Sparks are already flying over TVNZ's decision to replace TVNZ7 with a 'plus one' time-shifted channel that repeats TV One content, with United Future leader Peter Dunne calling it an insult to the intelligence of New Zealand viewers. And he may have something else to complain about because Greg Partington's The Shopping Channel has, after two years of planning and a few hiccups along the way, finally got the green light and will feature on Sky channel 18 from 1 October.
Based on the television home shopping format pioneered by Home Shopping Network (HSN) and QVC, the channel will deliver up to eight hours of live, locally produced television each day. And for those who really, really love product demonstrations and advertorials fronted by "some of the country’s favorite personalities [Update: Monty Betham and Candy Lane are thought to be in the mix and Partington's PR man Bill Ralston says the soon-to-be-announced chief executive "is a big name in the industry"], it will also be live streamed online, be made available on YouTube and will be accessible via Smartphones, tablets and on-demand viewing.
“I’ve long been associated with New Zealand retail through the advertising agency, including long term partnerships with Briscoe Group and Progressive Enterprises," says Partington. "The Shopping Channel leverages Ogilvy’s unique combination of large-scale television production, retail expertise and online/data capabilities to form an entirely new business that will provide great growth opportunities for retailers and importers along with a fun shopping experience for New Zealand consumers."
He says The Shopping Channel is a step-change for retail in this country. And while some may shake their heads in dismay that this is what now constitutes TV production in New Zealand, Partington says it's a much-needed bit of economic stimulus in tough times, as it will create up to 50 new jobs in year one with an additional 20 new jobs in the support base.
"We aim to produce compelling television, giving consumers access to the world of TV home shopping, providing New Zealand retailers, importers, entrepreneurs and inventors a venue to showcase and sell their products to the New Zealand shopper," he says. "Viewers can window shop on TV, purchase online, mobile or call centre and, through a collaboration with Mainfreight, will receive their purchase delivered promptly to their door."
Partington believes its advertisers will include large and small businesses who want to tell in-depth, detailed and compelling stories about their brands and products and he believes categories like homewares, kitchenware, travel, fashion, beauty, cosmetics, personal care, jewellry, health and fitness, electronics, pet care and toys will perform well.
John Fellett, Sky's chief executive, says it's a welcome addition to the network's ever-growing unique content offering, which it has recently started promoting.
“From my own personal experience, I understand how powerful home shopping can be for both advertisers and consumers," he says. "It is a global phenomenon and Sky is excited about carrying this wonderful programme format through a dedicated channel. I think New Zealander’s will love it."
Originally, it's thought The Shopping Channel was destined to take over TVNZ7's soon-to-be vacant frequency, which led to much gnashing of teeth from supporters of public broadcasting who felt this explicitly commercial substitute was going too far. According to The Herald, the deal didn't work out because Partington "wanted to make the content at Ogilvy's studio in Stanley St, where it makes TV commercials for retailer clients such as Briscoes. TVNZ, which owns the channel capacity on Freeview and would make money subleasing it, also wanted to make more money out of the project by producing the content".
Using a pay-TV network like Sky, which has much more limited production capabilities, solves both the public broadcasting and the studio problems. But, given it's now showing on a premium network, it seems unlikely to get as many viewers as it would have on a free-to-air frequency—and it's unlikely to get as many of the viewers for whom a shopping channel presumably appeals.
As for TVNZ's decision, it seems to be the lesser of two evils. Its release says changing viewer habits have seen time-shifted channels develop as an internationally-established method of meeting viewer demands, especially with news and current affairs, and it follows on from TV3's plus one channel that was launched on Freeview three years ago.
"TV One has been selected as the time-shifted channel to maximise exposure for the great local content, news and current affairs that it features," says TVNZ acting chief executive Rodney Parker. "Having already established a number of new channels over the past few years, including Channel U, Heartland and Kidzone24, the decision to broadcast a free to air ‘plus one’ channel was only made once we looked carefully at what other options might be commercially viable. We believe that this is a desirable and appropriate use of the frequency that offers an additional opportunity for viewers, particularly those without PVRs, to fit their individual circumstances."
But Dunne, who's also the minister of revenue, a regular guest of Back Benches and vocal supporter of TVNZ7, doesn't really see it that way.
"TV One represents the worst of television in this country. It is crass, superficial, lowest common denominator rubbish. It is too obsessed with its own self-imagined 'stars' and the culture surrounding them than to have any credible claim on being a legitimate national broadcaster. By contrast, TVNZ7 has always appealed to a higher standard, both in terms of quality and the range of programmes offered. To replace TVNZ7 with the rubbish of TV One is a disgusting insult to the hundreds of thousands of regular TVNZ7 viewers."
The new channel will begin broadcasting at 7am on July 1. It will be offered on Freeview and details are still being finalised on which other platforms may also carry it.