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For example, in 1993, Classic Hits 97FM achieved a share of 18 percent among 25- to 54-year-olds in the Auckland market, while in the most recent survey the highest share in that audience demographic is Mai FM’s 9.1 percent.
And across all of the surveys supplied from the 1990s, only five had a share of less than one percent across all demographics, whereas today, it's not an uncommon site.
Former Radio New Zealand national sales manager and recent acting head of radio for MediaWorks David Gibbs, explains the difference by recalling the early days of his radio career in which stations were independent and government-owned stations.
When he started at Radio New Zealand in 1987, it operated a number of commercial and community stations, those that operated in heartland areas of New Zealand and ran a combination of locally and nationally produced programming, that were later sold off in 1996 to what became The Radio Network.
It also operated a youth network of stations under the ZM brand, with three original stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Again, they were sold to The Radio Network.
Now, of course, The Radio Network is under the umbrella of NZME, which goes head-to-head with MediaWorks, a company formed by the combination of TV3 Network Services and RadioWorks.
NZME now has 14 stations and MediaWorks has 11.
Those large number of stations are a result of each company wanting to cover all audiences across their offering and they sit alongside the remaining independent stations and Radio New Zealand’s non-commercial stations—meaning the station list on surveys are longer than ever.
In a 1992 Waikato survey, there were seven stations listed as well as ‘others’ while in the most recent Waikato commercial survey, there were 20 names alongside ‘others’.
In 1993, Wellington had nine stations plus ‘others’ to list on its survey and today it has 22 and ‘others’, meanwhile, Auckland had 17 plus ‘others’ while today it has 30 and ‘others’.
And because there's less of the pie to go around, the excitement over getting a piece is bigger than ever. As each survey is released, stations are quick to crown themselves the number one for music, talkback or breakfast, or the number one for a particular demographic.
In the most recent survey, NZME was celebrating Newstalk ZB being the number one station in New Zealand, ZM being the number one breakfast show for 18- to 34-year-olds and Coast being the number one music station for people over 40.
Meanwhile, MediaWorks was celebrating its combined audience of 2.3 million New Zealanders across all stations as well as Mai FM being the number one breakfast show in Auckland.
It’s a different conversation to those had prior to the consolidation of stations, and Gibbs describes this as target market-driven. He says back then, it was easier for the media to understand what was being said; however now, the statement of being “number one” changes according to what’s being talked about—cume, share, average and audience demographics.