A TV3 boss admitted the channel was "pretty light on content" during a row over an $11 million scheduling clash with New Zealand On Air.
In emails released under the Official Information Act, MediaWorks TV programming boss Kelly Martin said its new drama, Underbelly New Zealand, would be "very, very exposed" if it had to be rescheduled to later in the year.
The network was pressured into rescheduling Underbelly after it was initially due to screen at the same time as TVNZ's comedy-drama Nothing Trivial, which was granted $6.9 million in taxpayer funds.
TV3 eventually moved Underbelly, which received $3.9m funding for its six episodes, back to a 9.30pm slot on Wednesday and delayed its debut by a week.
In an email exchange, NZ On Air boss Jane Wrightson asked Martin whether they could avoid a clash of two heavyweight New Zealand dramas. Martin replied that making that change "would leave UBNZ [Underbelly NZ] very, very exposed later in the year.
The lead-in is a major part of the whole picture - once Rocked the Nation finishes, between you and I, we are pretty light on content for 7.30pm and 8pm Wednesday nights, so we will be airing re-run material. I can't risk having no audience lead-in to UBNZ."
In a separate email exchange, NZ On Air's television manager Glenn Usmar feared they would be seen as "ineffectual and weak" over the clash.
A total of 308,220 people aged five and over tuned in to Underbelly this week.
Nothing Trivial, showing at 8.30pm, attracted 391,760 viewers.