The NZ On Air Local Content Report 2014 revealed an overall 3% increase in local programming hours last year across the six FTA channels. Almost 400 hours more of local content were broadcast in 2014 than 2013 for a total of 12,538 hours.
One significant contributor to the growth in local content was sport, specifically the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The bulk of the material broadcast from those events was supplied (rather than made here), and so represented a far more limited amount of work per broadcast hour for the local production industry than anything that’s not sports or NCA. Sports and NCA accounted for 45% of the total broadcast hours in 2014.
For the production industry, the important figures aren’t the headline numbers but those for first-run content, sliced and diced by broadcast channel and genre. That’s the space where new spending occurs (or not) and where most companies and contractors live or die.
The amount of first-run content has been largely static for a number of years, with some shifts between which genres attract a larger piece of the pie. For 2014, there were fewer hours of first-run drama/comedy and documentary.
While networks’ growing aversion to programming documentary has been ongoing for a number of years, two major factors contribute to the general flatness in hours of local content being commissioned.
One is the government’s sinking lid effect of standstill funding levels for various state agencies including NZ On Air. The other is the increasing fragmentation of audiences, which has been very noticeable in the diminishing viewing figures for drama series (local or otherwise) over the last year or two. With the arrival of new options such as Neon and Netflix, that fragmentation isn’t only going to continue.
NZ On Air supported 17% of first-run local content last year, which will be a surprisingly low number for some. Once the programming NZ On Air traditionally doesn’t support is taken out of the mix (NCA, sport and information) the agency’s support for first-run content covers 59% of hours.
“New Zealand audiences appreciate seeing their own stories on screen. Our funding for the past 25 years has provided a backbone of support for programmes that broadcasters and producers would not otherwise make due to cost or risk. Broadcasters are also clearly committed to making programmes on their own too, because they appreciate the strategic value of local content,” NZ On Air CEO Jane Wrightson said. “But we would all like to see more.”
The full report is available to read and download here.