Future of the Ad Show uncertain as hand that feeds weighs up TVNZ funding decisions

The Ad Show’s main aim was to demystify the realm of marketing and advertising for the benefit of the New Zealand public and equip them with a few tools to fully understand the tactics they were regularly being exposed to. It was something of a fringe benefit that the show also seemed to find favour with the industry. But, with speculation about a possible merger of TVNZ’s two digital channels 6 and 7 and uncertainty about continued government funding, it’s still unclear whether there will be a second season of the show, despite what appeared to be a successful first run.

Producer Raewyn Rasch claimed earlier this year that download numbers indicated it was beating both Media7 and Back Benches and another five shows were also commissioned, adding to the 15 shows that were originally planned. So by those measures, you would think it might be able to avoid the chop.

“I think the show worked really well. But, as you know, in television, that doesn’t mean you’ll get another go,” she says.

She says they have “certainly pitched for [a second season]and we’ve got a plan for it”, but she has no idea when the decision will be made.

“It’s completely up to them. There’s no time frame,” she says.

TVNZ 7 channel manager Philippa Mossman says a proposal was received “very recently” for a second season and that’s currently going through the usual commissioning process.

“I can’t say categorically when we’ll be able to tell your readers [whether a second season will be commissioned],” she says. And that’s because, like Rasch, she is also waiting on a decision from the Government about whether or not it will continue to fund the channels (the $79 million over five years expires in 2012 and, according to the Herald, TVNZ wants TVNZ6 to end early so it can be turned into a commercial youth channel by March next year). Until then, she says very little planning can be done.

Unlike its commercially motivated bretheren, ratings don’t come into the equation for TVNZ6 and 7. The main objectives of the channels are to offer New Zealand viewers public-service broadcasting and also draw attention to the joys of digital television for the upcoming digital switchover in 2013.

“We don’t measure the audience in the same way [as the commercial channels], but we do have other ways to gauge audience reaction,” she says.

But those reactions are often related to the whole channel, rather than individual shows, she says. Still, given the Ad Show’s reception, she agrees it bodes well for more, although she points out that the decision to commission the five extra episodes was based on the fact that it “would benefit the show if it had a bit more time to find its feet”, not really because it was proving to be such a runaway success.

“All shows take some time to find their voice and iron out the wrinkles. And the longer you can give a weekly show the better.”

Added to that, despite the fact the marcomms community seemed to enjoy having their industry talked about (and turning up to the filming so they could see themselves on the telly), that wasn’t really the show’s main intention.

There have been some mutterings that the original pitch for the show was more along the lines of the hugely popular Australian marketing and advertising show The Gruen Transfer. But Mossman says this show is classified as entertainment. And because the Ad Show runs on digital television, it has more of an educational, social and cultural purpose, which would preclude featuring popular Gruen sections like ‘The Pitch’.

So, putting on our simplistic, cynical hats, now that the analogue switch off date has been announced, 26 percent of us have Freeview-capable sets or set-top boxes and around 48 percent of households are now 100 percent digitally served by Sky, could it be that the National Government thinks the digital channels have done their promotional job and there is no need to stump up for two public-service channels anymore?

“You’ll have to ask them,” Mossman says.

Rather appropriately, you can check out an interview with broadcasting minister Jonathan Coleman about the future of broadcasting on TVNZ7’s Media7 here.

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