MediaWorks will be hoping he can attract investors

MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon will be hoping the new Paul Henry double breakfast show helps the company find new investors.

The simulcast breakfast show starts next year, in the process sidelining Firstline hosts Sacha McNeil and Michael Wilson, and RadioLive's Marcus Lush.

But there is a bigger game at play.

It involves capitalising on New Zealand's light-handed rules on cross-media ownership to create multi-platform media companies - firms for the new era of media that have a chance of maintaining their share of advertising revenue.

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Weldon's aim is to find new investors who can take over MediaWorks shares held by bankers and creditors.

MediaWorks' owners took a hit from the company in a previous incarnation, when it was controlled by Ironbridge Capital and swamped with debt. Many would dearly love to cut their losses and get out of the media business.

Like NZME., publisher of the Herald, MediaWorks is increasing the linkages between the various parts of its business to make it more efficient and beyond that, to become attractive for future sale or partial sale.

Whether you like Paul Henry or loathe him, his new breakfast show on TV and radio next year symbolises the way media are going. Mainstream media companies will co-operate more, and in New Zealand there are already widespread cross-media ties.

That means more efficient media, but fewer voices.

Australian-based APN News & Media is firming up links between its New Zealand print and radio arms - the Herald and other papers, and The Radio Network - as it spins off its New Zealand assets into NZME.

For years the print and radio operations kept each other at arms' length. But since APN bought out the 50 per cent stake in The Radio Network that it did not already own, the two arms have grown much closer, and TRN personalities now feature in Herald columns.

Over at MediaWorks there have long been similar associations, with TV hosts appearing on radio, and vice versa.

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RadioLive already simulcasts 3News at 6pm, and it has been a low-cost way to fill airtime.

But there is considerably more at stake with Weldon's championing of the Henry double breakfast show.

Will Henry work?

On the face of it, Paul Henry's planned show makes sense because it allows MediaWorks to capitalise on its most expensive talent.

Some believe Henry has only a niche appeal, and that his past ratings benefited from the appeal of established brands like Breakfast. His Australian venture on Ten was a disaster - though he is not to blame - and despite heavy promotion and flash sets, the late night Paul Henry Show has been amusing, but not a hit.

His admirers, though, believe he is a unique talent and can do no wrong.

Advertising consultant Martin Gillman is a fan and says MediaWorks should be praised for "taking a punt" on the breakfast show. After all, the new TV3 and RadioLive show will replace two shows that were also-rans and have never looked like winning ratings.

However, Firstline has a TV niche as a serious news programme. It was an alternative to the frippery of TVNZ's Breakfast. And the show is cheap to make, so it can be profitable even with low ratings.

Likewise, on some ratings TV3's Campbell Live lags behind its TVNZ 7pm rival, Seven Sharp, but is cheaper to produce than the TVNZ show, and has loyal advertiser support.

At RadioLive, Marcus Lush has his fans and was a firm favourite of former CEO Sussan Turner. But the show never challenged Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB, nor Radio New Zealand's Morning Report.

Now Weldon sees the double breakfast show as a hit. Some wonder whether Duncan Garner could have done the same job for less, but in the end, breakfast radio all comes down to the brand - the 1ZB and Newstalk ZB breakfast brand which has been sustained from Merv Smith to Paul Holmes, and now to Hosking.

Throttling campaign

Orcon is back on the marketing warpath and annoying competitors as it reclaims its image as an independent outsider.

Orcon was largely silent earlier this year as CallPlus bought it from a business consortium led by William Hurst. Before that it was owned by state-owned Kordia, and before that by founder Seeby Woodhouse.


Kim Dotcom was not universally popular but the campaign paid off in sales. Photo / Richard Robinson

In that time Orcon has cultivated an image as a small indie telco.

Now it is trying to do that as part of the CallPlus group - and that might mean a few contortions, given that it is marketed alongside CallPlus' broader brands, Slingshot and Flip.

Orcon got back in the marketing mix with its latest campaign, which attacks other telcos for prioritising broadband at peak times, or "throttling", to reduce costs, claiming this is rife at competitors such as Spark and Vodafone, but not at Orcon. But Orcon general manager Mike Shirley acknowledges it is also a practice conducted by CallPlus sister brands Flip and Slingshot.

Bandwidth throttling or "traffic management" is the slowing of internet traffic by an internet service provider in an attempt to regulate network costs, says Shirley.

The practice may become more of an issue once new services such as video on demand put pressure on broadband services.

Asked for comment about Orcon's allegations on throttling, a Spark spokesman dismissed the throttling campaign as a misguided publicity stunt.

Spark says it does not currently throttle or shape broadband traffic, though they "may prioritise traffic".

A Vodafone spokesman says: "During peak times, mainstream traffic - which includes video streaming - is prioritised and affects a small percentage of our broadband customers who use peer-to-peer."

KIim Dot Orcon

The "throttling" ad campaign launched this week ends six months of virtual silence that harks back to the Kim DotCom Global Plus campaign at the end of 2013 and the start of this year.

The Global Plus campaign from Orcon ad agency Contagion raised eyebrows, linking the Orcon brand with the controversial German businessman.

Kim Dotcom was not universally popular back then and is less so now.

But Shirley says it paid off in sales - and it clearly had cut-through in attracting attention to the brand.