He says the Paul Henry show is a good proof point of what it can deliver on a cross platform basis and he says the morning day part is quite a fundamental one.
He says it’s also working across radio and “it’s the best performance we’ve ever had on Radio Live Breakfast”.
“It’s 17 percent up on what we’d achieved in that slot previously. The flow from TV to radio is seamless. Paul and Hilary are extremely talented broadcasters who are fluent in both mediums and there aren’t many who could do that and Sarah Bristow the executive producer is working extremely well and hard and there’s such a good feeling in that team.”
Story, which replaced Campbell Live at 7, isn’t quite as cross-platform, although co-host Duncan Garner does have to rush to the studio from Radio Live. The ratings are lower than Campbell Live, so how is he feeling about that?
“Ratings are made up of two different things: how many people come to your party and how long they stay. We’re getting a lot of people coming to the party, but they’re not staying long enough. That’s a much better problem to have than not coming to the party. We’re pretty happy with the brand of the show and how it’s tracking in terms of coming at a position that’s different what TV2 and One are offering in that slot. As we said to Paul Henry and Sarah Bristow before that show started: we’ve got your back, you don’t have to worry about anything in the short term, we just expect you to continually improve’. So they same applies to Story. They’ve got a good lead time to work on it.”
Competing media don't seem particularly keen to give MediaWorks time to prove itself and there’s been a swag of stories about its performance this year. So does he think he’s had a fair crack? And does he have a perception problem?
“That’s a vexed question,” he laughs. “I think what you would like is for all media to treat all media fairly because media organisations are not toll roads, they’re a bit more emotional. I’ll leave it at that.”
Weldon was criticised by some for perhaps not fully comprehending the value of John Campbell and other personalities to the business. And, to be fair, intangibles like this are something hard-nosed business people regularly underestimate. But he admits that’s something he has learned now and he sees the big group of intangible talent as one of its biggest assets, particularly as advertisers increasingly want to work with them.
As for the apparent dancing on the grave, he says there’s an element of damned if you do, damned if you don’t in a situation like this.
“But if you want to take a business to a different place, you do have to shift. So what I’ll think you’ll see is a shift in resource over time. That’s quite obvious to say. But it’s important to point out. Because when the world, your audiences and your customers are moving really quickly, if you keep all your resources in the same place, you become obsolete. And if you become obsolete you go out of business. Business is not that complicated. There are certain laws of gravity. If your customers and audiences move to a different place than you are, then you’re redundant.”
There have been a whole heap of shifts since Weldon took over. And plenty of whispers that morale is low. So is that the case? And does he think it’s improving?
“I think it’s good. We’ve got some people who wear their hearts on the sleeve and are quick to tell you how they feel and those people are telling me they’re feeling pretty good. There’s some momentum in the business. We have been through some difficult periods. It is interesting, some people naturally like change, some people are neutral and some don’t like it. And, oddly, MediaWorks, which has been through receivership a couple of times, has been quite unchanged for about a decade. Everyone in the business rationally knows that remaining unchanged is not a good strategy. Everyone understands the why, but sometimes the what isn’t exactly what they want. But everybody understands that as well.”
He says the current media landscape is changing so quickly that it’s not going to be super smooth sailing over the next three years as its strategy comes to fruition (“and I’m sure our competitors will be quick to tell us when it’s not”). But in his mind, you’ve got to integrate a few eggs to make an omelette.