New Zealand Radio Awards: MediaWorks collects mountain of awards, TRN dominates talkback

Although radio usually sits in the background while the in vogue content delivery mediums soak up the limelight, the last few weeks have bucked that trend and brought radio to the centre of a varied range of media discussions.

MediaWorks’ decision to expand the Edge brand onto TV, TRN’s rebranding of the Hits and its investment in a studio capable of live streaming, the rapid growth of Pandora’s subscribership, and the recent Ed Sheeran concert on iHeartRadio are all examples of recent events that have piqued the curiosity of the industry.

And given that radio is currently attracting so much attention, it’s only fitting that the New Zealand Radio Awards last night celebrated the best talent among those who are often heard and rarely seen (although, this is changing).

As was the case last year, MediaWorks again led the charge in terms of numbers by picking up a total of 29 gongs throughout the course of the night, followed by TRN with 15 and Radio New Zealand with nine.

Although most of Radio New Zealand’s awards were awarded in categories where it had very little competition, the government-owned network’s Peter Fowler pipped RadioLive’s (MediaWorks) Zachary Kerr to pick up the individual radio journalist of the year award, while Stephen Hewson was awarded the best individual sports journalist award over Katarina Williams (also of RadioLive).

Immediately after the results were released, the PR teams at both of the commercial networks took it as an opportunity to highlight the wins that they deemed most important—and this inevitably led to a partisan split between the respective analyses of the event.

So renowned is radio PR for spinning results to favour a certain narrative that the Radio Bureau even commissioned the creation of a parody video to illustrate how every station could be considered number one when measured against a convenient scale.

MediaWorks led its release by pointing out that The Edge won the coveted network station of the year award, while the station’s hosts Jay-Jay Feeney, Mike Puru and Dom Harvey were celebrated as the best-in-class, winning the inaugural Sir Paul Holmes broadcaster of the year award, best music breakfast show – metropolitan, and ‘The Blackie’, awarded in memory of Kevin Black for a ‘golden moment’ in radio.

Interestingly, that golden moment was awarded for a video rather than audio recording, in that it was given to the trio of presenters for the production of the Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ parody, which bounced around YouTube (in various forms) around five million times.

Bill Francis, the chairman of the New Zealand Radio Awards, said that this award “reflects that radio is now a multi-platformed medium with video very much a part of that”.  

Yesterday morning at the Radio Rewired conference, the MediaWorks group programme director Andrew Szusterman agreed with Francis’ sentiments, saying that the way we understand radio is evolving.

“We can see this fragmentation of media where there’s a blurring of lines … with radio it’s about embracing the mediums we have around us. It doesn’t matter if it’s radio, online, TV or newspapers – At the end of the day, it’s all about content. The platform is actually secondary.”

Sharing the Radio Rewired panel with Szusterman was TRN’s chief content officer Dean Buchanan, who said both of New Zealand’s commercial networks were successfully finding creative ways to extend radio beyond its original abode.  

“Both companies are doing a great job of taking the medium beyond AM and FM. Look, AM and FM will always be at the core of what we do, the reason being that it’s immediate, it’s free and it’s driven by great personalities. And as Andrew has suggested, what’s opened up over the years is that we now have so many ways to interact,” he said.

Buchanan also agreed with Szusterman on the importance of content, and said that he was confident that radio personalities would be able to use their existing skillsets in the visually oriented channels.  

“Most television series are 13 episodes and most shows are about half and hour long, so with adverts that’s about 22 minutes of content a week … What the great radio shows do is produce 15 hours of original content a week, so they’re well used to churning out great content … And because most of the radio talent are pretty savvy to camera, they are able to turn that skill to video and live events programming.”

And given the importance of talent to the evolution of radio, it comes as little surprise that both MediaWorks and TRN placed emphasis on the accolades won by their key radio presenters.

TRN singled out Mike Hosking (best talk or current affairs host – all markets), Leighton Smith (best talkback host – all markets) and general manager of talk programming Dallas Gurney (best programmer of the year), who all won their awards for the second year running.

These awards serve to accentuate Newstalk ZB’s strong results in the radio survey results, which again confirmed TRN’s dominance of talkback radio.

“We know Newstalk ZB is going from strength to strength, which has only been reinforced with the recent commercial survey where Newstalk ZB continued to be the nation’s number one [talkback]station. We couldn’t be more pleased to see Dallas, Mike and Leighton recognised for their significant contribution by winning these awards,” said Buchanan in a release.

There was a similar focus on talent from MediaWorks, with the network commending Jay-Jay Feeney, Mike Puru and Dom (range of awards for the Edge), Jono Pryor and Robert Taylor (best music non-breakfast hosts – metropolitan), Hilary Barry (best newsreader) and Llyod Barr (best broadcaster – journalist) for their wins.

In addition to success on a national broadcast level, MediaWorks also had several regional wins.

Mike West, Gareth Pringle and Renee Pink (best music breakfast show – regional), Blair Kiddey (non-breakfast host – regional) and Andrew Leiataua (best music host ­– provincial) all won accolades, while Pink also picked up the award for best new broadcaster – on-air personality.

While both networks predominantly focused on the talent-related awards, they each also dedicated a PR paragraph to the commercially related gongs that they walked away with.

 “TRN was awarded … the one-off community campaign, best single market station promotion … best agency client campaign, best single commercial – creative, best commercial campaign – effectiveness and best jingle categories,” said a release from the network.

And for MediaWorks, it was all about the sales-related wins.    

“A clean sweep of the sales awards saw MediaWorks Auckland named metropolitan sales team of the year, and MediaWorks Tauranga win regional or provincial sales team of the year. The Edge won best client digital promotion, best direct client campaign, and best station digital promotion, and The Rock was awarded best single commercial, best promotional trailer and best station imaging.”

These awards, which might not be considered as glamorous as the talent-related gongs, are nonetheless important for the radio networks, in the sense that they illustrate how successful they are at relaying client messages to consumers via advertising.

And given that both TRN and MediaWorks are currently in the process of extending their content delivery options beyond the traditional AM/FM channels, the ability to market effectively will no doubt play a part in whether the respective networks manage to monetise their forays into new channels. 

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