John Drinnan 's Opinion

John Drinnan is the Media writer for the New Zealand Herald.

John Drinnan: Mazda drives two TV lanes

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Campbell Live's ongoing link to car firm must be galling for TVNZ as company spreads its sponsorship to Sunday.

John Campbell still drives a Mazda for the opening credits of his TV3 show, despite the firm's spread to TVNZ's Sunday.
John Campbell still drives a Mazda for the opening credits of his TV3 show, despite the firm's spread to TVNZ's Sunday.

John Campbell is still the face of Mazda, driving the Japanese car for the opening credits of Campbell Live, which must be a little galling for TVNZ.

The car company has eased its long-running advertising focus on TV3 by throwing TVNZ into the mix by sponsoring Sunday.

TVNZ must be wary about its new Sunday sponsor being driven on to screens by TV3's Campbell each weeknight. Then again, money is money and nobody wants to look a gift horsepower in the mouth. Mazda now owns sponsorship rights to 7pm shows from Sunday through to Friday, for older-oriented channels that attract new car buyers.

But Saturday nights on TV One remain off limits because Korean carmaker Hyundai sponsors Country Calendar.

Sunday has been doing well in ratings. TVNZ says it is the country's most watched show of the year so far, with an average of 613,500 viewers each week, a 14.7 rating and 38 per cent audience share of people over 5.

In the channel's 25-to-54-year-old target demographic, it attracts an average 184,400 viewers, a 9.9 rating and a 27 per cent share.

Mazda managing director Andrew Clearwater says the company is still finalising its two-year deal with TVNZ. It is not yet clear whether the company's cars will appear in editorial content, as has occurred occasionally on Campbell Live.

NEW REALITY
Once upon a time, sponsorship was anathema to current affairs programmes because it implied a loss of integrity. But it has become accepted in the media market and TV networks say it does not affect their coverage.

Weather forecasts are sponsored - most infamously with former newsreader Richard Long touting Hanover's sponsorship of One News weather breaks. Now, even shows that are virtually news are sponsored.

TV3's late-night programme The Paul Henry Show features giveaways of cars from its sponsor, Korean company Kia.

GOING NATIVE
Advertisers still like linking with journalism, although sponsorship deals there are more limited than they are for other types of programme. Says advertising consultant Martin Gillman: "There are limited prospects for fully integrated programmes including product placement."

What used to be called advertorial is now called native advertising, says Gillman.

Pete and Andy Walker from the Block.
Pete and Andy Walker from the Block.

He says product placement has taken off on New Zealand television over the past decade and will grow even more quickly. He says TV sponsorship of all kinds is increasingly popular - from the low-key association with current affairs shows to highly commercialised formats such as The Block and MasterChef, where viewers have come to expect that they are being sold to as part of the funding for the show.

But free-to-air TV networks are aware of the danger that sponsorship and product placement can lead people to think they have been tricked, which risks alienating viewers.

RADIO REVAMP
Provincial broadcasters are bracing for a shake-up of the commercial radio market.

The Radio Network's stations look set to be the most affected, but it is not yet clear where the changes will fall.

On the ZM network, former The Edge weekday drive show hosts Carl Fletcher and Vaughan Smith are expected to replace Polly Gillespie. A music industry source says Gillespie agreed to go, but wants to move to a national role. She is expected to take over a breakfast show on Classic Hits, which operates in 25 regions, with varying degrees of networking.

 Polly Gillespie.
Polly Gillespie.

"Fletch & Vaughan" were poached from MediaWorks' The Edge last year and ran their last show on Christmas Eve. They have been serving out a restraint of trade period, but that is expected to end soon.

TRN chief content officer Dean Buchanan acknowledges speculation on significant change, but won't comment further.

For advertisers, the question will be whether TRN moves away from regional advertising, which the advertisers say has worked well for Classic Hits. Both ZM and Classic Hits are owned by TRN, which is one half of the duopoly controlling the commercial radio market. MediaWorks, the other half, owns More FM and The Breeze, among other stations.

OFF SITE
Senior programming executive Annie Murray has resigned from Maori Television for a new role at Sky Television. Maori TV sources say the departure of Murray - effectively its commissioning editor - was not directly tied to last week's contentious hiring of Paora Maxwell as chief executive.

Murray came to Maori TV from TVNZ three years ago, and will take up a new role at Sky as consultant on its entertainment content. Sources familiar with the ongoing tensions at Maori TV say the upheavals during the selection process and expectations of change ahead will inevitably lead to more resignations.

Maxwell is not expected to make any big changes at Maori TV until after the election.

Meanwhile, staff are said to be concerned about being identified among the 100 employees who signed a petition last August opposing the hiring of Maxwell. But it is understood the petition, signed by two-thirds of staff, was never kept on site at Maori TV.

SILENT TREATMENT
Maori TV has ignored several requests for information about the circumstances of Maxwell's appointment - a process it has publicly said was transparent and open, and which passed muster with government officials.

Former chief executive of Maori Television, Jim Mather.
Former chief executive of Maori Television, Jim Mather.

Based on comments from former chief executive Jim Mather, the board appears to have gone out its way to avoid advice from Maxwell's past boss, TVNZ chief Kevin Kenrick. The Herald has obtained a letter from Mather to the board last August, in which he spells out his understanding of the background, which he said was not taken into account by the board.

Mather, who clashed with board chairwoman Georgina te Heuheu over governance issues and opposed Maxwell's appointment, said Maxwell left TVNZ after a "negotiated resignation" process was completed in January 2013.

"The 'negotiated resignation' arose from ... significant relationship issues between Maxwell and Kevin Kenrick, as well as other TVNZ staff," Mather told the board. "Paora Maxwell was furnished with a mutually agreed positive reference by then head of news and current affairs, Ross Dagan". The mutually agreed positive reference did not align with the views of the TVNZ CEO, but it was a pragmatic measure that was part of the deal, Mather said in the letter to board deputy chairman Tahu Potiki.

Mather's letter said the TVNZ chief executive confirmed he was prepared to talk directly with the board or any other party within the legal bounds of the exit.

Maori TV declined to pass on queries to Maxwell, and said the appointment process had been done properly.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

John Drinnan is the 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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