Last year the big free-to-air ratings battle was between The Block NZ and MKR NZ. This year it's X-Factor NZ and Our First Home. And, early on in the piece, it's a tight tussle, with the first episode of the second season of MediaWorks' talent show charting slightly bigger ratings than TVNZ's new reno-reality show.
X Factor NZ aired the first episode of its second series at 7.30pm on TV3 on Sunday and garnered 343,300 in total viewer ratings, about 12,000 less than TVNZ’s new DIY show Our First Home, data from Nielsen shows.
However, X-Factor, which will screen twice weekly, won out in its target age bracket, with 166,800 25-54-year-olds tuning in compared to Our First Home’s 148,300 in the same category.
And last night, X-Factor’s ratings climbed even higher, just managing to overtake Our First Home, by racking up 377,900 5+ viewers compared to the DIY reality show's 359,900. X-Factor also led in the 25-54 category with 158,000 viewers, compared to Our First Home’s 129,200.
The Herald reports that Our First Home, which screens on TV One three times a week, has been slipping in viewer ratings since it first aired on February 8, with this week’s ratings down more than 20 percent compared to its debut episode. But commissioner of factual entertainment at TVNZ Tony Manson said earlier he expected the ratings would level out.
"With any television competition format like this, the audience will level out over time and then spike in the last week or two when the competition gets down to the wire.”
Nielsen figures show Our First Home's debut episode on February 8 pulled 456,000 viewers (5+), but that dropped to 334,000 and 309,000 for the following two nights, respectively. In comparison, last August, The Block attracted 341,000 viewers on its opening night, dropping to 262,000 and 264,000 for the next two episodes.
But it's not all about ratings these days. TV shows aim to engage with fans in a number of different places and, like The Block's Block Out Live game, TVNZ is also extending the show experience off air by building a bespoke website and launching a game that invites audiences to play their own renovation game.
Giving players the opportunity to renovate and sell virtual houses– and test out their renovation fantasies—the game provides expert advice and feedback that aims to be useful and applicable in the real world. Watching the show on-air or OnDemand rewards players with the tips and tricks that helps create the highest home value possible, and the chance to win up to $6,000 worth of prizes
The shorter Property Market mode sees players begin with a partially-decorated house. Property Market Challenges are completed by players with the aim of improving the house value within their first 10 minutes of gameplay. And the longer My Home mode allows for players to have a richer game play experience by adding extra details and decorations to their virtual homes and taking their time testing out their design aspirations.
On its debut, TVNZ says the game app was the 8th ranked free game in New Zealand in the Apple AppStore, the #2 simulation game and the #2 strategy game (week ending 10 February). It's also available for Android.
As TVNZ says: "Players are spending on average 40 minutes within the game app. This is the equivalent of watching an entire extra episode of the show per week and a huge extension of the time viewers are spending with Our First Home on their second screen. On average, users of the app are spending 20 minutes renovating each home, indicating the level of interest there is among Kiwis to add value to their properties."
As expected, the main sponsors are already heavily integrated into the show—and it has been criticised for its overt product placement. But the sponsors are also benefitting from the game and TVNZ says 93 percent of players have collected bonus points courtesy of Fly Buys, 75 percent of them have checked out a Toyota car, and 59 percent have received specific home value advice from BNZ's Natasha Paora game character.
The show has been given a hard time by some, with Herald reviewer Michele Hewitson describing it as having “…more holes in it than the floorboards in the crappy do-ups on offer” and The Spinoff's Duncan Grieve saying the cast is "numbingly nice" and shouldn't be on TV.
Meanwhile, X-Factor managed to grow TV3’s Sunday night audience, and was the most-watched show on the network that night. But the Herald reports these figures are still down significantly, compared to when the first season aired in February 2013, where more than 467,000 viewers tuned in.
While the format is the same (laugh at the losers, get tingles from the talented) this season’s line up of X-Factor judges has changed. The show farewelled Ruby Frost and Daniel Bedingfield and brought in Willy Moon aka William Sinclair, who had a hit with his single Yeah, yeah in 2012, and his partner Natalia Kills, who has been working with Madonna and released acclaimed album Trouble. So far, Moon has been pegged as the blunt bad cop, which, as Simon Cowell has shown overseas, is a crucial role. The show has also brought back Stan Walker, who has sold over 100,000 records in New Zealand and also reprising her role is ex-All Saint Melanie Blatt.
So, with one proven reality series format, one testing the waters, and ratings that put the two shows in close competition, it will be an interesting battle to watch.