The new Paul Henry show

PHENRYI have had some dealings with people inside the new Paul Henry show of recent weeks along with some of the sales team at Mediaworks and I find it intriguing to see the nature in which they are ‘selling’ the new venture.

It’s being spoken of as a Goliath of a show that is going to take the world by storm which makes sense as Mediaworks is currently trying to ‘big up’ the product.

I’m as interested as anyone to see the final product, but I wonder what the new show is actually going to achieve…other than save money.

Radiolive has been the bit-player in a theatre that is talkback radio since it’s inception in 2005 with Newstalk ZB being dominant and not ever taking a hit from having competition in the market place. As an example when I was working 3 – 4 overnight shows on ZB I had the number one show in the country with an average or 100,000 – 120,000 listeners nationwide, per week consistently for 5 years. Over the same period, in prime time day slots, Michael Laws and Willie and JT on Radio live, 5 days a week had about 50,000 listeners. The same discrepancy could be seen if you compared drive show and breakfasts shows on the two stations and things haven’t really changed all that much. Yes there’s been a 5% growth here and a 2% drop off there, but for the most ZB is correct in their advertising that “daylight comes second.” Why there is such a discrepancy between the brands is for another day, but I think I can speak to that as well having worked for both brands.

Up until 2014 there were two products on the Mediaworks brands, Firstline on TV3 and Marcus Lush on Radiolive, so to take both products and make them one will undoubtedly save money, not necessarily in year one as there is a major capital outlay for a new studio etc…but if you now have half (my assertion) the staff you had you are going to see savings long term so I can see the new Paul Henry product as a money savings product but as a challenge to ZB or indeed Breakfast on TVNZ…I don’t see that in the stars.

I see no evidence that people will turn off ZB or TVNZ and head to the new hybrid show. TV3 and Radiolive, as individual entities, have put up good options in the past to challenge the status quo to no avail, in fact Paul Henry was one of those people when he work on the Drive show on Radiolive, which made no depreciable difference to Larry Williams audience on ZB. I don’t see this Paul Henry as anything other than the next incarnation of an attempt to take down the established order. Now, I like Paul Henry, so don’t see me as a ‘hater’ but we have seen very talented broadcasters before try and fail…why should this be any different.

When Sir Paul Holmes went to PrimeTV the audience didn’t follow, we are creatures of habit and those stations which the industry calls ‘heritage brands’ have loyal audiences who don’t travel. TVNZ and ZB are heritage brands. You might see that people float around for a few months then it’s highly likely normal transmission will resume. I’m sure we’ll see press releases that point to a 5 point swing in the 25-54 demographic, but if you see that it usually means “we’re still getting our butts kicks and we need to find any positive point in this whole thing.”

There is also one last issue that the producers of Paul Henry’s new show have to address, and it’s the elephant in the room right now, and that is that this idea that a cross media platform may actually deliver an inferior product to what is currently available. It might actually turn people off both products as the show tries to be a jack of all trades as it may end up being the master of none. The radio game especially has some very exact nuances that may be lost, overlooked or just impossible to achieve when making a television product. Is this going to be a television show that is broadcast on the radio, or a radio show with pictures…both of which will leave viewers/listeners of the lesser valued medium unsatisfied, or will it be a genuine hybrid of both radio and television? But my question is how will that work and is it even possible?

My suspicions are that you will see an improvement on the audience for TV3 that won’t effect the Breakfast audience, and not a significant change to the Radiolive audience.

Public Statement about leaving Rhema

On Wednesday of last week I was informed that the Rhema Broadcasting Group would not be renewing Pat Brittenden Mornings for 2013. I was also informed that I personally would not be required for the new incarnation of the 9am to midday show.

From the outset I have always said that as a contractor to RBG that I may, or may not be required at the end of my current contract.

It has been clear since new radio management took over in the last few months that a talk product was not the desired direction in 2013 and last week the decision to move away from talk and back to a yet-to-be-finalised music product aimed at the Christian market was made official.

In the period leading up to that official decision I made it clear to management that I was prepared to look at working with RBG on a music format radio show as many of my 15,000 plus hours on New Zealand airwaves have been working in music along with, in later years, focusing on talk-radio but this offer was not accepted.

I want you to know that this is not a mutual decision, I made it clear that I was available in 2013 should RBG want to use me either in the current form, or in a new style show. They did not.

I hold no hard feelings about the decision, I made the offer to be a contractor at the start of the year, I negotiated the idea of being a contractor rather than an employee and this is one of the pitfalls of that decision.

I also want to state publicly that I am saddened that Rhema has decided to move away from the talk product, I think moving back towards a music product will make for a weaker overall station and will somewhat silence, good intelligent debate and challenging conversations and opinions that not only the church, but society needs to hear. The idea of steel sharpening steel has always been my desire no matter where I was working, it was no different at Rhema. In saying that I again acknowledge that it is RBG’s prerogative to do so, and accept the decision with no animosity and I do genuinely desire to see RBG succeed in everything she does.

I have potentially some very exciting opportunities lining up for 2013 including the television series I have been working on, elephantTV, the media and marketing business that my wife and I run and a couple of other things that need to remain a little more ‘under the radar’ at the moment. I will say as of today I have no other radio opportunities lined up and don’t know if you’ll hear me somewhere else in NZ…or not.

I wanted to put this in writing so as to dismiss any rumour or confusion as to why I have moved on from Rhema. There is nothing worse than the listener of a radio station not knowing what has happened to the host they built a relationship with over a period of time. You may hear rumours of survey results or money, I do not believe these are the main reason for the non-renewal. I believe it simply comes down to not fitting in with the picture or future direction of the station that the new radio management has, a bit of a square peg in a round hole, and that’s okay for those who haven’t worked in radio that’s what happens. A new style comes with a new management and you either fit, or you don’t.

I want to acknowledge the RBG Executive and Board for taking a risk on an announcer who was ‘the most complained about host on Newstalk ZB‘ and pay special credit to Terry Cobham who fought to have me in the building. Also to my executive producer, the back bone of the show, the woman whom I call the ‘CEO’ of Pat Brittenden Mornings, Nerida Ashcroft, what can I say other than “thanks…it’s been a blast!

My expectation as of today is to work out my contract which finishes on December 21st, I look forward to a fun three weeks of broadcasting as we lead up to Christmas and I wish New Zealand’s Rhema all the best for 2013 and hope that I can be involved with her at some stage again on some level.

I would very much like to hear from you if you are a listener of Rhema in the next three weeks, we will be doing a lot of Christmas talkback so hopefully you can join in.

If you would like to keep up with my exciting life in 2013 you can follow me here (I promise to get back into writing), or my facebook page, or twitter account.


UPDATE, Friday 30/11, 3.18pm

I am now at home after a brief chat with my boss. I need to amend part of the above post to say that I am now finished at Rhema. When I was told last week that the show would not be renewed I immediately asked for what the radio industry calls ‘gardening leave’ which basically means you wrap up on air immediately but are technically still employed by the business. I asked my immediate manager, and a manager higher up the food chain and was declined, but today I have been told that that option is where Rhema wants to go.

I am sorry to miss you people who listen to me and not to be able to wrap up the year together, but this is a standard way to finish a contract not being renewed and it means I can look to 2013 and figure out how to ‘pay the bills’ etc…

I have been told by a manager that there are some inaccuracies in the above post, and have offered to change those inaccuracies if they are pointed out to me. My offer was declined and when I asked what was wrong in the post I was told, “it doesn’t matter now, it’s done.” I still make the offer that if I have made an inaccurate statement in the above post, please let me know and I am happy to correct it.

Again let me finish by saying that I am not upset, angry or annoyed with this outcome. I accept that RBG has the right to change direction, and whilst mine, and many other opinions may not agree with the directional change, it’s the right of the group to do so.

Again I say all the best to my colleagues at Rhema, and I do wish all the best for 2013 and beyond.