Could viral sensations and interviews with models in pools be heading to TV3's 7pm timeslot? In one of the biggest breakthroughs from MediaWorks' string of announcements this week, The Project will be added to its current affairs fold. The company says the panel designed show will be a “reinvention of weeknights” when it takes over Story next year.
Although the show may be an innovation for New Zealand content, its origins are tightly traced to The Project in Australia, which has been on the airwaves since 2009 – when it started as a half-hour show called The 7PM Project before evolving into an hour-long show and dropping the '7PM' in its title. “We’ve seen the strong success of this format in Australia and can’t wait to bring New Zealand its very own version,” says MediaWorks’ chief content officer, Andrew Szusterman.
He says the opportunity The Project created was almost too good. “We have the best news service in the country, and the best comedy talent across the board, so the opportunity to create a hybrid programme that really resonates with viewers was too good to miss.”
Mirroring a statement on the programme’s webpage over the ditch, MediaWorks’ chief news officer Hal Crawford says The Project is “news delivered differently". Having joined the MediaWorks team from Australia himself earlier this year (previously at NineMSN), Crawford has previously spoken to StopPress about media complacency and a need for audience connection.
The Project will be a half-hour show that combines current affairs and entertainment in a unique way, discussing stories relevant to both New Zealand and the world in an intelligent, informative and engaging way. “At its core will be strong, compelling storytelling,” says Crawford. “We’ll be looking for new ways to explore issues that resonate with New Zealanders, bringing a fresh or unique perspective.”
And if the six-Logies-strong show in Australia is anything to go by, the show will consist of two hosts, around three panelists and a live audience. The atmosphere is expected to be a little more relaxed with lighter topics explored alongside the news of the day.
A popular episode from its the Australian version saw Radio DJ and comedic personality Andy Lee join the panelists with ‘the best bloke in the Australia’, who found viral fame after being in an on-air job reference prank.
And as comedian Tommy Little’s interview with Miranda Kerr attests, the show is not afraid to laugh at itself. His interview in Kerr’s Malibu swimming pool is just as awkward as Colin Craig's sauna interview with David Farrier, for TV3’s long lost late-night show Newsworthy.
A variety of panelists are on the cards for New Zealand; including Newshub journalists, comedians and personalities from the sports, political and other arenas. Self-proclaimed semi-retired broadcaster Paul Henry will join these ‘notable New Zealanders from a range of fields’ from time to time with guest appearances.
Not one to comment on the various gossip surrounding new talent, MediaWorks says the hosts are still to be named. Many are still wondering where Heather du Plessis-Allan will go when Story finishes up to make way for this new style of programming. Her co-host, Duncan Garner will be whisked to The AM Show on the same channel.
Crawford says MediaWorks will continue to build on the momentum created by the Story team, which launched over a year ago as a mix of hard and soft news stories to replace the more serious Campbell Live. And some of the staff that were behind the 'smart, fun and thought-provoking show' will remain. “Many of them will be a major part of this new programme and will continue to deliver incredible stories," says Crawford. “We are sorry to see Story go but believe The Project is the right format for this timeslot.”
Meanwhile, MediaWorks’ CEO Michael Anderson is looking forward to engaging with audiences in new ways for the year ahead. “For 2017, we will continue to work very closely with our customers to deliver fantastic opportunities around our content and enable their brands to engage with our listeners and viewers."