The engagement levels for this year’s election have been incredibly high, as indicated by viewer turnout for each of the televised debates.
The debates were, however, only the trailer to the main event that took place on Saturday over a five-hour stretch on Saturday night as the votes around the country were counted.
Unsurprisingly, major broadcasters TVNZ and MediaWorks both dedicated extended slots to the election coverage between 7pm and 12am to ensure that every result was given immediate coverage. The pundits were let loose and soaked up the limelight, giving their thoughts on where the country was headed.
The move paid off for both broadcasters, with a total of 1.5 million people tuning into TVNZ’s 1 News and 1.2 million to MediaWorks’ Newshub programming.
“To have nearly 1.5 million TV viewers turning to us on Election night is what we live for,” says TVNZ head of News John Gillespie. “We’re all about getting the story out there. I’m proud of how we served viewers throughout the Election campaign and on Saturday night. And as it continues to unfold we’ll be there to cover the latest breaking developments.”
The numbers this year were up markedly on those recorded during the previous election, particularly on the MediaWorks side.
In 2014, channel Three (then TV3) only had 780,000 viewers tune in while TVNZ 1 (then TV One) had 1.1 million.
MediaWorks head of news Hal Crawford puts this performance down to the talent and the level of planning that went into the programming.
“This was a great end to a great campaign for Newshub,” Crawford says.
“We put in the groundwork and planning to produce five hours of quality TV and it showed. Duncan [Garner], Lisa [Owen] and Paddy [Gower] led the charge with energy and insight, backed by the best graphics on the night. Our reporters, producers and camera operators in the field got to the big names first.”
MediaWorks’ strong performance also extended to the key 25-54 demographic segment, which the broadcaster won on the night with Newshub pulling in a total of 570,000 viewers to the 559,000 of TVNZ.
This also translated in terms of the average audience in the 25-54 demographic, with Three again coming out on top with 176,000 viewers to the 144,000 who tuned into TVNZ.
This result, more so than the overall number, is particularly valuable to Newshub given the broadcasters emphasis on this demographic over the last 12 months. MediaWorks chief content officer Andrew Szusterman says that the company’s success in this demographic also extends beyond news programming, with the overall programming lineup celebrating something of a milestone last week.
“Last week was an absolute highlight for Three, hitting our highest weekly share in over 10 years,” Szusterman says. “The key to the result was all in local content. Not only with Newshub and our Election coverage but strong showings from Grand Designs NZ, Lost and Found, Slice Of Paradise, Jono and Ben, 7 Days and, of course, The Block NZ. All these programmes were made either internally at Three or with our incredible external production partners.”
Burgeoning digital numbers
Alongside the strong free-to-air broadcast numbers, both broadcasters also saw some impressive digital viewing stats over the course of the evening.
“We had a quarter of a million live streams for Election night, which reflects the massive change in viewer behaviour since this time three years ago,” says Gillespie.
Over at Newshub, Crawford saw a similar trend across digital channels.
“Online and on social networks, the audience came to Newshub for information and analysis and streamed the coverage in unprecedented numbers. 314,000 live steams in total, across web and social networks,” Crawford says.
This election also saw the emergence of a new digital broadcaster in NZME, which similarly allocated a five-hour slot to election coverage.
The coverage included live video shot in the NZME newsroom, with Heather du Plessis-Allan and Tristram Clayton serving as anchors and Fran O’Sullivan, Vernon Tava, Jennifer Curtin and Barry Soper sharing their thoughts as panellists.
NZME managing editor Shayne Currie called it the most ambitious digital coverage of any event in the history of the company.
“There has never been anything comparable to the scale of what NZME is going to deliver digitally to New Zealanders on Saturday night,” Currie said.
The move seems to have paid off, with NZME’s live stream across the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB being viewed more than 478,700 times across digital media and social channels.
In addition, a total of 1.2 million minutes of live content were watched during the broadcast, setting a new daily record for NZME.
This success of this coverage also led into Sunday, when a total of 1.3 million people visited the site.
The digital numbers certainly do show an increased willingness of people on the move to catch up on the news via their mobile devices, but they still aren’t nearly as substantial as the live TV viewership.
That said, there’s only one way digital viewership numbers can go. And NZME will no doubt already be thinking of ways in which it can attract a larger chunk of the TV audience to its streams come the 2020 election.