Given the slightly difficult period youth-oriented media seems to be going through at the moment, with MTV packing up the local office, a few well-established magazines folding and MediaWorks deciding to grey up its demographics on TV3 and FOUR, there were questions about whether the decision to launch a youth-focused commercial channel called U to replace TVNZ6 was wise. Well, the first cumulative Nielsen numbers are in and TVNZ are stoked with the results, with 1,392,400 viewers—or 34 percent of Kiwis—tuning in to the new channel at some point in the four weeks ending Saturday May 14.
When compared to established competitor brands MTV and E!, which are available on Sky and achieved cumulative audiences of 1.003m and 1.106m respectively over the same time period, it's certainly a success on the eyeball front in that youth segment (U targets 15-24s and FOUR guns for 18-49s, so they're not in direct competition). But TVNZ says the U cume numbers—which show reach, rather than average viewers, a distinction that seems to have led to some fractious dealings with TV-centric website Throng recently after it criticised its use of ratings numbers—are the largest first release numbers seen outside of the five main free to air channels.
"With U we have brought together unique new content and an integrated live format to target the elusive youth audience," says TVNZ’s head of digital Eric Kearley. “And our young viewers have responded incredibly well, tuning in in large volumes and interacting with the channel.”
On the engagement front, U has already grown a substantial Facebook fan base of almost 15,000, with 50 percent of these fans being “active users”. who have interacted with the U page over the past week. U’s Facebook application for the U live show allows fans to comment on topics and vote in polls before being pulled through to live broadcast and it has been used more than 25,000 times since launch.
Obviously, more eyeballs generally mean there will be more interest from advertisers. Given the channel U replaced was publicly funded and ad-free, it's impossible to make comparisons in terms of increased revenue. TVNZ declined to comment on anything to do with the commercial success of the channel so far, whereas MediaWorks chief executive Jason Paris was more than happy to do that after the launch of FOUR, saying revenue had increased by 50 percent from 6 February to 29 March, largely on the back of ad spend growth in the FMCG and Household Shoppers categories, and its share in the 18-49 demographic was 14 percent higher than at the same time last year.
UPDATE: We asked MediaWorks' Rachel Lorimer for some numbers for its newest channel FOUR. And here they are (figures are cume for All 5+).
"FOUR reaches a lot more audience in just one week (1.9m on average) than U reached across the whole four weeks. In fact, in the period that TVNZ is quoting, FOUR had reached more audience by Day 4 than U reached across the entire 28 days.
"Over the entire four week period, FOUR achieved a cume of 2.8 million, more than double that of TVNZ U's cume.
"We are delighted with the way that FOUR has launched and continues to build its audience, particularly in the advertiser friendly 18-49 demo."