Last night, TVNZ and its agency and production partners gathered at Auckland’s ASB Waterfront Theatre to cut the ribbon on a new season lineup. But as much as it was a celebration of what’s to come, it was a chance for the broadcaster to look back on its pledge from a year ago to invest in both OnDemand and local content.
After a ten minute countdown to fill the crowd with anticipation, the TVNZ Showcase for 2018 started with a carpool karaoke-esk video featuring the Breakfast team, Shortland Street stars and The Great Kiwi Bake Off hosts Madeline Sami and Hayley Sproull singing a special Showcase version of Thriller, with the recently TVNZ initiated John Campbell tackling the rap section and final evil cackle with great gusto. The TVNZ stalwarts opened the show with many laughs – particularly with their tongue-in-cheek pleads to the crowd to buy ads.
TVNZ’s commercial directorPaul Maher spoke about the how trusted the TVNZ brand remains. He talked about TVNZ’s unrivalled reach, with 1 News at Six bringing in nearly one million viewers each night, Shortland Street reaching 500,000 viewers each night, and TVNZ’s 52-year founding show Hyundai Country Calendar having 800,000 viewers tuning in each week.
Te Karere anchor Scotty Morrison spoke to the station’s commitment to te reo programming, saying the show is New Zealand’s longest running Māori news service, broadcasting on screens for 35 years. He also said TVNZ has the largest reach of any te reo broadcasting in the country, implying Mediaworks’ Māori Television falls behind TVNZ in terms of viewer numbers.
TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick also spoke to the numbers, reiterating 1 News at Six and Shortland Street as the jewels in TVNZ’s crown. He also spoke about the payoff of TVNZ’s investment in both local content and OnDemand.
Since the beginning of 2018, OnDemand has had 102 million streams in the last year, Kenrick citing the success of fast-tracked shows such as Killing Eve for the success of the platform. He also spoke about TVNZ's youth-oriented news brand, Re:, and its children's platform with NZ on Air, Heihei as two successful ventures that had diversified the station's offering.
Director of content Cate Slater had the fun job of introducing new local content shows, The Bad Seed, Straight Forward and Fresh Eggs, which will be premiering on TVNZ 1 and TVNZ 2 next year. There will also be a nostalgia line-up with ER, Dawson's Creek and McLeod's Daughters, with Slater admitting her favourite addition, The OC.
By far the biggest cheer of the night came when it was announced that Celebrity Treasure Island will be returning to New Zealand screens in 2019 after a ten-year hiatus. With a showreel including familiar Treasure Island faces such as John 'Cocksy' Cochs, Marc Ellis, Nicky Watson and Sally Ridge, anticipation is already building for which celebrities will be jetting off to a remote island to secure money for their chosen charity next year.
Breakfast's Jack Tame, Hayley Holt, Daniel Faitaua and Matt McLean got the chance to talk about their love for the show, as well as the 1 New at Six team led by Simon Dallow. The Great Kiwi Bake Off hosts Madeline Sami and Hayley Sproull joked about their "8 million weekly views" (unverified, of course), and Wellington Paranormal's Officers Minogue and O'Leary appeared on stage complete with dry ice and torches following up on a tip-off to audience members acting 'strange'. But the most laughs came when Seven Sharp's Hilary Barry and fill-in presenter Anika Moa took to the stage, and appeared to ad-lib for five minutes before a prompter gaff was corrected.
The TVNZ Showcase ended on a high with large confetti canons encapsulating the celebratory nature of the evening, with TVNZ stating it was doing better than ever.
StopPress sat down with TVNZ's commercial director Paul Maher before the event, to pick his brain about the value of the Showcase and how TVNZ is placed.
To remain competitive in the market, Maher says TVNZ is protecting its brand by “allowing content and creating content now to make it more accessible and more relevant to New Zealanders.”
“I’ve worked overseas for 10 to 15 years and yet no one I don’t think is doing the same kind of work as we’re doing in terms of growing platforms such as our investment in OnDemand. We’ve grown to a weekly reach of 300,000 quite quickly and our goal is to double that in the next couple of years.”
Speaking of investment, Maher brings up Re:, TVNZ’s alternate news brand that creates video content covering issues impacting young Kiwis.
“Re: has had just over 38 million views. It’s a powerful way of storytelling for younger audiences, but not just younger audiences but skewed to younger audiences.”
Maher also speaks proudly of Heihei, the platform with local content for young children, created with NZ on Air.
“It’s a non-commercial part of the business and rightly so. But again, it goes to the business’s strategy which is we’ve got mass audiences, we’ve got scale in our core platforms, we’re building scale in our digital platforms and at the same time we’re creating content for other audiences whether they’re immediately commercial or in the case of Heihei, actually serving a different kind of need.”
When asked about the commercial side of the decision to produce local content versus bringing in international programmes, Maher says local content is the backbone of TVNZ’s business and schedule.
“Commercially some forms of local content create a whole bunch of new opportunities. These tend to be more in the multi-night reality formats where there are some significant integration opportunities.”
He uses Kiwibank and TVNZ’s Mind Over Money with Nigel Latta as an example of an interesting way to commercialise and to bring content from commercial sources.
“You’ve got to think about content from the viewers perspective and the truth is that viewers also want the best international content, so we’ve got a nice blend of the two, which is important to us in terms of delivering reach in the business.”
Maher says TVNZ is working hard to find ways to unify the measurement of its television and digital businesses.
“I think that’s the biggest piece of innovation we’re working through both internally and as an industry. The big play is our investment in digital content ratings and so what that enables us to do is create a currency that’s common across the two scaled platforms.”