Currently enjoying some respite from the regular criticism it’s endured in recent years, TVNZ has settled back into its refurbished home, and yesterday unveiled its almost new branding – after a leak of the images last week – and presented its new 2017 season offer.
The concept of a new season seems odd these days, when most of TVNZ’s competitors are online and dropping entire TV series in one go. But TVNZ is responding, noting as part of its announcement that it will also satisfy the binge viewers by making some shows available as an entire series online.
Despite some grouching over the new names for its channels (all of which now start with ‘TVNZ’) the broadcaster is in the critics’ good books in part because MediaWorks has spent so much of the last 18 months or so unable to remove its foot from its mouth, scoring own goals with alarming regularity and its owners seemingly uninterested in anything other than trimming it to the bone in order to sell it as soon as possible. TVNZ isn’t complaining.
TVNZ has itself been the subject of sale rumours in recent years, although it’s unlikely government really has the stomach to relinquish control of the broadcaster the country loves to hate – just not quite as much as TV3.
The announcements TVNZ made yesterday about its plans for 2017 were a mix of the expected and, occasionally, new.
TVNZ claimed it is “embracing changing TV viewing habits”, which is a bit of a stretch to believe given that, at its heart, the new viewing habit is not viewing linear TV. The broadcaster will livestream all TVNZ channels, which it hopes will encourage some of those viewers who currently use the ad-lite TVNZOD service, or simply don’t watch linear programming, to return to the fold of live viewing.
“Our focus at TVNZ is all about sharing the moments that matter to New Zealanders, and we know that different moments matter to different New Zealanders. We need to give more people more reasons to watch with TVNZ,” CEO Kevin Kenrick said.
The perception that TVNZ has considered NZ to be middle-aged or older and white has long been a problem. Acknowledging that that isn’t the case, and trying to do something about it is a step in the right direction. Online the broadcaster is already open to more diverse material, hosting NZ’s first lesbian webseries, Pot Luck, and the ongoing Friday Night Bites, to name but two.
Whether the greater emphasis on the online offer comes too late to have any long-term impact is hard to pick, as data recently presented in NZ On Air’s Audience survey showed very clearly that younger viewers have already pretty much abandoned terrestrial networks.
As far as the production community is concerned, TVNZ promised “a stepped-up commitment to supporting and screening the work of new local talent in the year ahead”. There’s a $100,000 joint fund with NZ On Air to fund a new webseries that will be voted on by the public.
It’s a smart move to try to drive some engagement with the (predominantly) younger audience for webseries, although it’s almost guaranteed to deliver a comedy – hardly a threatened genre of webseries.
Also as part of the New Blood initiative, TVNZ will use an in-house content lab to create more short-form content.
As far as actual programming goes, much of it is already known from NZ On Air’s funding announcements. NZ On Air is also looking at a revamp for next year, so how much of TVNZ’s state-supported programming will survive that is unclear.