2 Aug 2016

Mediaworks names new boss for tough job

From Mediawatch, 9:25 am on 2 August 2016

Broadcasting company Mediaworks has appointed a new chief executive from Australia. Michael Anderson will have a tough job leading a company that has had a turbulent time in a market that's set to get tougher.

In a statement announcing his appointment, Michael Anderson said: "MediaWorks is a company with strong brands and a strong history in New Zealand. With the global disruption in media continuing, this an excellent time to join and lead MediaWorks through a difficult but exciting period."

It certainly won't be easy. 

The company's radio networks - including The Edge, the Rock, Radio Live - are still popular and profitable. But its TV businesses - including TV3 and the freshly launched Bravo - have struggled against competitors. Mediaworks is owned by the US-based investment fund Oaktree Capital. Its core business is the re-tooling distressed assets and setting them on for a profit. 

When he stepped down in May, Mediaworks' previous chief executive Mark Weldon said "the personal cost is now too high to continue".

His two years in charge took a toll on the company too. The majority of senior executives had already departed during his term. Dozens of well-known journalists and broadcasters had either left or been made redundant as Mark Weldon pushed through a multimedia strategy which was heavy on entertainment and light on news. 

Michael Anderson will take the reins at the end of this month facing a competitive landscape that could be even more daunting. Sky TV wants to merge with Vodafone and news publisher Fairfax Media wants to hook up with NZME, which owns most the radio stations Mediaworks doesn't have in its portfolio. 

If those mergers get the green light, Mediaworks will find itself a something of minnow in the media marketplace facing two beefed-up competitors in addition to its traditional television rival TVNZ.

Who is Michael Anderson? 

Unlike his predecessor at Mediaworks, Michael  Anderson has plenty of media industry experience.

He joined one of Australia's largest commercial radio companies Austereo 20 years ago, serving as a board member and as chief executive for seven years. 

Austereo has also gone down the multi-media route in recent years, branching out into online and TV distribution. Its Southern Cross and Ten channels carry TV shows that are familiar fare on Mediaworks' TV3 including The Voice, The Block, The X Factor. 

Last month, he was appointed chairman of the board at Australian advertising company oOh! Media. He is also a non-executive director of Fairfax Media in Australia, a post he expected to relinquish before getting his feet under the desk at Mediaworks in Auckland.