In this week’s MediaRoom column, Tim Murphy dissects the latest radio ratings, gets to the bottom of suggestions the Herald premium paywall is delayed and looks at opposition to the big media merger across the Tasman.
It was the equivalent of a crowd doing a Mexican wave during a boring rugby test.
About the most fun to be had when the latest radio ratings were released was when, live on air, The Edge’s Jono, Ben and Sharyn drivetime show infiltrated its producer Dan into a drinks function at competitor NZME and he escaped with a tray of hors d’oeuvres.
Staunchly, NZME’s bartender wouldn’t give him a free drink without a band on his wrist. There’s no such thing as a free drink in the ratings wars. Or much fun.
The latest commercial radio ratings were a mixed bag with gains and losses evenly shared across the industry.
The nzherald website usually proclaims its sister station, NewstalkZB number one and ‘claiming’ the Crown – a headline which could have been used since Paul Holmes burst on the scene – but was uncharacteristically silent.
Both major radio companies, NZME and MediaWorks issued media releases singing praises of one segment of the market or another – NZME’s was being ahead in overall share in Auckland (‘a game changer”) and MediaWorks was More FM “remaining” the country’s number one music station in terms of market share.
The GfK Survey 3 release for commercial radio (RNZ’s survey is released separately next week) was for two periods ending on September 1.
Newstalk was number one in share, dipping slightly from 10.9 to 10.8, with More FM second and stable on 8.8, the Breeze just off at 7.9 in third and Coast pushing up from 7.4 to 7.8 for fourth, at the expense of The Sound, which fell from 7.8 to 7.2.
On the separate GfK measure of weekly nationwide cumulative reach, the total number of listeners in a week, The Edge at 624,400 pipped More FM which rose 20,000 to 586,700, The Breeze on 521,000, NZME’s first representative ZM on 516,000 and then Newstalk in fifth on 513,000. It was this growth for More FM which was highlighted by MediaWorks.
Nationally, the top Breakfast show was again Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB, pushing up his share from 13.9 to 14.3 – ahead of four MediaWorks’ music stations, MoreFM’s Breakfast Club, flat at 10.7, and then The Breeze (7.0), The Rock (6.8) and The Edge (6.2). In the Drivetime slot, Jay Jay Feeney and Jason Gunn on More FM lifted again from 9.0 to 9.2 to top the list with Jono, Ben and Sharyn (and Dan) on The Edge (8.0) and The Breeze (7.6) relegating Larry Williams’ on Newstalk to equal fourth on 7.5, with The Sound.
In the City of Sails, Newstalk also held first but slipped from 13.1 to 12.8 share, with Mai FM also down from 10.6 to 9.1 and out of double figures after a big surge, with Coast (8.2) stable in third and The Breeze (down from 8.3 to 7.8) and More FM (6.9 to 6.1) making up the top five.
Hosking’s morning show drifted a little down from 16.7 to 16.1, and Mai FM’s ratings drift also saw its breakfast crew drop from 12.7 to 10.1 share. More FM fell too in Auckland breakfast (8.0 to 6.9) and Coast hit fourth (rising from 5.5 to 6.8). In drive, Mai’s malaise continued (down from13.1 to 9.6) and giving up first place to Newstalk’s Williams (up from 9.6 to 10.1).
The Wellington market was rich turf for Newstalk, raising its share from 12.8 to 14.5 even while its chief competitor The Breeze went up in second, from 10.4 to 11.9, ahead of a gaining the Sound (7.8 to 9.3), ZM (down from 8.2 to 7.8) and The Edge, (up well from 6.3 to 7.0). Hosking’s breakfast was on fire in the capital gaining four whole share points (14.2 to 18.2) after dropping two at the last survey, with The Breeze second (10.4 to 12.6), ZM third (10.1 to 9.2), The Sound (5.1 to 7.3) and The Edge (5.7 to 6.4).
Newstalk’s mid morning host, Heather du Plessis Allan, who this month played shock jock about the Pacific Islands, was second in her slot although rising from 9.3 to 10.3, behind the clear leader The Breeze which soared (from 9.9 to 14.1).
More FM ‘retained’ the ‘Crown’ in the south, edging up from 14.4 to 14.6, with Newstalk standing still on 10.6, equal with The Breeze, but as others dropped seeing its place rise from fourth last survey to second equal. In Breakfast, Si and Gary on More FM moved even higher from 19.4 to 19.8 share – keeping a rising Newstalk (from 13.8 to 15.1) at bay and The Rock well back in third (8.6).
While NZME crowed about heading MediaWorks in combined share of all its stations versus all theirs in Auckland, grabbing 45.1 share to 42.0, it was ahead by a whisker last time (44.8 to 44.5). Nationwide, the combined share of MediaWorks’ stations at 51.1 was daylight ahead of NZME (and partners) with 39.7, a very similar result to the last survey in July.
Newsroom has been told by two sources that the Herald’s much anticipated paywall for premium content on its website has run into technical issues and is delayed until next year.
Given Herald owner NZME has told the market a paywall would be ready in the second half of 2018, we asked NZME managing editor Shayne Currie if the suggestions were correct.
The answer is no. It isn’t delayed, because NZME hasn’t said the paywall would be up, running and charging subscribers by December 31.
As Currie carefully and correctly pointed out, the company has (almost universally) said it would have the “capability” for digital subscriptions in 2018
“We’re still on track to have the technology and capability for our new digital subscriptions in place by the end of the year. We have yet to announce when digital subscriptions will be launched to the market.”
In its half yearly financial announcement, the company said “NZME intends to deliver paid content capability on its digital mastheads in the second half of 2018” and listed an operational priority of “deliver paid content capability in late 2018”.
Those, like this columnist, who expected people would soon be paying money for premium Herald content may have jumped the gun.
The wording is cautious, precise and probably wise when launching a technology product.
Currie also told Newsroom: “There have been no technical issues. The Washington Post [whose system nzherald.co.nz uses] did recently visit, as planned. It was their product manager, our account manager and a technology lead doing further overviews and training for the product.”
Across the Tasman, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is taking submissions on the proposed merger of Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media, to create a television, digital, radio and print giant.
Echoing some views aired when the Commerce Commission first heard this country’s proposed merger between Stuff and NZME, the main media union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), opposed the Nine-Fairfax deal on the basis it would lead to a loss of distinctive voices and reduction in the resources for investigative journalism.
“A merger between Australia’s highest-rating commercial television network, highest-rating radio news and news talk broadcaster and second-largest newspaper proprietor can only result in reduced media diversity in Australia – already one of the most concentrated media markets in the world” the MEAA says.
The union believes the ACCC should defer its consideration of the merger until it had separately finished its Inquiry into Digital Platforms.
And the StuffMe case is cited, with the MEAA saying: “Both media plurality and quality of news were held to be so fundamental to the public and of such real and national significance that any benefits of the proposed merger could never outweigh the detriments.” Despite the StuffMe decision now having been taken to the Court of Appeal, the union tells the ACCC it is “strongly persuasive authority that the ACCC should follow.”
Its concerns include the existing high concentration of media ownership in Australia. “Irrespective of Nine and Fairfax’s intentions, MEAA submits the financial imperatives will inevitably result in a significant loss of plurality, despite the aspirations of editorial staff.”
In the event the merger is approved, the union asks for undertakings that the Nine and Fairfax newsrooms not be allowed to merge, regional print publications be kept, and an editorial independence sub-committee be established to oversee the editorial independence of the Fairfax business.