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SPP grows profit off tricky year onscreen

South Pacific Pictures’ cornerstone property Shortland Street steadied the ship in a year when three multi-series shows and one new arrival bowed out.

The headline news was that, despite farewelling The Almighty Johnsons, Go Girls and Nothing Trivial while seeing The Blue Rose come and go, SPP lifted its profit 5.6% to $3 million and change.

The drop in viewership, which played a part in decisions to end the shows, was not a problem only for SPP shows, with viewer numbers for dramas both local and international down across the board in NZ and elsewhere last year.

Digging a little deeper into SPP’s accounts, the numbers seem to show a company in good shape despite the pressures on the business.

SPP earnings for the year (to end August, 2013) fell 3.6% to $49 million. Achieving higher profit off lower income is generally a good thing, although there is a point beyond which the approach is unsustainable. The income and profit were built in part off four shows which are no longer in production, and have been replaced by two: Riverstone Mysteries for Prime and the currently-screening Step Dave on TV2.

On screen Step Dave is holding up well, which is good news not only for SPP. This week’s episode drew 237,730 5+ viewers, beating TV One’s debut of 24 Hours In A&E (216,960). After winning the slot in the first two weeks of its season, Step Dave seems likely to trail TV3’s NCIS (331,150) for the remainder of the run.

However, those 237,730 viewers stack up well against what local dramas did last year, and make the chances of a second season more likely. A longer-running show is more profitable, as Shortland Street – the only local drama made without NZ On Air funding – makes clear.

UK-based All3Media took full ownership of SPP in almost a year ago, when it bought departing CEO John Barnett’s shares. On selling his stake, Barnett became chair of the company as Kelly Martin transitioned into the CEO position.

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