TVNZ rings in its new year, talks up local/international combo and embraces multi-night screenings—UPDATED

MediaWorks was pretty cocky at its new season launch a few weeks ago. And, not surprisingly, so was Television New Zealand, which unveiled its primetime plans for the year ahead at the Viaduct Events Centre tonight, talked up its local content/international output combo, revealed its big programme partnership with Purina and, in recognition of the success of shows like My Kitchen Rules and The Block NZ, announced a new focus on multi-night screening. 

  • Check out our interview with TVNZ’s head of sales Jeremy O’Brien here. And see all the new and returning shows here

“Mark my words: 2014 is going to be a standout year for local content,” says TVNZ head of television, Jeff Latch. “TVNZ will put to air more than $100 million of local programming. We’re proud to continue to champion our nation’s stories with a strong focus on quality New Zealand drama, comedy, news and factual programming. Combined with our unparalleled access to hit international shows, our viewers will be spoilt for choice.”

With more than 4,000 hours of New Zealand content broadcast on TV One and TV2 each year, TVNZ says it will continue to offer the most first-run local programming in the country, with the support of NZ on Air.

MediaWorks was confident its move away from output deals and cherry pick specific shows was the best approach (failing to renew its Fox deal has certainly led to a few ‘this programme differs from the one advertised’), but TVNZ disagrees and Latch, who made specific mention in his speech of the Fox representatives who were in attendance, says it’s no accident that the top performing channels here and across the Tasman have output deals with studios. And while TVNZ was happy to talk about the amount of investment into local content, TVNZ’s comms manager Georgie Hills wouldn’t confirm how much it spent on its international deals with Disney, Warner, ITV, Sony Pictures and Roadshow.

UPDATE: “Fox is one the biggest producers of TV and film content in the US, so yes, we are looking at what might be available .” At present there’s nothing to announce, she says, but if it does sign any deals, “we won’t be keeping that a secret”. 

Latch says news and current affairs will continue to be the lynchpin of the TV One schedule.

“TVNZ has the country’s number one rating news, One News at Six; the number one current affairs programme, Sunday; the number one morning news show, Breakfast; and this year it broke new ground with the launch of Seven Sharp, which redefined the weeknight 7pm timeslot, where it is second only in ratings to the juggernaut that is Shortland Street. TVNZ plans to build on its on-air news leadership and up its game online, delivering more video news stories, faster, on onenews.co.nz.”

New on One

On TV One, David Tennant will lead the cast of Broadchurch, the highly-acclaimed British whodunit, which explores the ripple effects of the murder of a local schoolboy on a small, seaside town in Dorset; the new drama Breathless, which has been hailed as a cross between Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, follows the lives of the doctors and nurses of a London gynaecological hospital in the 1960s and The Times called it “the best looking British drama since The Hour”; six-part thriller, Secrets and Lies, starring Martin Henderson, goes behind the curtains of Brisbane suburbia; Australian drama series, Rake, follows a lawyer defending cannibals, bigamists and racist shock jocks; and Robyn Malcolm joins an all-star cast in Aussie comedy, Upper Middle Bogan, where Sydney’s upper middleclass suburbanites clash with drag racing Westies.

In 2014, Sunday Theatres will be telling some of New Zealand’s most dramatic stories with the very best of local writers, actors and directors at the helm. Field Punishment No.1 introduces the heroes many of us have never heard of, the Kiwi conscientious objectors who were shipped off to France during WWI; Pirates of the Airways looks back at the 1960s, when the good ship Tiri made radio history for Radio Hauraki; the story of the recovery operation following the tragic Erebus air disaster is told for the first time in Operation Overdue; secrets, betrayal, love and survival are examined in Project L, the story of Louise Nicholas’ quest for justice; and the extreme adventure and intrigue of one of the Gestapo’s most wanted, Kiwi WWII heroine Nancy Wake, is unravelled in The Nancy Wake Story.

The comedy Cover Band looks at life’s disappointments through the eyes of aspiring musicians, The Silhouettes, and In Short Poppies, which was actually announced last year, Rhys Darby will pay homage to one of his comedic heroes and the genre of the spoof-interview, Fred Dagg, when he teams up with David Farrier to present a day in the life of an ‘ordinary’ New Zealander.

TVNZ announced a $1 million branded content initiative at last year’s new season launch in an attempt to team up with commercial partners to support the making of local content. And that has manifested itself in Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars, which will screen next year in primetime. Mini, SPCA and DraftFCB did it very successfully with Driving Dogs and the reality series will follow a similar path, with rescue dogs given a new lease on life with the help of top animal trainer Mark Vette and his team. What star qualities the dogs will end up with is unclear, but StopPress predicts they will all be forced to guest host Seven Sharp.  

While TVNZ probably doesn’t want to admit it, The Block NZ was a major success for MediaWorks, both in terms of viewing numbers and ‘seamless’ integration. Multi-night formats are also big in Australia. So the fifth season of MasterChef New Zealand will go to a new multi-night format and feature double the number of contestants. 

Among the other returning shows, Agent Anna, Offspring, The Following, House Husbands, A Place to Call Home, Mr Selfridge, Person of Interest, Scandal, Dynamo: Magician Impossible, NZ’s got Talent and Call the Midwife are also back. 

New to TV2

As for TV2’s new toys, it will screen the new action drama, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which sees Clark Gregg reprise his role of agent Phil Coulson from the Marvel feature films; the fantasy series Resurrection, which sees the people of Arcadia, Missouri changed forever when their deceased loved ones suddenly start to return; Rebel Wilson’s new comedy series, Super Fun Night, which follows three quirky female friends in their 20s on their “fun-comfortable” quest to have fun every Friday night even if it kills them; Mom, which features Anna Faris and Allison Janney as mother and daughter recovering addicts; and Nabbed, which shows that the men and women of the Road Crime, Traffic Alcohol and Road Policing Teams need patience and a sense of humour to deal with drivers who drive everyone else to distraction.​

The biggest new story in local programming is comedy-drama Step Dave, which follows a twenty-something slacker whose life is turned upside down when he meets the woman of his dreams, 35-year-old Cara, who comes complete with three kids and mortgage. 

2014 sees the return of Wentworth, Arrow, Revenge, The Big Bang Theory and Once Upon A Time. And also returning are New Zealand’s favourite soaps, Home and Away, which it poached from MediaWorks, and Shortland Street (now in its 22nd year, it continues to dominate the 7pm weeknight timeslot). 

The Amazing Race Australia will include Kiwi teams for the first time and, like MasterChef, will be screened multi-night. And the high-rating My Kitchen Rules will also be back a few nights a week. Local drama Go Girls, which hasn’t fared too well in its sixth season, doesn’t look like it’s back.  

Almost all TV One and TV2 shows are streamed on TVNZ Ondemand, which is growing fast in terms of revenue and viewership, and in the new year TVNZ says it will continue to fast-track selected new programmes online first and “completely rebuild and rejuvenate TVNZ Ondemand so viewers can look forward to the launch of a host of innovative new features that will make it even easier to see their favourite shows on the widest choice of screens”. 

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