TVNZ launches New Blood, gets experimental with short-form content

This week, TVNZ’s New Blood initiative went live, as more than 20 pieces of short-form content found a home on TVNZ.co.nz, YouTube and Facebook.

The pieces are a result of a colaboration of local talent—including producers, directors, writers, filmmakers, comedians, and actor—some of whom are new and emerging, and to celebrate they gathered over a few beers and pizza at Brother’s Brewery on Monday to watch previews of the content. There were laughs, near tears and realisations happening around the room—and that’s exactly what TVNZ was hoping for.

TVNZ’s digital commissioner, Amie Mills, says it wanted to create content that is different, provocative and champions diversity—through a range of voices, ethnicities, genders, sexuality, beliefs—as well as authenticity.

“New Blood is TVNZ’s way of reaching viewers who might not be engaging with our content like they used to,” she says.

The newly launched titles include 30 days (a one-off sketch where an office worker has an existential crisis trying to remember the date by Simon Ward), The Han Chronicles (a two-part true story of an Asian man assimilating into life in New Zealand in the 1970s by Chye-Ling Huang ) and Girl Interrupted – The Masty  (a sketch series about women dealing with first-world problems by Jessica Joy Wood and Kura Forrester).

Covering so many topics, New Blood is also about experimenting with distribution methods and being specific and considerate about where content lives. While web series have been a popular result of the internet’s many distribution platforms, that format can be constraining so the decision was made to widen the scope around how stories can be made. There’s one-off comedy sketches, documentaries, two-part stories, stand-up specials and comedy web series.

“What makes this work exciting is that content formats are defined by the story being told, rather than having to stick to a particular format. We’re looking forward to seeing how our viewers react and engage with the work as it will inform what we create in the next phase of production,” says Mills.

An example of its willingness to enter new territory is, Re:, an alternative socially-driven news brand launched under the New Blood initiative. It’s been making a home for itself on social news feeds for nine weeks now, but at the launch event on Monday, Tasha Impey, who’s at the helm of Re:, introduced it and explained that its name, in a longer sense, means “relate, represent, responsibility, react, reach and respond to issues that affect young New Zealanders”.

Each week sees a new issue tackled and so far it’s covered sexual health, drugs, suicide, immigration and education.

So far, those choices have proven popular, as Re:’s content has reached 8.6 million news feeds in its first eight weeks, as well as achieving 3.2 million social video views. Impey was also proud of the 1.8 million minutes that have been viewed, showing that people are watching the videos in their entirety, not just continuing to scroll after a few seconds.

The content is also averaging 120,000 engagements per week including likes, shares and comments.

While the Re: team is currently made up of TVNZ staff, it’s building a contributor model that will open it up for emerging talent who have unique stories to tell.  

And there’s plenty out there if the New Blood web series competition is anything to go by. It saw 150 submissions of pilot episodes for potential web series. Funded by NZ On Air, it asked for Kiwis to vote for their favourite pilot to be made into a full web-series.

It was Ashleigh Reid and Isla Macleod who won, with their Oddly Even series receiving 24 percent of the final vote. It will be available on tvnz.co.nz later this year.

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