Television has had quite the facelift over the past few years. Reality television has taken over the episodic drama, with its cheap production cost and malleable format, which viewers can easily tune into without any kind of backstory. What else is changing is our current affairs shows, the days of the solo renegade hosting style of John Campbell and Paul Holmes seems to be over as a softer format with multiple hosts is nudging its way in. With all these changes we thought we’d do a bit of an overview of the top shows on telly to see how they’re performing amongst this difficult and ever-changing media climate.
We thought we’d start by having a look at how MediaWorks and TVNZ has been affected after the demise of Campbell Live, which wrapped up on 29 May. MediaWorks replaced the show with reality show Road Cops re-runs temporarily until it had organised a new current affairs show, which it said would be released six to eight weeks after the end of Campbell Live. But now, as of the coming Monday [15 June] Road Cops will be replaced by Come Dine with Me, hosted by Guy Williams.
Road Cops has not been performing well. According to Nielsen, after reaching 247,000 viewers and 121,900 in the telling 25-54 category (which advertisers focus on) on 1 June, it never reached that peak again between 1-8 of June, reaching a low of 66,600 viewers during its third episode, however, its 5-plus viewership was 170,100. The average rating between the 1 June and 8 June was 197,000 in the five-plus category and 91,000 in the 25-54 category.
And with most things in life, there has to be an offset. According to Throng TVNZ’s Seven Sharp, which screens on TV1, had the best week it’s ever had. “The average audience of 541,602 was up 21 percent on the previous week, 15 percent on 2014 and 39 percent on 2013. Monday’s show [1June], which marked the first day post Campbell Live had the highest average audience ever, breaching the 600,000 viewer mark for the first time.” However, it should be noted that this information is from the five-plus category, not the 25-54 category which matters most to advertisers.
According to Nielsen, on average [25 episodes] between 26 April and 30 May Campbell Live was sitting at 329,300 viewers in the five-plus category and 119,500 in the 25-54 category, while Seven Sharp drew in 473,100 and 127,000 in the same respective categories. To compare to the same period the year before, Campbell Live was sitting at 238,000 in the five-plus category and 88,000 in the 25-54 while Seven Sharp was at 440,500 and 108,500 for those same categories.
Between 1-8 June Seven Sharp has seen strong ratings, averaging out at 562,000 in the five-plus category, the 25-54 category has also been reasonably consistent though has dropped off a since 1 June where 181,600 viewers tuned in compared to 2 June which saw quite a drop down to 126,500 and a further drop on the 3 June to 116,700. Ratings have climbed back up since then, however, and by 8 June were sitting at 165,800 viewers.
Prime News also had a boost, according to the Herald. Two weeks ago 3 News drew an audience of 166,000 viewers on 8 June which was 13,000 less than Prime News which screens half an hour earlier.
To put it into perspective two weeks ago 3 News attracted nearly double that figure, with 314,000 viewers tuning in.
The Herald reported TV3’s Sunday night current affairs programme 3D is also suffering with Monday night’s episode drawing in just 160,000 viewers.
As mentioned, in response to the low ratings of Road Cops re-runs, MediaWorks has scrapped the show and from Monday will instead be screening reality cooking competition show Come Dine with Me which will be hosted by comedian Guy Williams and screen on week nights at 7pm. The Eyeworks-produced series has received some major backlash from the public, however, with angry viewers heading to Twitter to vent their frustration at a the series being in Campbell Live’s slot. Guy Williams responded to the backlash with his own Tweet: “Really excited to be voicing Come Dine with Me… I’m not excited about being lynched by people who think it’s a Campbell Live replacement!”
The Herald reported the show was originally slated for next year but the production was brought forward to fill Campbell Live’s spot.
Meanwhile MediaWorks’ new current affairs show is still in the pipeline and according to Radio New ZealandCampbell Live’s true replacement will be a 7pm four-day-a-week programme presented by two people.
In an interview with Radio New Zealand’s Mediawatch TV3 head of news Mark Jennings said research suggested people wanted stories at a shorter length and the replacement for Campbell Live would not be a “light and fluffy show. It doesn’t mean to say it won’t be entertaining… and some of [its] stories will be lighter,” he said. “But we are not, in any shape or form, abandoning good, sound journalism.”
He said people want a mix and a mix of personalities. "But you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. The reaction from the public... was that they value Campbell Live for its good strong reporting and journalism, we are going to continue to do that."
Mediawatch presenter Colin Peacock pointed out during the interview that there appears to be a changing approach to current affairs shows, saying when Campbell Live launched ten years ago all “the commercial channels wanted to have a go.” But he said now it’s “Two presenters and this wider mix of stories, it seems to be what everyone has settled on. Ten years ago it was a big name, Paul Holmes, John Campbell and a 7pm show that did the issues of the day,” he said. “Now it seems to be lighter with two presenters and a lighter approach.”
According to 3 News, on the 21 May MediaWorks announced the new show would start in six to eight weeks to screen Mondays to Thursdays, 7-730pm, the new hosts were still to be named and that most Campbell Live staff were expected to work on the new show.
3 News producer Angus Gillies has spoken out on Twitter against any of the public who might be boycotting TV3 due to the departure of Campbell Live saying its journalists are still working hard at producing quality journalism.
Meanwhile, according to Stuff, John Campbell has held talks with Radio New Zealand about the possibility of moving to the national broadcaster.
Elsewhere on TV3, Dancing with the Stars Season Six appears to be delivering so far, according to Throng, however the average audience still pales in comparison to when the show first screened on TV1.
According to Throng the average audience for Sunday’s show was 357,360 viewers, performing better than the debuts of The X Factor NZ and The Bachelor NZ. But when comparing to the previous season premiere of 571,000 viewers there is a 37 percent drop with 213,000 fewer people tuning in. However, once again it should be noted that these are only the five-plus figures.
Empire, which screens on TV2 is being heavily pushed by TVNZ at the moment. However, TVNZ debuted Empire last month after 12 episodes of the show had screened in the US, according to Throng. “Unsurprisingly, Empire tanked last night [19 May], with an average audience of 148,010 viewers and was beaten by TV3’s NCIS. Nearly half of the audience that had tuned in for My Kitchen Rules bailed at the end of the show leaving Empire to struggle on debut.”
On a related note in a mUmBRELLA opinion column Masus’s Nathan Cook says free-to-air networks need to stop blaming streaming sites such as Netflix for their low viewer ratings. “A lot of disloyalty among viewers has been caused by TV network arrogance in the way they treat viewers,” he says. “Local programming that runs over, US programming that doesn’t air day-in-date. Living in the global community, how can we expect people’s curiosity won’t get the better of them, driving viewers to seek content elsewhere.”