Hosking and NewstalkZB feel the heat in Auckland ratings

The unchallenged powerhouse of New Zealand commercial radio stations and its highest paid star have fallen into a ratings hole in the country’s most important market, Auckland.

While remaining the number one station, Newstalk ZB has dropped to a 9.6 share in the city, a rare if not unprecedented fall below 10 in that market. At the last survey released in November, it was at 11.2 and a year ago rated a 14 share.

Mike Hosking, the breakfast host who inherited Paul Holmes’ ratings juggernaut, has dropped in the city again from 14.2 to 13.7*– and from a Holmes-style high of 17.9 just one year ago. His ebbing Auckland following will be of concern in election year.

Not helping things for ZB, Leighton Smith's 8.30 to Noon morning show is down from a 12.8 share to 9.7 and the station fell too across Saturday and Sunday from 10.3 to 7.9.

The Auckland shares for Newstalk ZB and its star come as their closest commercial talk competitor, Radio Live, lost its superstar host Paul Henry. Radio Live dipped from a marginal 3.1 to an even more marginal 2.9 overall in Auckland - but the Duncan Garner-led breakfast replacement, the AM Show, did not drop as much as might have been predicted on Henry’s departure, going from a 6.0 share to 5.2.

These GfK ratings figures are for commercial radio only. Radio New Zealand's audience is also surveyed but its results are released separately, usually one week later.

For the radio companies, ratings matter because they can attract more and better paying advertising.

Among commercial stations nationally, Newstalk ZB held onto its top spot, edging from a 10.1 share at the last ratings survey in November to 10.2, but again that was off a 11.7 share 12 months ago.

Hosking held his November ground, moving from 12.8 to 13.0 share across the country, from 14.8 a year ago, and the Garner show fell from 6.2 to 5.4.

The continued squeeze on Newstalk ZB nationally and the dark clouds in Auckland are the major features of the talkback market.

But on the music side, Newstalk’s owner, NZME, has finally started to see a turnaround in some of its music stations. Its competitor MediaWorks has dominated revenues and audience in this segment.

In the latest GfK survey the leading NZME station Coast has edged up from a 7.0 to 7.4 share and ZM is up from 5.5 to 6.1 nationwide.

The MediaWorks music stations still dominate – the country’s best market share going to the Edge (8.1), ahead of the Breeze (8.0) and the Rock (7.7). In Auckland, Mai FM held steady at 9.1 to take second spot overall and be within a hip hop of catching the once unbeatable Hosking.

In Wellington, Newstalk ZB was up from 11.6 to 12.3 but now has MediaWorks The Breeze breathing down its neck on 11.9 and the Edge on a 10.2 share. In the breakfast slot, Hosking is a healthy 16.5, from 16.6 last time but 18.1 a year ago. In that market Garner’s show on Radio Live had a big drop, from 8.2 to 4.3. The biggest winner in Wellington breakfast was the Breeze from 7.9 to 11.6.

Nationwide, MediaWorks combined stations' lead over the NZME stations slipped from 52.2 to 37.0 share to sit now at 51.0 to 37.8.

The Edge (MediaWorks) had the country's biggest weekly cumulative reach of 662,300 listeners, ahead of stablemates More FM (517,400), and the Breeze (506,000). NewstalkZB on 495,300 was NZME’s highest placed in fourth by this measure.

Both radio companies were happy with the survey showing total listenership for radio had increased. NZME chief Michael Boggs, fresh from the disappointment of the Commerce Commission rejecting his planned merger with Fairfax, saw positives in radio being valued as a strong medium and being used by more Kiwis every day. He has set a target internally of putting NZME’s radio operations right.

His counterpart at MediaWorks, Michael Anderson, called the survey numbers “a great result at a time of so much disruption and change in media consumption around the world.”

*This figure has been changed since this story first appeared.  The GfK tables cover 6 am to 9 am.  The figure for that block for Newstalk ZB in Auckland is 12.9.  NZME's managing editor Shayne Currie points out Hosking ends each day at 8.30 and his Auckland share figure for the two and half hours is 13.7.  

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