The public’s election year binge on politics and social issues may have led to a hangover in the radio ratings this year for news and talkback stations.

Results from the first GfK survey of commercial radio listenership for 2018 show the industry heavyweight, NewstalkZB giving up market share nationally, in Auckland and Wellington and in the critical breakfast slot. Its much smaller talk competitor Radio Live also lost share – as the big music brands held their audiences or grew.

NZME’s NewstalkZB remained number one nationwide, but its share for the year to March dipped into single figures to 9.9, down from 10.7 for the December period. MediaWorks’ More FM rose 0.4 to an 8.4 share ahead of three stablemates The Breeze, which held its rating of 8.2, The Sound, 7.4 up 0.4 and The Rock, 7.3, down 0.6. NZME’s first music station was Coast, flat at 7.0 and sixth position.

On another measure for the national market, total audience across a week, MediaWorks’ biggest station The Edge increased its audience by 26,700 listeners to almost 640,000 – well ahead of the company’s The Breeze (580,000, up 52,000) and More FM (543,000, up 17,000) and then NZME’s first entrant ZM (503,000, down 5000) and NewstalkZB slipping under the 500,000 listener mark (488,900, down 17,000).

The music stations’ growth was evident in the major cities.

In the country’s most important radio market of Auckland, Newstalk‘s share of audience had been recovering in the past three surveys from a perilous 9.6 a year ago to score an 11.0, 12.5 and 12.7. Now it has given back those gains to again record an 11.0 (down a full 1.7 points). Worse, for its owner NZME, MediaWorks’ hip hop station Mai FM has surged again to record a 10.2 (up 1.0) to be a clear challenger for the title of number one.

In the breakfast slot in Auckland, NZME star Mike Hosking’s share was a healthy 15.4 but fell from 16.3, while Mai‘s breakfast team of Nickson, Nate and Lily hit 12.6 (up 1.4 points) to be a clear second ahead of More FM on 6.9 (up 1.5), The Breeze on 6.8 (up 0.8) and NZME’s Coast taking fifth on 6.4 (up 0.4). Hosking’s show ends at 8.30 am, and is half an hour shorter than the breakfast rating period.

MediaWorks talk station Radio Live saw its The AM Show, a simulcast with TV3, up 0.2 in the Auckland morning market but still at a 2.8 share, equal with NZME’s Radio Hauraki in 14th. Live‘s nationwide breakfast result was stable at 4.2 but its overall national share was marooned at 3.2 (down 0.2).

In Wellington, both the first placed NewstalkZB and The Breeze in second fell 1.5 share points to 13.3 and 11.1 respectively, with ZM in third (8.6, up 0.3) and the Edge at 7.3 (up 0.6). In the breakfast slot, Hosking’s share had a sharp fall of 2.8 points from 19.0 to 16.2 but remained well clear of The Breeze on 11.2 (down 1.6) with ZM third on 10.4 (up 1.2).

In Christchurch, the local juggernaut More FM maintained its first place overall at 14.5 share, despite a 1.3 fall, with The Breeze second on 11.4, The Sound on 10.9 and then Newstalk‘s fourth place at 10.4, up 1.5. In Christchurch breakfast, More FM‘s Si and Gary rose 1.7 points to 18.6 in first, to Newstalk‘s 13.0 and The Breeze on 11.8.

MediaWorks’ strength in the music market will mean it would have been savouring its champagne at these survey findings while NZME’s bubbles would have been a bit flat as the rebuild of Newstalk has stalled and ZM‘s performance in Wellington and Christchurch wasn’t mirrored nationwide with the brand recording an eighth place 4.6 (down 0.1).

Overall, MediaWorks’ stable extended its market leadership over NZME from 51.9 to 39.0 combined market share in December to 52.7 to 38.4 now – a gap of 14.3 points in the commercial radio market. Two surveys ago, in September, that margin had been clawed back by NZME to just 10.5.

RNZ‘s audience survey is conducted separately by GfK and is normally released one week after that for commercial stations.

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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