Last week, Matt Blomfield, Hell Pizza comms manager and co-owner of Pitch Televsion, told StopPress a new reality TV show that pitted young advertising creatives against each other in a series of pitching battles had been commissioned by TVNZ and would screen on Saturday nights at 7.30pm starting in May.
But comments written on StopPress this morning by TVNZ's general manager of programming Jane Wilson and TVNZ's commissioner of factual entertainment Tony Manson said the show had not been commissioned and would "most certainly not screen at 7.30pm on Saturdays in May".
Cue confusion and contradictions.
When told about the comments, Blomfield was surprised, perplexed and "miffed" because he had had been working closely with the network and its top brass for between six to twelve months on the project, a pilot show had been shot and was well-received and he had recently received an email from TVNZ saying Jane Wilson had agreed to broadcast the show at the 7.30pm Saturday timeslot.
Basically, Blomfield, who is the show's project manager, was under the impression he had a gentleman's agreement to make the show. TVNZ seemed excited about its prospects and were heavily involved in its formative stages. But what he didn't have was a contract and therefore a commission.
Despite missing this important document, he had assurances that getting the contract would be a formality. Having worked for over six months under this assumption, he and his team are already well through the process (a draft shooting schedule and a production company, Augusto, are lined up) and they have spent plenty of money on the project. So his surprise that the network is now saying the show might not be screened is understandable.
Tony Manson said in an email that there is no commission for the show until a contract is agreed and signed by both parties. The email he sent to Blomfield that stated TVNZ had agreed to broadcast the show was just an expression of interest in the project.
"To date Matt Blomfield has proposed the idea, and we have indicated interest and a potential timeslot based on a number of terms and conditions".
Those conditions include finding funding for the project (which Blomfield says he has done), submitting a budget and putting in an official proposal.
Manson says he received a formal proposal and budget from Blomfield for the show last week, but a decision has not been reached as to whether or not it will be screened. That decision may take months.
There are still plenty of hoops to jump through before the show gets its official stamp of approval: TVNZ has sign off on practically everything, including key personnel (particularly producer, director and writer) and key creative elements like hosts, contestants, graphics, competition structure etc. There is also the issue of potential conflicts between TVNZ's existing clients and production partners and sponsors on the new show.
Judging from some of the email correspondence between the different parties that has been seen by StopPress, however, it seems TVNZ are – or were – very keen on running the show. But, in such a competitive industry, Wilson certainly wasn't too happy with Blomfield for spilling the confidential beans this early on about the show's possible timeslot.
So, as it stands, Pitch has not been commissioned yet. But the show is well-advanced. And even if it's not commissioned by TVNZ, Blomfield says it will still be made, because he already has some major sponsors onboard and it is fully funded show.
Is it naivety on the part of Blomfield? Or has TVNZ been stringing him and his production company along for too long before deciding whether to go ahead with the project?
More on this story tomorrow.