andrew in the morning followed by Devlin. It’s sports and entertainment now – it’s not just sport with grumpy old men whingeing about shit.”
Given that EasyMix previously occupied this space (before being cancelled for Radio Sport), this move is in a sense a return to the TRN programming that existed two years ago.
“Our thinking at that time was that it would grow the audience. With the benefit of hindsight, what we’ve seen is that Radio Sport is very much a destination format and fans of sports entertainment find it regardless of where it’s broadcast. And the other thing we’ve found is that with emergence of iHeartRadio, the most digitally engaged audience of listeners we have is with Radio Sport.”
While Buchanan admits that Mix98.2 “borrows from the history of EasyMix”, he says that it won’t function as a resurrection of the discontinued station.
“One option for us was just to turn EasyMix back on, but we felt the market had changed a fair bit in the two years since EasyMix had turned off. Also, Coast FM is doing very well in that easy space … and Breeze also plays there. So we felt there was an opportunity to do something different … We felt there’s an opportunity in the market for a brand that specialises in 80s and 90s, so we’ve filled that space.”
Buchanan says a key differentiator lies in the placement of Mel Homer as a solitary host between 8am and 12pm on weekdays.
“We’ve done that very deliberately to target mums and dads, who’ve survived that witching hour of breakfast that involves getting kids ready and off to school. It’s an opportunity for Mel to really connect with women in particular and talk about what they’re interested in and what they’re doing in Auckland.”
The Auckland angle is further consolidated by the fact that the new station will involve cross-channel collaboration with APN’s lifestyle titles Viva, Bite and Canvas.
“It’s a critical step for us in our collaboration with APN,” says Buchanan. “It’s an unashamedly Auckland station. It’s not available elsewhere in New Zealand, except through iHeartRadio, so it can really focus in on listeners in Auckland and their lifestyle. And those APN titles are fabulous mirrors of that lifestyle around New Zealand and also in Auckland, so it’s a great source of content for Mel and Mix98.2.”
Buchanan says Homer will play an integral role in bringing this cross-channel collaboration to life in the sense that she will be active across all the available channels.
“Gone are the days of a face for radio. The radio stars of today are very much multimedia. They look great on TV, they’re great in print, they’re strong on social media, fabulous at events … and by the way, they’re entertaining on radio. And that’s why Mel is the perfect choice.”
Interestingly, this personality-driven approach has also resulted in ZM’s Fletch, Megan and Vaughan encroaching onto the TV space by landing a slot on Sky’s Juice TV between 4-6pm every weekday (starting from 23 June).
“That is just a continued evolution of the ZM brand," says Buchanan. "We set out at the beginning of this year to totally turn it into a multimedia brand. We added Fletch, Vaughan and Megan at breakfast, we invested in the new multimedia studio that allows us live stream and do video … and add on to that what ZM is doing on Twitter, Snapchat and at events, and it’s clear that this is just another distribution channel.”
When asked whether this move was made to counter the 27 June launch of The Edge TV, Buchanan was unreservedly partisan in his response.
“My understanding is that they haven’t gone to air yet. I think they’ve been talking about it, but once again, we’re first in this space.”