The Diary: Give it time, says TVNZ

Seven Sharp so far only making headlines for not having any.

Jesse Mulligan, Alison Mau and Greg Boyed's  Seven Sharp  bosses insist the show just needs time to prove itself. Photo / Supplied
Jesse Mulligan, Alison Mau and Greg Boyed's Seven Sharp bosses insist the show just needs time to prove itself. Photo / Supplied

Seven Sharp launched on Monday to some scathing reviews for adopting a trivial approach to current affairs, but TVNZ's (departing) news boss Ross Dagan cautioned: "It's a marathon, not a sprint."

But is Seven Sharp even in the current affairs race? "Absolutely it is," Dagan told The Diary, "but critics need to give us a chance to show it before they dismiss it. I'm sure the Holmes show didn't get glowing reviews on opening night".

Holmes - the instigator of the primetime daily current affairs TV model in this country - provocatively premiered with a huffy walkout by Dennis Conner, ruddy cheeks fuming. It made headlines.

However, headline-making stories on Seven Sharp's opening night were sorely lacking. TVNZ management has been so tight-lipped about the show, up to now, it was fair to assume they'd launch with something big or hard-hitting.

"They weren't guilty of over-estimating the viewers' intelligence," laughed Mark Jennings from TV3. "I thought their show would be more sophisticated with at least one really good story, but it was lame."

Frippery and frivolity was on the menu. As if, in a TVNZ home economics class, management in their starched pinnies and hair nets, were eager to whip up some frosting but had forgotten to actually bake the cake. Where was the substance? The content?

The evident attempt to woo a young social networking audience with a fast-paced babble of quips, simplified stories and constant cries to text, tweet and Facebook may seriously risk alienating the existing core audience, while cannibalising TV One's next-door neighbour, Shorty St.

Ironically, the use of social media backfired on Monday with viewers complaining in droves on Twitter. Worse, production problems meant Seven Sharp couldn't even get Twitter up on the screen.

If TVNZ is attempting to appeal to an urban youth demographic, why bring a bank on board as sponsor? One wonders what the show's trying to achieve and who's meant to be watching it.

But Dagan says the proposition is simple. "The show is absolutely current affairs at its heart, and it aims to appeal to a broad audience," he told The Diary.

"Traditionally that timeslot has been for an older demographic. We certainly don't want to disenfranchise current nightly viewers, but we want to balance that with more young viewers and appeal to middle New Zealand. We think there are other ways of delivering current affairs and we are providing a mix of everything to engage with the viewer."

But Jennings said there wasn't anything current in it. News-wise, the show hardly rocked the boat.

Dagan says Seven Sharp "will evolve and change night after night" in format, but he insists it's the stories that will engage people. Better find some quick, then.

Radio ads take the biscuit
Michael Laws and his guyliner make an appearance on RadioLive's new television commercial, currently airing, but his morning slot will be filled by Sean Plunket, starting the Tuesday after Easter. "Sean's has to be the longest notice period ever," said a MediaWorks rep.

Plunket's face won't be seamlessly dropped into the telly commercial, which is screening in time for the all-important six-week radio survey period (February 9-March 23) measuring audience share across the markets.

Television commercials have taken a clever but unashamedly integrated turn at More FM with breakfast hosts Marc Ellis, Hayley Holt and Stu Tolan blatantly endorsing an advertisement for Belvita breakfast biscuits, from consumer giant Kraft Foods.

Celebrity endorsement is nothing new for the bikkie. Sharon Osborne, Lisa Snowdon and DJ Johnny Vaughan are just some of the names who have fronted for it.

"Getting Marc to endorse stuff doesn't come easily," said his More FM boss Ande Macpherson. "But he sees it as us promoting the show, not him endorsing a product."

Holt was more self-effacing. "It's a tad emarr" [sic] she tweeted this week.

Not embarrassing for the commercial radio network, however, which is raking in the dollars as a result of the lucrative campaign. How much the trio and the station have been paid to be influencer marketers for Belvita remains confidential.

"It is a fully integrated campaign with the talent and station," Macpherson said. "The TV ads alone will play on all three major networks and just the ad spend is well into six figures. We don't have the budget to do anything like that, let alone a fully incorporated sponsorship campaign. It's a win-win - for them and us."

Current affairs on the move
TV3's long-form current affairs show will launch early next month but Sunday night viewing will be a thing of the past. 3rd Degree and The Vote (which will air at the end of each month) will screen instead on Wednesdays at 8:30pm.

"Sunday nights have changed," said TV3 news boss Mark Jennings. "The old tradition of sitting down and watching current affairs has eroded. It's family entertainment viewing now."

Terence Taylor will oversee both 3rd Degree and The Vote. He'll be joined by former Q+A producer Tim Watkin and Dana Youngman from Dancing with the Stars.

Meanwhile, TVNZ's Sunday will, as the name suggests, continue to screen on Sunday. It returns this week. Prime's 60 Minutes - now run by former TV3 reporter Belinda Henley - will debut the following night.

- NZ Herald

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