What do you get when you cross glitter canons, cheerleaders showing their bums, overly dramatic sound tracks, media types eating all the nibbles and Paul Henry? A new season TV launch, of course. And first cab off the rank for 2013 was MediaWorks, which announced some of the goodies it will be showing on TV3 and Four at Sky City, interviewed some of 2012's stars on the couch and introduced the first X Factor NZ judge, Stan Walker.
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Hosted by Jeremy Corbett and X Factor host Dom Bowden, and opening with a typically self-deprecating clip from Paul Henry from his breakfast desk in Australia ("honestly, there's no place I'd rather be"), it was a fairly casual affair, but there was a good turn out, both from the crowd and the network's 'stars' (while Tame Noema from The GC and the Ridge "aunties" were both there to talk about how their shows generated chatter this year, publicist Rachel Lorimer says no decision has been made about whether the shows will get a second season).
Not surprisingly, one of MediaWorks' biggest successes, The Block NZ will be back next year and the winners, Ben and Libby Crawford, who are currently running their own agency with a "digital and social focus", were on hand to talk up the show, as was Hottest Home Baker's Colin Mathura-Jeffree.
Rachel Smalley and John Campbell bantered for a few minutes, promoted the commitment of the team behind the news and current affairs offering ("We give a shit," says Campbell) and gloated about the fact that 3 News knocked TVNZ off its perch for the first time in four years to take Best News at the TV Awards over the weekend. And when asked about the US election by Corbett, Campbell whipped out a gem: "If there's anyone in this room who's a Romney supporter, stand up and I'll applaud your balls—and your loneliness."
As far as local content goes—something both major FTA networks and Sky have been pushing—season three of The Almighty Johnsons is back after a last minute reprieve from NZ on Air, Harry, starring Oscar Kightley in a strangely serious role alongside Sam Neill, looks good, Hope and Wire is a six-part series on Christchurch and the Lang-Griffin combo are back again with The Blue Rose, starring Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall from Outrageous Fortune.
The moustachioed Neill couldn't make it ("he's recording his album in Miami," Kightley joked), but he was filmed for the occasions and came up with a pretty funny video that probably summed up the level of knowledge most TV viewers have about the company behind the channels. Neill: "I thought this was for TV3. What the fuck is MediaWorks?" Someone else: "MediaWorks is TV3." Neill: "It is?"
Chief executive Paul Maher took to the stage and says the focus on local comedy has paid dividends for MediaWorks, with 7 Days, which celebrated its 100th episode recently, leading the charge. And he says this investment manifested itself in the Cure Kids event this year, which raised $1.5 million for the charity and also won the night for TV3.
"The thing I love about this organisation is that it's brave. We take risks, and we'll continue to take risks ... The only reason we could do [Cure Kids] is because of the risks we've taken with local comedy and comedians."
But it's also investing in scripted comedy next year, with Oliver Driver and Tammy Davis starring in the campground-related sitcom, Sunny Skies.
"I've seen two episodes and it made me laugh," says chief executive Paul Maher. "And anyone who knows me knows that's quite hard to do."
The biggest show for TV3 in 2013—and the biggest show MediaWorks has ever made—is undoubtedly the X Factor, which Maher confidently says will be the biggest entertainment experience ever (The NZ's Got Talent team at TVNZ might disagree with that statement given it's the biggest rating show of 2012 so far) and thinks it "will rate its socks off".
And as well as a performance by new judge Stan Walker, Chris Rene from X Factor US also performed (interestingly, it seems fellow MediaWorks company Radio Live didn't get the memo and mixed up the judges. As Throng tweeted: "Odd, Radio Live has it wrong about Chris Rene being an X Factor NZ judge").
Maher says he's proud of the way the network worked with NZ on Air to bring the GC to life last year, and he thinks doing The Ridges "was the right thing to do" (in our humble opinion, raising funds for Cure Kids through an entertaining show is the right thing to do, making boring reality shows is pushing it).
The main focus of the launch was on TV3, largely, Maher says, because Four, which was voted media brand of the year and has grown 30 percent year on year, is already into its new season, with its Fast Four innovation meaning that most of its big shows screen the same week as they do in the States (to celebrate the continuation of Four's 'entertainment at all costs' brand, the room was invaded by a swarm of cheerleaders and one lucky chap won a trip to America).
As for the international goodness, MediaWorks ended its relationship with CBS this year, choosing instead to put the money into local productions (this means 60 Minutes will be replaced by a new local current affairs show called Third Degree next year). But, as well as the continuation of Homeland and a few others, it's got men with no tops on in Chicago Fire, Matthew Perry's Go On, The Americans, and, from the creators of New Girl, another quirky comedy called Ben and Kate.
Despite debt and private equity ownership issues still casting a pall over MediaWorks (debt is all the rage in Australian TV as well, with Nine and Ten under the pump, but MediaWorks did pay back its radio frequency 'loan' to the government recently), its nuts and bolts TV business seems to be working fairly well, with increased ad revenue and a growing integration team that's successfully weaving commercial interests into programming. And, while TVNZ continues to get bigger ratings (One and TV2 have all of the top 20 shows in 5+ for 2012 according to Nielsen), MediaWorks' does have the benefit of radio and online assets, which is helpful in an era of audience fragmentation.
"We want your business. I want to say we'll do anything, but we'll do everything we can to help make your business more successful in 2013," Maher says.
TVNZ is playing up its association with Gordon Ramsay and his new show Gordon’s Hotel Hell for its new season launch, which is being held on 14 November at the Viaduct Events Centre.