John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Soap brightens TV2 ratings

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TV3 counting the cost of losing popular Australian show Home and Away from lead-in to 6pm news slot

 Home and Away 's departure resulted in an initial 10 per cent drop in the 3News audience.
Home and Away 's departure resulted in an initial 10 per cent drop in the 3News audience.

Television New Zealand is basking in the Summer Bay sunshine, with the Aussie soap Home and Away putting a glow on its early prime-time ratings.

It's been a winner for TV2 advertising revenue and the only major damage for TV3 since its parent company went into receivership on June 16. Receivership put rights deals in limbo and TVNZ picked up the 5.30pm soap, removing a show that had delivered a young audience to 3News. Early TVmap Nielsen AGB research ratings show Home and Away has boosted audiences in the 5:30pm slot at its new home.

TV3's 5.30pm replacement, Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, has lost 80 per cent of the soap's audience, says TV3 head of news and current affairs Mark Jennings.

TV3 estimates 3News at 6pm initially lost about 10 per cent of its audience. Jennings insists he expected worse and ratings were now down only 2 per cent. But without a strong lead-in, 3News remains vulnerable.

TVNZ head of television Jeff Latch said Home and Away had boosted TVNZ revenue by "multiple millions" of dollars, far exceeding the cost of the rights.

Latch insists One News has been an indirect beneficiary of Home and Away moving from TV3, but Jennings said fewer people were watching news.

TV3, meanwhile, has started a promotion for 3News to draw back audiences. Jamie's 15 Minute Meals ends its run "very soon" and Jennings said he was optimistic that a replacement - possibly locally sourced - would provide a better lead-in.

MediaWorks' TV3 lost the show because receivers at KordaMentha - and the company's new banker owners - baulked at signing a deal for the life of the series. It's a relatively rare requirement, but some in TV land believe the banks should have taken the risk.

ONLINE FIRST

TVNZ is introducing a new plan to promote programmes for first showing online - part of a wider shift for TV online.

Next month it will fast-track some new TV2 shows, adding them to TVNZ Ondemand straight after they air in the United States. They include The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and The Carrie Diaries. All are earmarked for broadcast on TV2 later in the year.

TV2 is also fast-tracking the latest series of The Walking Dead from October 15, just 32 hours after the shows air in the United States.

Latch said the early online screening was because cult audiences wanted to take part in social media conversations aligning with American release, with the expectation that the audience would watch again on TV2.

ON STEROIDS

Marketers are increasingly obsessed with "word of mouth" advertising, and user reviews are the foundation for social media promotion. But what happens when the words in online reviews come straight from the mouth of the promoter?

In the US it has been estimated that up to 20 per cent of "consumer" reviews are phony, with businesses promoting themselves or posting bad reviews to settle gripes.

The issue of conflicts of interest came to a head in Australia in May, when a hotel communications executive, Peter Hook, was revealed by online reputation consultants KwikChex to be promoting hotels owned by his firm, Accor, though Hook said the hotel company itself was not involved. Under the pseudonym Tavare, Hook anonymously contributed 106 reviews in 43 cities over several years.

One New Zealand hotelier described false reviews as "annoyance on steroids" .

Moves are afoot to beef up detection of false reviews, and in the US this is part of a wider crackdown on conflicts of interest in consumer reviews. But as online reviews become more common, consumers will have to become used to the fact that some of the reviews on which they base their decisions will be phony.

Chris Emmins, founder of London-based KwikChex, said fake bad reviews tended to be placed by people with specific, malicious intent: competitors, disgruntled ex-employees and people with commercial disputes. In the hospitality industry, they often came from customers who had caused problems.

VEILED THREATS

The Tourism Industry Association hotels sector manager Rachel Shadbolt said such reviews were an issue that did not exist a few years ago. Yet at least some New Zealand hoteliers are spruiking their own places and possibly posting bad reviews of competitors.

"I could not say it has never happened because it has - people have used TripAdvisor in that way," she said. "But from a professional integrity point of view it is not recommended. Our recommendation is always that if someone has a problem the hotel should deal with it before the guest leaves."

And she warned that hotels should not get involved with online debates.

She said that inevitably some guests with complaints would demand a free night's accommodation or a free meal or else they would write a bad TripAdvisor review.

"As a hotel in that situation you have to hold your ground that your service is up to it - often it is a veiled threat and you don't know whether they will follow through."

SPIN CYCLE

Public relations people have to promote clients, but when they are writing press releases about themselves they can take it a few spins too many.

Antonios Papaspiropoulos has returned to be general manager of Network Communication Group. Papaspiropoulos - a former member of the parliamentary press gallery and BP representative - has become "an international PR explorer" according to the Network PR press release, which notes a global career including 15 years "as the PR head of some of the world's largest multinationals, working with Presidents, Prime Ministers, celebrities and superstars".

A former journalist, "political adviser, consultant and advocate, his former bosses have included Sir Richard Branson, and at least one Beatle", according to Network. "Among his career highlights, he overcame hostile opposition to secure environmental and regulatory approvals for Chevron to build a $55 billion gas plant on a World Heritage-listed, class A nature reserve in Western Australia."

That seems a strange claim to fame to trumpet to a mainstream audience in a small market - and one where "greenness" is part of many firms' image. Then again, any publicity is meant to be good publicity, and based on 200 words in this - New Zealand's premier media column - the press release may have been a resounding success.

NEW EDITOR

Former Sunday Star-Times head of news Miriyana Alexander has been appointed editor of the Herald on Sunday. She replaces Bryce Johns, who moved to a new role developing a closer relationship between advertisers and editorial.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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