For a channel that’s purportedly on its deathbed, it’s been a pretty eventful week for television.
On Wednesday, TVNZ released the ratings for the first eight weeks of its man channel Duke.
“You always hold your breath when you launch something, but I’m really happy with how it’s gone,” says TVNZ commercial director Jeremy O’Brien.
“Having over 1.7 million New Zealanders having seen the channel so far two months from launch is huge. We’ve certainly got the message out there and people are coming in, sampling the channel.”
While the channel has generated interest across the Kiwi population, O’Brien says the more important numbers are found when looking at the channel’s appeal among young males.
“We always positioned this as a male-skewed channel. And the numbers coming out reflect that. The channel definitely skews male. Regular TV sits around a 66-34 split in terms of female to male, but this channel is sitting at just over 50 percent male. It’s definitely skewing toward that male audience.”
When the channel launched, it was specially designed to reach a male audience aged 18 to 39, and the early results also indicate it’s hitting this mark.
“On average over that first eight-week period, we were around the 67,000 mark in terms of the average audience [in this demographic]. The real good news is that last week we had our audience peak at 90,000 male viewers aged 18 to 39 [with an average of 80,000].”
O’Brien says the figures in this demographic “put Duke on the heels of the big four” (One, TV2, Three and Prime), but he reiterated that the channel is not designed to compete with these players.
“We’re not looking for this channel to beat one, two or three. That’s never going to be the case, because it is a much more tailored offering. What we’re looking for it to do is to become one of the strongest-delivering, male-skewed channels within that next tier of specialised offerings.”
This statement is, of course, made at a time when MediaWorks has decided to discontinue Four in favour of Bravo due to dwindling audience numbers. Asked whether he was concerned something similar might happen to Duke, O’Brien responded without hesitation.
“A channel like Four was very broad. It was still going up against One, Two, Three and Prime. That’s not what Duke is doing. Duke is very much trying to carve out its own niche in the market, which is based on delivering a strong skew toward a young male audience.”
The aim, he explains, is to offer advertisers access to a group that is traditionally very difficult to reach through mainstream entertainment.
So far, Duke has attracted 30 advertisers, and O’Brien says he hopes the ratings will add some new brands to that list.
“People had to take a bit of a leap to come in, and we expect another group to come in as we go out to market over the next few weeks.”
Interestingly, over 95 percent of Duke’s audience comes to the channel through the live broadcast.
O’Brien says this again reiterates the inaccuracy of the perception that people aren’t watching live TV.
“This is one of the great myths and great opportunities in the video market,” he says.
“The reality is that linear broadcast television on any audience still delivers the most hours of viewership and the highest numbers relative to other ways to access content.”
He says other means of consumption are growing quickly, but that it’s happening off a very small base. This statement is consolidated by data from Millward Brown showing live TV continues to dominate viewing time across most demographics.
Recent Roy Morgan data also supports this argument, with numbers showing 77 percent of Kiwis watch free-to-air TV shows via broadcast, 39 percent record shows, and 12 percent watch catch-up.
When Duke launched, it became the first TVNZ channel to be live-streamed and broadcast on-air simultaneously. And while the streaming numbers are still relatively low compared to live broadcast viewership, O’Brien believes this will shift over time.
“What we will find over time is that if we do more live sports, they will start coming in during the day. Then you will see those streaming numbers skew more online. And that’s really just to do with convenience and availability online. We saw this a few years back with the America’s Cup.”
Asked whether that future sports streaming might include the European Football Championship, O’Brien laughed, saying, “We couldn’t tell you that.”
It's Filthy in the US
Kiwi hit Filthy Rich is set to make it big on international screens following the sale of its first season to US streaming giant Hulu, with an audience of over 12 million Americans, and Australia’s Channel Nine.
Created by writers Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan and produced by Filthy Productions, the serial drama is 20 one-hour episodes centred on three illegitimate children who discover they each have a claim to the fortune of one of New Zealand’s wealthiest men.
It recently finished on TV2, taking out its time slot in the 18-49 demographic and proving successful on TVNZ OnDemand.
Producer Steven Zanoski says the high-stakes drama storytelling teamed with high production valued make Filthy Rich attractive as a world-class property.
“It sits comfortably alongside international series but with a definite Kiwi attitude, tackling racial and gender politics, placing a Maori woman at the top of a multi-national company,” he says. “This snapshot of a contemporary yet heightened New Zealand lifestyle is likely to have broad appeal overseas.”
CEO of NZ On Air Jane Wrightson is delighted to see the funded content go international.
“It takes New Zealand to the world and brings in international revenue,” she adds.
New channel launch
In the final piece of news, Kiwis found out on 24 May that a new free-to-air channel would be added to the programming mix.
Hailing from the United States, the lifestyle brand HGTV will be broadcast 24 hours a day on Freeview channel 17 from 27 June.
The channel is launching locally in collaboration with Blue Ant Media, a company based in Canada but active in a number of international markets.
The channel will operate under the management of Blue Ant’s broadcast channel, Choice TV, headquartered in Auckland.
The new channel will look to tap into the Kiwis’ seemingly insatiable love for DIY, with shows such as Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, Five Day Flip, Kitchen Cousins, the House Hunters franchise, and Tiny House, Big Living.