Last night, TVNZ and its agency and production partners gathered at Auckland’s Shed 10 to cut the ribbon on a new season lineup. But as much as it was a celebration of what’s to come, it was a chance for the broadcaster to recognise all it's achieved in the past year in its push to connect with more Zealanders than ever in more places than ever before.
The number two million was shouted with pride a lot throughout the evening as a consistent reminder of how many New Zealanders tune in to watch TVNZ content every day. "It’s what drives us,” said chief executive Kevin Kenrick when he took to the stage after director of content Cate Slater, deputy director of content Andrew Shaw, who spoke of stacking content on TVNZ OnDemand, connecting content with businesses and delivering local content.
And hoping to improve that service further and grow the audience, the night showcased the broadcaster's 2018 content, with one series, in particular, standing out as a winner.
Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s successful mockumentary, What We do in the Shadows, is getting a spinoff called Paranormal Unit. It will see the return of the cheeky vampires as well as the characters Officer Minogue and Officer O’Leary. The programme was first hinted at in 2015 when the film’s co-creator, Jemaine Clement, suggested a spinoff would be created and TVNZ confirmed it was in discussions with Clement and Waititi.
Last night, Clement confirmed all rumours with an appearance via a video in which he was being followed by a werewolf. The new series is in production and if Clement does not feature in it, it's safe to assume the werewolf mauled him.
What We Do in the Shadows trailer.
As well as specific programming, the 7.30pm timeslot got its own special shout out from an enthusiastic (and sometimes scathing) Shaw, who spoke of the broadcaster’s ambition to win it.
“If it takes millions, we’re going to spend millions,” he said about its investment before naming Project RunwayNZ, Survivor New Zealand and Heartbreak Island as the result of that investment.
Project RunwayNZ is the first local format of the international reality series that watches as fashion designers go up against each other to be announced the winner. TVNZ believe the local format will celebrate New Zealand’s world-class fashion designers and unearth a new sartorial star.
Project Runway season five trailer US
The announcement of season two of Survivor New Zealand came with a promise that it will be “bigger, bolder and better” than the first. Shaw spoke of format changes, higher stakes and a grander cash prize of $250,000 compared to last season’s $100,000. It’s a sign that TVNZ listened to fan feedback in which some called it out for lacking the hardcore nature of the show in other countries and a “miserly prize”.
For those up for what TVNZ is calling the “ultimate test of endurance, strength, and strategy”, casting is now live.
Possibly not quite hardcore, but shaping up to be to be just as cutthroat is the new Heartbreak Island. It’s a new reality series by TVNZ and while the new format means there was no preview, Shaw told the audience to think of it as “Tinder in the tropics”.
More specifically, the casting call says “Heartbreak Island will set hearts racing and temperatures rising when ten single guys and ten single girls take up residence on a tropical island resort in the hope of finding love”.
It’s currently looking for men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 to participate for the chance to win love as well as $100,000.
And keeping to its aim to provide something for everyone, the reality TV will be sitting alongside new factual series Cold Case, which looks at New Zealand’s most intriguing unsolved crimes, deeply personal stories about extraordinary Kiwis in I Am, and Nigel Latta’s new series, The Curious Mind.
Local audiences will also get their first look at the rebooted fantasy series The Legend of Monkey, in a co-production by TVNZ/ABC/Netflix. It was filmed in locations around Auckland as well as purpose-built sets and features comedian Josh Thomson playing one of the lead roles. Inspired by the 16th Century Chinese fable ‘Journey to the West’, the series follows a teenage girl and three fallen gods as they embarking on a journey to bring to an end a demonic reign of chaos and restore balance to the world.
The new lineup has also been injected with some laughs with Young Sheldon and Will & Grace. While the latter has already impressed local audiences enough to generate a cheer from the crowd as it was announced last night but the former is all new. It will, however, appeal to the 409,000 New Zealanders (on average) who watch The Big Bang Theory every week as it follows the show's character Sheldon during his childhood in Texas. The series has already proven successful in the US as it generated an audience of 16.6 million for its debut.
Both comedies will be broadcast on air as well as online as TVNZ looks to augment its OnDemand platform. All speakers at the launch event spoke of the quadrupled investment, which will see TVNZ OnDemand hosting exclusive programming like The Last Post, a drama about a British army unit fighting a Yemeni insurgency in the Middle East in the 1960s.
TVNZ boss Kenrick also said that investment will see improved user experience for the user base, which is growing by a 1,000 subscriptions every day. He said it’s working on features like autoplay play, enhanced search and improved suggestions and follows the move earlier this year to live stream all of its channels online.
TVNZ OnDemand will also see the addition of an ad-free, safe online environment to host children’s multi-media content, supported with funds from NZ On Air in 2018.
With talk centred on the TVNZ OnDemand platform, it’s no surprise the most threatening seven letter word made an appearance. ‘Netflix’ and other global SVOD services were acknowledged throughout the evening but there was no sign of fear as it provided a chance for Kenrick to talk up TVNZ’s investment in local content.
“It’s our point of difference against global players,” he said, as well as it being the broadcaster’s way of keeping New Zealanders up with the play on what’s going on in their own country.
The news has always been the cornerstone of keeping New Zealanders informed but, with bulletin audiences tending toward the older side, TVNZ has had to innovate to reach younger audiences. One way it has done that over the last 12 months is through Re:, a socially-driven news brand, received a number of shout-outs for achieving over 4.5 million views in its first 10 weeks.
"This time last year we talked about our New Blood initiatives, geared towards non-traditional TV viewers. We’re placing a big bet on Re:, our socially driven news voice, and will continue to foster new talent and innovative short-form multimedia content made available where viewers choose to watch,” said Kenrick.
Targeting young New Zealanders with topics that affect them, such as sexual health, drugs, suicide, immigration and education, it’s part of the New Blood Initiative that was announced at last year’s new season launch. It’s now proven itself with a swathe of web series on across TVNZ OnDemand and YouTube that went live earlier this month.
The inaugural New Blood Web Series competition winner Oddly Even winner has also been included in the new season line up, with the full series due to be released on TVNZ OnDemand next year.
Also proving itself is TVNZ Duke, which has been a place of experimentation for the broadcaster. It’s now settled into a consistent line up with shows like Taskmaster,Mythbusters, Family Guy and The Orville entertaining the audiences. But with some yet to find the channel, coverage of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games might solve that.
TVNZ closed the launch event by bringing Toni Street and Rob Waddell to the stage to promote TVNZ converge of the games, which will see it broadcast for free across all TVNZ platforms.