Media visionary: Cate Slater
Nominees: Martin Stewart, Jason Paris, Ian Taylor, Jonny Hendrikson, Michael Boggs, Tim Watkin.
People’s choice: Cate Slater
TVNZ’s director of content, Cate Slater, has a big job facing competitors in the broadcast and online space. TVNZ OnDemand is now a strong rival for Netflix with its full seasons of programmes and movies as well as being a catch-up space for broadcast television. It’s also got a point of difference from international SVODs with Slater placing importance on serving New Zealanders local content.
Slater’s previous life was as a lawyer, working as an in-house legal advisor, and more latterly within the business affairs of media and sports companies – skills she thinks have been hugely beneficial in the changing media landscape. She says having a legal background really helped, as was having a sports media background which was “much more about being platform agnostic, about having the agility to deliver a piece of content in multiple, different ways.”
The TVNZ content rights strategy has been quite the journey, but Slater says it’s been intentional. “It all started from us going from 30 days’ catch-up, to a full ‘in-season stack’ as we called it – having the content available from the first episode until the last episode of a show, then we lengthened that out to say 12 months’ or two years’ time. Then we started buying shows exclusively for OnDemand and then started making shows exclusively for OnDemand.”
Balancing act Slater has been at TVNZ for six years, the past two in her current job of content director. When asked what she’s most proud of achieving in the role, she says the massive growth in OnDemand while maintaining a really strong channel performance.
“The broadcast channels are hugely important to us, they’re still the biggest game in town – live TV is still where all the bulk audiences are so that’s a massive focus for us. At the same time managing to grow OnDemand at the rate we’ve grown and seeing the penetration in the market that’s it gained and the traction and the momentum makes me hugely proud…it’s almost been like launching a new start-up business while making sure that your core business is performing as well as it can.”
“You can choose your target audience a bit more, tailor content specifically and push the boundaries as well.”
OnDemand gives TVNZ the ability to try lots of things, Slater says.
“You don’t have to cater for a big, broad audience – you can be a little bit more targeted. We’ve found a lot of ideas that work on broadcast resonate online as well but a lot of the quirkier stuff like the Educators and House of Drag are specifically made for an online audience.” Unsurprisingly, Slater has many OnDemand shows she loves watching. At the moment it’s Catch-22 and she’s also a massive fan of Killing Eve. In terms of local content, Shortland Street is her pick.
“I watch a mix of it live and OnDemand depending on what time I get home, but I have to watch it every night, my 11-year-old daughter insists on it. We’re also re-watching classics, like The Nanny with my kids, which is fantastic rediscovering some of that older stuff.”
Overseas competition While there is competition out there for TVNZ OnDemand admits Slater, this just encourages the company to compete with the best. “There’s certainly international competitors that we didn’t have to deal with a few years ago, both in the competition for eyeballs, and in the competition for advertisers. Our job is to step up our game and make sure our viewer/user experience is up there with the likes of Netflix because they’re the ones that set the bar.”
As Netflix goes more and more with original content and Disney+ will be the same, Slater says TVNZ OnDemand will have to find its own niche and carve out its own differentiator, and that’s why it is looking at doing a lot more in the local space. When asked about her thoughts on general media landscape and what she’s anticipating for rest of 2019, Slater says internationally the landscape is moving extremely quickly.
“There’s the recent consolidation between Fox and Disney, AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, Sky and Comcast – all these companies are looking at launching their own directto-consumer services that will be on us within the next 12 months, including Disney+ by the end of this year, followed by WarnerMedia, and we’ll be seeing some of some of that product hitting the market here”.
Looking locally, Slater says there is lots of change happening with Sky’s new chief executive and what Sky is going to do move forward, Spark Sport launching, MediaWorks continuing to fight hard in the free-to-air space and Lightbox is looking for partners.
“The only thing that is certain in the media landscape at the moment is that there will be change…it’s anybody’s guess where things will be in six months’ time, but I’d say probably not where they are now.”
While Slater can’t reveal details on content that hasn’t yet been announced, she says she’s looking forward to the return of reality tv series Celebrity Treasure Island.
“That’s going to be a big show for us, and we have got a really strong line up for the rest of the year across both OnDemand and the channels … we’ve got a lot of great new content coming through, more shows we’ve commissioned for OnDemand and exclusive international shows. It’s all really exciting.”
Book: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
TV Show: Killing Eve
Film: Die Hard
Meal: Homemade fish and chips with aioli and salad
Way you get inspired: Sewing