At Auckland Airport on Friday night, something slightly interesting—albeit not altogether unexpected—happened. The Kiwis enjoying a last-minute meal at the Bach Alehouse asked the waiting staff to turn up the volume of the television, not for a sporting or international news event, but for a reality TV show.
Despite now being three seasons deep, Kiwis had clearly not tired of The Block NZ and they still wanted to see the action unfold during the finale, which saw Alex and Corban Walls walk away with $307,000. And the popularity of the show wasn't limited to a holiday house-themed pub at the airport on Friday night.
According to Nielsen, a total of 3,125,400 Kiwis aged five and older tuned in to watch the show over the course of the season. This figure was a 177,200 increase on the 2,948,200 Kiwis that watched the show in 2013 and a 427,8000 jump from the 2,697,600 that tuned in during the inaugural season in 2012.
As was the case with previous seasons, the final episode again attracted some impressive viewership numbers, although they were lower than in the previous two seasons.
Over the course of the two-hour finale, 849,500 viewers tuned in at some to watch the drama, and this was down from the 1,185,300 in 2013 and also a drop from 1,065,300 in 2012. This number levelled out at an average of 386,400 viewers over the course of the episode, which was also a drop from the previous two seasons.
The drop in overall viewership of the finale was also reflected in the key 25-54 demographic, which saw viewership drop to 196,100 from 2013's 346,400 (this was also down from 2012's viewership of 267,900).
Given that the show has enjoyed overall growth in viewership, the drop in ratings for the finale could be related to the decision to schedule the episode on a Friday rather than a Thursday, which was the chosen day for the previous two season.
It's also worth noting that The Block NZ finale's 196,100 viewers in the 25-54 category was substantially higher than the 154,300 that tuned in to watch the My Kitchen Rules NZ final.
Another factor that might have played a role in the overall drop in viewership for the finale is that many Kiwis are starting to adopt the on-demand viewing options.
This trend saw 3Now tally 974,500 streams of content related to The Block over the course of the season (and this included 40,000 unique streams of the final). This figure was 94 percent higher than the 501,261 streams tallied over the course of the last season. Comparatively, MKR NZ content was streamed 650,000 times via TVNZ Ondemand.
The show's hype also spread online with #theblocknz becoming the number one trending topic in New Zealand, a result that was buoyed significantly by the generous gesture of Alex and Corban giving fellow contestant Ben and Quinn Alexandre $30,000 of their prize money.
“We’re delighted with the series finale for The Block NZ it was an exciting and dramatic end to a fantastic series which, for the third consecutive year, has kept Kiwis engaged and entertained," said MediaWorks TV chief executive Paul Maher in a release. “This has proved, again, that we are a nation of block-o-holics and to see viewers utilising multiple viewing platforms and engaging with the series via social media in such big numbers is a brilliant result not only for MediaWorks, but also for our family of sponsors on The Block NZ.”
And this reference to sponsors is an important one, given that The Block once again seamlessly integrated the branding of Bunnings Warehouse, Kiwibank, Honda and Wild Bean Cafe into the programming.
And, as TVNZ's Jeremy O'Brien pointed out in a recent interview with StopPress, "ratings [are] the foundation, because you want the mass awareness ... But the true value is taking that equity and leveraging it into ... marketing programmes."
And in this sense, shows, such as The Block and MKR, are becoming increasingly important to the networks from a commercial point of view because of how effectively they can be used for integrated campaigns. And while ratings will always play a big role in determining whether a show is cancelled, profitability through commercial partnerships is now also a vital consideration.