MediaRoom: NZME radio is all Talk

NewstalkZB is the big, hands-down winner in the latest commercial radio ratings - matched by its rivals only in Wellington where it was first equal with The Breeze.

Nationwide, in Auckland, Christchurch and in the important time slots from Breakfast to Drive it surged in listener numbers. Breakfast host Mike Hosking hit market share numbers similar to the best of his predecessor Sir Paul Holmes, scoring an eye-watering 22.6 share in Auckland (up 4.6), nearly double second-placed Mai FM on 11.9.

These are serious victories for owner NZME.

But curiously Newstalk's national station share rise overall to 12.0 from 10.6 and Auckland increase to14.6 from 11.9 just confirmed an enduring dynamic of the commercial radio market:

NZME radio is (almost) all talk.

Its talk product is a runaway success but its music stations cannot break through against the alternative might of MediaWorks' family of stations.

Even with Newstalk ZB surging in this ratings survey period (which ran late last year and from January to the end of March), NZME's total market share hardly moved, and MediaWorks' went up.

At the end of last year NZME had a share of 37.5 and that is now just 37.6, after a stonking Newstalk performance. MediaWorks did better, from 52.1 up to 52.4.

Which means something continues to go wrong in NZME's music stable.

So what happened to its music stations' share?

Nationwide, Newstalk was number one with a 12.0 share, then it is all MediaWorks with the Breeze at 8.4 (up 0.5), MagicMusic & Talk stable at 8.1, The Rock stable at 7.6 and The Sound 7.6 (up 0.9), More FM at 7.4 (down 0.9). 
Finally, in seventh comes NZME's Coast at 7.1 (down 0.3).

In Auckland Newstalk is top at a strong 14.6 (two years ago it had sunk to single figures with 9.9 and a year ago it had fought back to 11.0). Then, MediaWorks' Mai FM is second on 11.1 (up 0.6), a result music stations dream about, Coast earns a respectable third 7.9 (but down 1.1 share points), The Breeze on 7.8 (up 0.7), Magic Music & Talk 5.6 (up 0.4) and the Edge 5.2 (up 0.2).

In Wellington Newstalk and The Breeze tied on 13.3 share (both up about a point) followed by Magic Music & Talk 8.1 (down 1.0) and The Sound and NZME's only music representative ZM in fourth equal on 4.4. Even here, though, ZM was down 0.8 while Sound went up 1.1.

In Christchurch, More FM lost its run at number one, with Newstalk jumping to 14.0 (up 2.3) and More falling to 12.4 (down 2.2). MediaWorks' stations The Rock 10.0 (up 0.4), Magic Music & Talk 9.5 (down 0.5) and The Breeze 9.5 (down 0.3)  and The Sound 9.3 (up 0.6) completed the leaderboard. In Christchurch the departure from More's breakfast show of Simon Barnett to Newstalk's afternoons later this year may already have had an effect.

This was the first rating survey for the combined Magic Music & Talk - previously Magic and Radio Live - and while counting the two brands' FM and AM frequencies together might seem odd, it is neither triumph or failure. MediaWorks has added 1+ 1 and got a standard 2. However given Newstalk's surge, the move to downgrade talk radio in the MediaWorks stable might prove dubious.

Overall the pattern is clear. One big talk brand vs a range of successful music brands.

These figures matter for radio advertising revenues. Newstalk will continue to pull in good money but MediaWorks radio can sell hard on the fact that it has a lock on almost all the demographic groupings under 55. Only then for the listeners aged 55 to 74 does the Newstalk effect lift NZME even close but it is still behind.

Survey company GfK also issues a nationwide measure for weekly cumulative reach and on this basis The Edge can claim to be the country's biggest station at 608,500 listeners. Newstalk has surged here to second at 555,600 up from fifth and 489,900 listeners a year ago. But MediaWorks stations dominate this list too.

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