The first brand in the group which eventually created MediaWorks was TV3.
In 1989, New Zealand's broadcast industry was deregulated. TV3 commenced operations that same year, and was floated. Its start was somewhat shaky, and in 1990 it was placed in receivership and then de-listed in 1991.
The company remained in receivership until the government freed up foreign ownership laws in December 1991, allowing the Canadian broadcaster CanWest Global Group to buy 20% of TV3. Over the course of the next few years, CanWest gradually bought more of the station until it gained 100% ownership in November of 1997.
1997 proved to be a busy year for CanWest. In June the company also purchased the MORE FM Group, which included The Breeze Wellington and Channel Z. This was also the year – and month - that CanWest launched TV4, which was at that time run by the staff at TV3 (TV4 was eventually replaced by free-to-air music and youth television network C4 in October 2003, then replaced by FOUR in February 2011).
In May 2000, CanWest continued its move into radio ownership by purchasing 72% of the NZSX-listed RadioWorks New Zealand Limited. In January of the following year, CanWest obtained the remaining 28% of RadioWorks.
At that time, RadioWorks, which had formed under the merger of Radio Pacific and Radio Otago in 1999, consisted of The Edge, The Rock, Solid Gold, Radio Pacific, and a bundle of regional stations - of which were eventually turned into MORE FM stations. RadioWorks now also incorporates the MORE FM stations under the same umbrella, RadioLIVE, Kiwi FM, the network of The Breeze radio stations, Mai FM, George FM, Blenheim's Easy FM and Sounds FM, Coromandel FM, Orewa's Times FM, and Radio Dunedin. (In January 2012, Solid Gold was replaced by new nationwide station The Sound.)
On 29 July 2004 the MediaWorks IPO (Initial Public Offering) took place. At this time, CanWest MediaWorks (NZ) Limited acquired the New Zealand radio and television businesses of the CanWest Global Group (RadioWorks and TVWorks). 30% of its interest was sold to the investing public.
Over the following three years, CanWest MediaWorks enjoyed great success as the leading radio business in New Zealand, and the leading privately-owned free-to-air television networks in New Zealand. This was a period of great growth for RadioWorks' listenership and for TV3 and C4's viewership, especially for the highly successful 3 News.
2005 saw many milestones for the company, with the launch of TV3's current affairs show Campbell Live and the securing of the broadcast rights to the 2007 Rugby World Cup, as well as RadioWorks setting up RadioLIVE, rolling out The Breeze regional radio stations, and acquiring two radio stations in Gisborne and Times FM in Orewa (in addition to Coromandel FM in 2004, Queenstown's Q92 FM in 2006, and setting up Kiwi FM in 2006).
The company also expanded with the addition of NetWorks (later renamed to MediaWorks Interactive) in 2006. MediaWorks Interactive, a division of TVWorks Limited, is responsible for exploring potential new media opportunities, including development and maintenance of the MediaWorks brands' websites and a mobile platform for text alerts and competitions
On 15 June 2007, funds managed or advised by Ironbridge Capital, a leading independent Australasian private equity group, purchased CanWest's controlling 69.992% shares in MediaWorks. Over the course of the next month, the fund continued to accumulate additional shares, and on 20 July 2007 it announced an arrangement with Brook Asset Management to acquire its 8.7% stake in the company. This pushed the ownership over the 90% threshold necessary to make it compulsory for the outstanding shareholders to sell. The parent company, now known simply as MediaWorks, was consequently de-listed from the New Zealand Stock Exchange.
MediaWorks' first acquisition under its new owners was Marlborough Media in late December 2007, which incorporates Sounds FM and Easy FM. This was followed closely by the acquisition of Auckland and Northland based music station Mai FM, which was announced on February 29th 2008. The final piece in the puzzle for the Auckland radio strategy was the acquisition of George FM in April 2009. In 2012 MediaWorks launched new nationwide station The Sound using the former Solid Gold frequencies.
In June 2013, MediaWorks was placed in receivership for the second time. The company was subsequently sold to MediaWorks Holdings Limited, a syndicate of banks and equity companies, with settlement taking place on Friday 8 November, 2013 MediaWorks continued to trade extremely well while in receivership and emerged with a right sized capital structure and a new board, chaired by Rod McGeoch with directors Julie Christie and Martin Dalgleish.