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12,836 hours of local

NZ on Air’s report on local content has a bunch of headline numbers, slicing and dicing those by channel, genre, time of day, and offering a fair bit of comparison with numbers from previous years. 12,836 hours of local content is a number that’s up, but broken down it’s up and down in different ways. None of the numbers move significantly against last year’s when taken in context, although there are a few opportunities to create catchy if slightly misleading headlines.

‘TV One slashes drama’ would be kinda accurate, as the number of first-run hours dropped from 70 the previous year to 46 – a 35% drop. Across the channels, however, there was an increase in drama and comedy programming. So it was TVNZ’s loss, not the production community’s nor viewers’.

Overall, TV One’s commitment to local content remained pretty much what it had been the year before, and the year before that.

The numbers for first-run content are the ones in the NZ On Air report that matter for the production community, so it’s disappointing to see a drop in those, although not such a significant one as the first glance suggests. The headline number – a fall of 278 hours of first-run content – includes the loss of Smash! from the report if not from screens. The programme moved from FOUR to The Edge TV, whose programming isn’t counted in the report.

The amount of repeats climbed to 49% of the total hours for local content but, again, mitigating factors were in play. Maori Television increased its broadcasting hours during the period of the report, so there’s an overall increase in the number of hours of local content on offer.

The factors that have driven programming decisions for the last few years continued to do so which, while predictable, wasn’t good news. Several years of standstill funding for NZ On Air means less hours or less spend/hour or cheaper-to-produce genres. As NZ On Air reported separately today, the final television funding round for this year will consider 21 applications seeking $12.6 million – almost $8 million more than what’s left in the pot.

The drop in viewer numbers and consequent pressure on advertising income impact broadcasters’ willingness to take risks with local fare. It will always be cheaper to acquire than commission. If an overseas show fails to find its feet here, there’s a lot less fallout both critically and financially. Not that it falls within the period of the report, but behaviour such as the almost gleeful bashing of Filthy Rich does nothing to encourage network commissioners or funders to take further risks with local fare.

All up the numbers were indicative of not much changing. The overall amount of local content (33% 6am-midnight, 36% of prime time) is as it has been for a a while. The drift towards more repeats and fewer hours of first-run making up those percentages continues. Demand for NZ On Air funding continues to increase, while the amount of funding available has diminished (in real terms) every year since 2009.

Depending on one’s POV, it’s steady as she goes or death by a thousand cuts. Despite regularly trumpeting rapidly-increasing viewer numbers online, FTA broadcasters haven’t yet found a way to monetise their VOD offers. At the same time they’re losing broadcast viewers to SVOD services.

Click the cover image to read or download the full report.


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