The ladles and the drills came to blows last year, as the local editions of My Kitchen Rules (MKR NZ) and The Block saw TVNZ and MediaWorks go head to head with their respective multi-night format shows. And the competitive banter between the networks is set to continue this year, with both shows returning to Kiwi screens.
The fourth season of The Block kicked off on 29 September, while the second season of MKR NZ only started last night—meaning last night was first time this year the pair of shows have been pitted against each other.
The first round of the bout went to MediaWorks, with The Block coming out on top in the 25-54 demographic as it attracted an audience of 158,800, narrowly ahead of the 157,100 people who tuned in to watch MKR.
"The Block NZ is a huge format, and every year its popularity astounds us," says Sue Woodfield, the head of commissioning and external production at MediaWorks. "It's great to see New Zealand tuning in and following the hard work the teams have put in. This series is the best yet and it just keeps getting better and better."
The food show did, however, win in the overall viewership category, pulling in 328,100 viewers to the 272,300 of The Block.
“We are absolutely delighted with the excellent launch night ratings for MKR NZ," says TVNZ head of content Jeff Latch.
“The series won in TV2’s channel target of AP 18–49 and saw huge numbers in household shoppers. It also launched with a higher share than the first series did in 2014, and we saw a significant boost in TV2’s audience share across the whole night (AP 18–49). In fact in 18-49 year olds, TV2’s peak audience was 61 percent higher than TV3’s."
When compared to the audience numbers tallied over the last three seasons, The Block's early ratings have been down this time round. The average audience (in the 25-54 demographic) of the show over the first four episodes has dropped from its peak of 244,500 in season two to 120,000 in the latest ratings from Nielsen.
When the first eight episodes are taken into account the average audience does lift to 127,900 viewers, but this is still down substantially from the 167,100 viewer average recorded for last season's show.
In isolation these ratings don't look great, but they must be viewed in the context of increased online media consumption.
According to MediaWorks data, episode one of The Block NZ saw an 88 percent increase in 3Now streaming views from last year’s launch, and this figure increased by a further 146 percent before episode two aired. And as Kiwis become increasingly comfortable watching shows online, these numbers are only set to increase as the season progresses.
As has been the case in previous seasons of The Block, MediaWorks has again secured deals with range of sponsors and and partners. AMP is broadcast sponsor of the show, joined by programme partners Honda, Pita Pit and Spark's Morepork by Spark. And MediaWorks will also see additional revenue from programme partners Bayleys, Bosch power tools, Dulux, Freedom, Haier, Mico Bathrooms, Peter Hay Kitchens and PlaceMakers.
In addition to having its products appear in the show, Haier has also kicked off an online campaign that former The Block participants Pete and Andy Walker sharing a series of life hacks via YouTube.
TVNZ has also been successful in its bid to once again attract key sponsorship partners, with Genesis Energy returning as the main partner and Stevens, Nosh, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Jestar, Harvey Norman and Nando's also signing on.
They are a terrific mix of returning and first-time partners who bring a new flavour to this year’s show," says Lyndsey Francis, TVNZ’s general manager of content solutions. "Together, we’ve cooked up some creative pieces of content that bring our partners’ brand stories to life, enhance viewers’ experience of the show, and drive digital engagement in the show’s popular online world.”
In coming weeks TVNZ’s partners will be rolling out campaigns across multiple touch points. Partner activity will include TVCs using MKR talent, online extensions, direct customer engagement and point of sale executions. And within the show, Genesis Energy, Stevens, Nosh and Beef and Lamb New Zealand will feature in cooking challenges, while Nando's, Harvey Norman and Jetstar are planning a range of promotional activities outside the programme.
Over the last few weeks, TVNZ has also been running campaign aimed at getting fans to support the competitors from their regions.
"The ‘Legends in the Making’ campaign approach allowed us to introduce our regional contestants and give our potential audience a level of depth and engagement through their backstories," says TVNZ Blacksand executive creative director Jens Hertzum.
Hertzum says the early response to the show has seen Kiwis throw around a few partisan comments on social media, and he says that TVNZ will aim to up the competitive ante as the show progresses.
"Social media has indeed brought out some competitive banter with people getting in behind their regions, for example all the Facebook fans commenting with: 'Go Auckland,' Go Otago,' 'I’ll be watching the Naki team with interest ... As the show progresses we will continue to amplify the regional rivalry and celebrate their successes in our ongoing promos. It’s all part of dialling up the drama of the show."
Using this approach does, however, come with element of risk in that fans from a certain region might lose interest in the show if their team is knocked out of hte competition. But Hertzum says this isn't really a concern.
"The regional approach gives our audience a new way to connect with MKR NZ but it’s certainly not the be all and end all. Once people have bought into the show, it’s the cooking competition and watching the rise of the very best, Kiwi home-cook heroes that will maintain engagement."
And as the new seasons of the respective shows unfold, it will again be a question of whether Kiwis are more partial to cooking or DIY when it comes to multi-night shows.