Last night, the launch of the third season of The Block NZ kicked off a ratings war that will see the DIY-themed show take on TVNZ’s My Kitchen Rules over the next few months.
The Block NZ will run daily during TV3’s 7.30pm primetime slot between Tuesday and Friday, while MKR NZ airs on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the same time on TV One.
This means that the pair of shows will go head-to-head every Tuesday and Wednesday over the course of their respective seasons.
And the overnight figures seem to indicate the first battle has gone to the side of DIY porn, with The Block NZ winning the lion’s share of the audience in the key demographic categories.
While My Kitchen Rules NZ attracted the highest audience numbers across those aged five and older, The Block NZ dominated the 25-54 age group as well as the ‘main household shopper with children aged 0-14’ category.
“It’s fantastic to see The Block NZ so convincingly win one of the most competitive time slots on TV," said MediaWorks TV chief executive Paul Maher in a release. "We’re very proud of this year’s series, and it’s great to see New Zealanders embracing the new teams and new challenges.”
Given that these categories are particularly important to advertisers and media buyers, MediaWorks will be satisfied that The Block attracted 65,400 more viewers than MKR NZ in the 25-54 demographic and 27,000 more viewers in the ‘main household shopper with children aged 0-14’ category.
Although The Block NZ did kick off strongly, the ratings were lower than those recorded in the previous two seasons (the overnight ratings are still unconsolidated at this point).
The first episode of the show’s inaugural season attracted an overall audience of 389,800 viewers and 232,200 in the 25-54 demographic. Similarly, the first episode of the second season attracted 384,800 viewers for the show.
Despite this slight drop in audience numbers, The Block has maintained a level of consistency across the premieres in each of its seasons.
Since this is the first New Zealand rendering of MKR, the show doesn't have any comparative ratings to draw on. But the show did start off somewhat disappointingly when compared to the Australian version. In attracting only 375,000 viewers, the first episode of MKR NZ was slightly below the 406,200 average viewership tallied during the first episode of the most recent edition of the Australian version of the show.
However, this difference has been made up by the 20,000 on-demand views that the first episode has accumulated since it was posted online (comparatively, The Block's first episode has been viewed online 3,000 times thus far).
And these stats leave TVNZ's general manger of programming John Kelly feeling optimistic.
"We’re delighted with the early numbers of the show," he says. "It's the most watched series in its slot among all New Zealanders on both nights. It’s been great to see it maintaining its time slot leadership so early in the piece. Our experience is that this format grows as viewers learn more about the contestants and the competition heats up."
This argument was also used by a TVNZ spokesperson, who told the Herald that the Australian version also started slowly before building momentum, and the same is expected to happen on this side.
But given that The Block is similarly based on the premise of viewers rooting for their favourites, it could also potentially build momentum as audiences become familiarised with the contestants. So, in this sense, the success of respective shows will largely depend on their ability to develop an affinity with the Kiwi viewers over the next few months.
And this could prove particularly challenging for MKR. The show was initially intended to air on TV2, but TVNZ instead changed its strategy and aired it on TV One. The Herald questioned the prudence of this move on account of the fact that the older TV One audience “seem unimpressed by the more youth-focused series.”
But Kelly disagrees with these sentiments.
"It makes a huge amount of sense," he says. "TV ONE is New Zealand’s most watched channel and is home to the biggest local event series such as NZ’s Got Talent and MasterChef. Over on TV2, we have a very strong slate of local series already in place, including the Amazing Race: Australia vs New Zealand, plus a large number of big international series which we have coming up in September and October."
Kelly also made the point that this is only the start of the battle, and warned MediaWorks it might not be as easy for The Block to dominate its time slot this year.
"We want both our channels to be the most watched across the night. Let’s put this so-called head to head in perspective. This is round one of 30 – and we’re absolutely committed to contesting all time slots for all audiences ... Last year we more or less gave The Block a free pass. That’s not happening this year."