Last night, in a big shed down on the docks of Auckland town, Jeremy Corbett and Hillary Barry helped launch MediaWorks new season line-up. And, with the return of most of its local shows, some big-rating new international numbers and a couple of new branded content initiatives, director of sales and marketing Liz Fraser is confident it can continue its solid run of form in 2013 next year.
Fraser says bespoke content created specifically with advertisers in mind is a big area of growth for the network, and it’s got two more in that vein to add to its roster, with The Cadbury Dream Factory and The Great Food Race, which is being made in partnership with Countdown and Air New Zealand.
She doesn’t believe the increasing commercial intrusion into programming is an issue. But it only works when it ticks the boxes for both the audience and the advertisers.
“They've been created with the advertiser in mind, but they can't annoy the audience," she says.
Corbett had some fun at the expense of The Block NZ and the ‘seamless’ integration of sponsor’s offerings. And when the contestants waffle on about their Wild Bean Coffee, it is occasionally gratuitous. But she doesn’t think the audience minds too much. They know shows like these are expensive to produce and require advertising support. And if they did mind, they wouldn't watch, but the ratings for this season are higher than last year, which proves you can sometimes have the best of both worlds.
No decision has yet been made on whether X Factor NZ will return. So does that mean it wasn’t commercially viable?
“We had our four main sponsors and it absolutely stacks up, but it costs a lot of money to do it the way we did it … We’re reviewing whether to bring it back next year or the year after. Obviously we’ve got to get board approval. But internally we’d love to do it again.”
She says the company itself is in a great position after the recent receivership (again, Corbett and others had some fun at the network’s own expense with this). She says "we're close to settling in to our new company” and, having removed that debt burden, she says it has been freed up to invest back into the business.
It has also cancelled some of its output deals with the big US studios and is instead picking and choosing, which she says is a “more strategic approach that gives us more flexibility in terms of the programmes that go on TV3 and Four”. She was unaware of the exact details of TVNZ’s situation, but believes it is locked in to deals with Warner Brothers and Disney.
She says this is a growing trend internationally, with broadcasters putting pressure on the studios to to offer shows that suit their markets (or, in the case of MediaWorks, big raters like NCIS and CSI), rather than having to sign up for the whole kit and caboodle.
She says 2013 has been a great year for both of its channels, with a five percent audience share gain for TV3 in 25-54 and a 1.5 percent gain for Four in 18-49, the only free-to-air channels to grow their audiences in 2013 (despite some rumours about its future, she says Four is most definitely continuing and the 'home of pure entertainment' strategy will remain in place for next year).
Its news offering has been a mixed bag in terms of ratings, with the shift of Home & Away to TV2 leading to a drop at 6pm. But Fraser says 3 News has regained its audience after a big marketing push and last week it won four out of five nights against One News (one of the biggest talking points of the new season launch was the return of Paul Henry on weeknights, and while Fraser couldn't say anything about that aside from "he will be able to be himself", there is a bit of hole at 5.30).
Campbell Live continues to be an important part of TV3's current affairs offering, she says, and Len Brown’s decision to come on the show proves it’s become the only place to talk about serious issues. And Third Degree, which she says has been “setting the news agenda” with some big stories this year, will return next year.
Those audience numbers have helped advertising revenue, she says, but she was unable to give specific numbers or percentages to show growth.
“[Revenue from integration] has definitely been growing significantly this year and we plan to continue that [ex-SparkPHDer Alana O’Neill has recently been appointed as head of integration]. Total TV advertising has grown this year, but we’ve grown significantly higher than that and shifted share to us.”
She also feels as though its treatment of advertisers and its ability to deliver on its promises has created some added loyalty among advertisers and media agencies.
So is TV3 becoming number one in its target 25-54 demographic a realistic goal?
She says it hopes to be number one in a couple of years. But she’s hopeful it might even be sooner than that.
Check out the full list of new and returning shows here.
Update: Rachel Lorimer says MediaWorks is still negotiating a deal with Fox, so it didn’t feel right to include any of those shows (like Homeland) in this launch.
Here's the MediaWorks release:
MediaWorks TV tonight unveiled a line-up of bold, exciting local programming for 2014, sitting alongside a stellar line-up of international content. The new season highlights for TV3 and FOUR were announced at a star-studded evening launch emceed by Hilary Barry and Jeremy Corbett that also celebrated a hugely successful 2013 for the network.
TV3 will build on smash hit successes The Block NZ and The X Factor NZ with three event television series in 2014; a new season of The Block NZ, which finishes its phenomenally popular second series next week and two major new local format shows, Cadbury Dream Factory and The Great Food Race.
Created by TV3, Cadbury Dream Factory promises to be the most extraordinary and heartwarming show of 2014, as host Brooke Howard-Smith and the Dream Team of Jesse Griffin, Kimberley Crossman, Walter Neilands and Guy Montgomery, bring to life dreams of all shapes and sizes, from incredible life-changing surprises, to random acts of kindness. Tonight, the concept was vividly brought to life with an emotional surprise for one member of the audience.
The Great Food Race is a new competition format from the makers of The Block NZ, hosted by Zoe Marshall and judged by restaurateur brothers Leonardo and Lorenzo Bresolin. Eight couples who believe they can provide a world class home dining experience - anywhere in the world - are put to the test in a race against the clock and each other.
They will sit alongside a wealth of new local and international content including: The Paul Henry Show, which brings the irrepressible broadcaster back to New Zealand screens five nights a week; the biggest new drama series out of the States, James Spader’s The Blacklist; Emmy Award-winning drama House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey; The Michael J Fox Show; Gaylene Preston’s highly anticipated drama Hope & Wire, set in the aftermath of the Canterbury quakes; plus brand new shows from Kevin McCloud, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, and Richard Hammond.
Returning favourites include: new series of The Graham Norton Show, 7 Days and Jono and Ben at Ten which anchor TV3’s big Friday nights; controversial crowd-pleaser The GC; the ever-popular international versions of The Block and The X Factor; local factual series The Secret Lives of Dancers that follows members of the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company; New Zealand’s other DIY obsession, House Rules; and the top-rating NCIS and CSI franchises.
MediaWorks TV Chief Executive, Paul Maher says TV3 will again 'own' local content in 2014, with the very best in event television, drama, comedy, and factual entertainment, and news and current affairs from New Zealand and around the world.
“What makes MediaWorks different is its commitment to local content, the unique ability to work across television, radio, online and social assets to create real event television, and a willingness to be innovative, brave and bold,” he says.
“In 2013 we set the news agenda with 3rd Degree’s Teina Pora and David Bain investigations, had the nation talking about (and tuning into) The Block NZ and The X Factor NZ, premiered acclaimed local drama series The Blue Rose and HARRY, and continued to light up Friday nights with 7 Days and Jono and Ben at Ten.
“Our focus on local has paid great ratings dividends for TV3 in 2013, particularly in the branded content area where MediaWorks is the undisputed market leader, and we’re taking the same successful two-channel strategic approach for 2014, with FOUR our pure entertainment channel aimed at 18-49 year-olds.”
The success of TV3’s programming strategy, which places local content at the heart of the schedule, complemented by the best international shows, is reflected in a 5% growth in the channel’s target audience (25-54 year olds) over the past year. TV3 and FOUR are the only free-to-air channels to grow their audiences in 2013.*
TV3 is currently channel of choice for the 25-54 demographic, having won the lion’s share of the 25-54 primetime audience every week for the past three weeks.** The success is driven by big numbers across the week, with top performers being The Block NZ, the 6pm 3 News bulletin and local comedies 7 Days and Jono and Ben at Ten.
Paul Maher also announced tonight that MediaWorks TV was increasing its investment in local programming, as a result of advantageous new relationships with international suppliers.
“In 2014 we will have even more ability to invest in local content, as a result of reducing volume commitments to Hollywood studios,” he says.
“International and studio content remains very important to our brands, TV3 and FOUR, but we are moving to create greater flexibility in our deals. We see this as critical to our future, and a major competitive advantage that will enable us to deliver even better solutions to our commercial clients and partners.
“The new relationship with SONY is a great example, delivering shows like The Blacklist, which I know will be a huge hit for TV3, without tying us into an output relationship, and we’ll be able to buy more progammes on the open market, where we currently acquire some of our most popular shows such as The Graham Norton Show, The X Factor USA, House Rules and Grand Designs.”
Selected highlights from the 2014 programming announced tonight are below. For the full list of programmes and additional information visit www.mediaworkstv.co.nz/newseason.