TVNZ'S WWII epic The Pacific suffered disappointing ratings after failing to live up to the mega-hype, say media analysts.
The series exploded on to screens after a publicity campaign that included a mock dogfight over Auckland and a fake letter from a prisoner of war sent to thousands of homes.
One well-placed source said the channel paid more than $1 million for the 10-episode series, making it one of the most expensive screened in New Zealand.
Last week's penultimate episode was only the 16th most watched of the week, but TVNZ said the show performed well in its target demographic.
The Pacific, a companion piece to Band of Brothers, was billed as the television event of the year when it premiered in April.
It was produced by Hollywood superstars Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks at a cost of $150m.
But fewer than 450,000 viewers tuned in to last Monday's episode, significantly lower than the final of MasterChef New Zealand.
Michael Carney, from Marketing Week, is believes the network misjudged public interest.
"With Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg behind it and the Band of Brothers heritage to go on, TVNZ might have expected a stronger product than what was actually delivered," he said.
Martin Gillman, who buys advertising slots, said TVNZ probably hadn't seen much of the show when they bought it.
He said the network had promoted New Zealand as being central to the show, when the country's part in the war was airbrushed out.
"The original position was that this was a really important series for New Zealand and I think that was oversold," he said.
Nigel Keats, managing director at advertising agency OMD, estimated the network would recoup about $1m in advertising during the series.
He said the ratings were probably 20-25 per cent below where TVNZ would have liked them to be.
A senior industry source estimated TVNZ paid $110,000 per episode, despite there being no bidding war for the show.
"It is bizarre that they forked out so much. I can't imagine TV3 or Sky ever being interested in it.
"It would be up there with the most expensive shows ever. It's very ponderous and slow and it didn't grab viewers' imagination."
TVNZ general manager of programming Jane Wilson said The Pacific was an "event series" for TV One but refused to confirm the cost.
"The marketing campaign was targeted at a broad audience - specifically the TV One target 25-54 demographic."
"We felt that the marketing and publicity was a great success given both the awareness of the programme, the ratings result and the quality of the execution.
"It was also in a very difficult timeslot against TV2's popular Desperate Housewives, so we are pleased that we were able to increase TVNZ's complete audience on Monday nights."