here.)NZ On Air’s Where Are the Audiences Survey 2023 confirmed what previous reports have been warning of—the death of linear television in New Zealand. (WATA research
Three telling points were highlighted in the document that attest to this:
• All traditional media continue to show consistently declining audiences, with TV no longer attracting the biggest audiences during its traditional peak time of 6-10.30pm.
• For the first time the study is showing significant declines in traditional media use among 60+ year olds, and 40-59 year olds are now at the cross-over point where digital media audiences overtake traditional media.
• 2023 also represents the cross-over point when New Zealanders overall start to spend more time using digital media than traditional media.
I’m in one of those older demographics, and I can tell you that I spend more time watching YouTube than I do watching broadcast TV.
If you look at the most popular channels, sites and stations graph, you can see that I’m one of the people who has in 2023 made YouTube the biggest attractor of New Zealand audiences each day at 44%, with Netflix sitting just behind at 42%. TVNZ 1 has gone from 48% in 2014 to 34%, while TVNZ 2 doesn’t even do well enough to get on the graph, at 11%–a death rattle if ever I’ve heard one. TV3 is the bottom player on the graph, going from 34% in 2014 to 17% this year. The rising TikTok sits two percentage points above at 19%. No wonder NZ On Air is throwing money at TikTok in pursuit of the elusive yoof audience.
New Zealand’s bastion of commercial TV media, our public broadcaster TVNZ, after a post -COVID advertising recovery under the canny watch of former CEO Kevin Kenrick, is in throes of its own. With a projected loss of $15.6 million in the 2023/2024 year due to slumping advertising revenue, the belts there are being severely tightened. Head of Drama and Scripted Comedy Steve Barr got the push under a restructure, and now Chief Transformation Officer Kate Calver (Slater) has left to take up the CEO role at Great Southern TV. A positive for TVNZ is that TVNZ+ on the NZ on Air graph has seen its audience reach grow from 14% in 2016 to 32% in 2023, sitting just under TVNZ 1. I think some acknowledgement for this needs to go to former TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis and his digital strategist Simon Aimer, who drove TVNZ into the digital era with their “Inspiring on Every Screen” strategy. With an interim CEO still in place after the departure of Simon Powell following the collapse of the RNZ – TVNZ merger, and a new chair in current NZFC Chair Alastair Carruthers, there’s undoubtedly more transformation to come in that balliwick.
Back at the NZFC ranch, Dana Youngman has been appointed Change Manager by new NZFC CEO Annie Murray, to bring about transformation that the filmish screen industry has been baying for, for years. Change there is also driven by the recent budget cuts NZFC has suffered or will face in the near future. We shall find out what comes in this space in the not-to-distant future, but for the time being we’ll just have to wait… like we’ve been doing since Annabelle Sheehan departed in 2021.
Competition has seen Netflix and some other streamers on the advertising-driven bandwagon for some time now. Netflix has just introduced title sponsorships and binge ads to its advertising offerings. At the same time, its subscription prices for their ad-carrying service and their ad-free service have gone up in the US and will soon in the UK, France, and undoubtedly elsewhere. It’s ironic when you think about it: you used to get advertising for nothing on Free to Air TV. Now you have to pay for it on advertising-carrying subscriber services.
Consolidation is coming in the streamer world is the catch cry we hear more and more these days. We are also being told that peak TV is over, with streamer budgets and commissioning shrinking. Not only has NZ completely missed the Golden Age of Television Drama globally, but it’s become increasingly harder for us to play catch up with the same old or decreasing domestic budgets–we shall see if the New Zealand Screen Production Rebate changes this.
Exacerbating the uncertainty for the NZ screen industry is the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. I’ve heard international productions are backed up, wanting to get into NZ to shoot. Yes, the writers are writing but nothing can be done without actors. The actors’ down-tools has gone past the 100-day mark with no real end in sight. Both the guilds and the studios while still talking do seem to be at considerable loggerheads.
I guess the only thing to do at this point is to smile and sing a little tune:
Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine…