TVNZ’s Jodi O’Donnell talks record audience numbers and viewership trends

Following the release of TVNZ’s Interim Result FY2021, StopPress chatted to TVNZ’s Commercial Director Jodi O’Donnell about record audience numbers, a trend towards more simulcast viewing, and embracing creative opportunities with advertisers.

TVNZ’s primetime daily news programmes are attracting record audiences. Why are they such a trusted Covid-19 source for New Zealanders?

News audiences, from a trust perspective, is something that we have built up over a long period of time. So whilst we do see news audiences spike with things like the Christchurch earthquake or the horrific Christchurch attacks, we have built that trust factor up over numerous years. It’s something that we take really seriously. With Covid, it’s certainly something that we’ve seen has really been amplified within news and current affairs content. 

TVNZ OnDemand is also attracting a record weekly audience. Is this down to local content driving demand? 

TVNZ OnDemand has significant reach and also a respectable income stream to match with 27 percent growth YOY in the first six months of FY21. Content has a lot to do with it, but there are three things that are really driving OnDemand; content, user experience, and ad load. Traditionally when OnDemand launched, there was more international than local on air content. We’ve certainly seen a tilt towards more local content and if you look at the top 10 shows on OnDemand you’ll see news in there, Shortland Street all the time, The Bachelorette when our local reality shows are on – they always feature really highly. So we do know that it does drive audiences to OnDemand, but it’s also the user experience and ad load. We’ve chosen to have a lower ad load on OnDemand, so that also drives that real binge watching opportunity that OnDemand brings. 

Many Kiwis took the opportunity to trial TVNZ content while locked down at home. How many of them have become regular viewers of TVNZ’s news and entertainment shows during this time? 

We’ve seen a really big lift in viewers during Covid lockdowns. It certainly helps the higher the alert levels, and we’ve seen the most sustained viewers within news and current affairs and also within OnDemand. But the other one is actually simulcast. We’re seeing a trend towards more simulcast viewing, with 10 percent of all OnDemand viewing now livestreamed. So that’s when we’re livestreaming our content, and events like the America’s Cup drive simulcast viewing. And that’s actually one of the trends we have really seen has accelerated with Covid and with the lockdown levels as well, because people are watching on their laptops or are streaming during the day. It’s that growth from streaming that’s really helping us.

Looking ahead, how is TVNZ tracking when it comes to audience numbers and reach?

The most important thing we always talk to the market about is that we are the biggest network in terms of reach in this market. We have really strong content aspirations in terms of developing the biggest shows that we can continually bring and refresh to all of our channels, so from that aspect we have a really good pipeline of content, particularly local content because of a limited supply of international but particularly in that local space, that is what will ensure we have really strong audiences across all of our platforms, so liner and BVOD as well. And audiences have obviously got all of the sport opportunities with us; cricket at the moment in partnership with Spark Sport, and fingers crossed the Olympics. Sport also really helps hold up those strong audience numbers from a mass reach perspective. Our live sports events are drawing huge audiences: 1.057 million TV and 82,000 OnDemand Live Stream viewers watched the Black Clash in January, and over 1.2m watched the PRADA America’s Cup World Series. Election night was another big live event last year, reaching an audience of 1.4 million.

Can you tell us about the growth in TVNZ’s creative integration?

We’re a creative industry, but we’ve actually taken a real step up in the last 12-18 months in terms of delivering creative solutions for clients. So it might be something traditional like a sponsorship such as Hyundai Country Calendar, but actually there’s quite a lot of innovation and new work that goes into that. Or it could be a short form content piece like the three minutes of ASB Backing Business. So as an industry and certainly from TVNZ’s perspective it’s about really embracing those creative opportunities with advertisers and finding new ways that we can do different things in video. We offer DAI (Dynamic Ad Insertion) within live streams, and addressable TV is an option for advertisers.

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