John Drinnan 's Opinion

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

John Drinnan: Titanium at cutting edge

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Boy band promotion on radio emerges as a good commercial product as NZ tweenie girls swoon to formula pop

Kiwi boy band Titanium was formed last year after a talent search competition by MediaWorks' top rating music station, The Edge. Photo / APN
Kiwi boy band Titanium was formed last year after a talent search competition by MediaWorks' top rating music station, The Edge. Photo / APN

MediaWorks-made boy band Titanium has scored in the Top 40.

Tweenie girls swoon for the late teen and 20-something lads and their heavily packaged formula pop.

Formed last year after a talent search competition by Mediaworks' top rating music station, The Edge, Titanium has emerged as a good commercial product.

Mediaworks formed its own record company Illegal Records under The Edge, so that the boys get a better share of the profits, it says.

Titanium has its own manager, who also manages Dane Rumble.

Titanium's success so far is because it is a case of a media company distributor creating its own product then giving it big plugs.

It appears Titanium has not featured on the MediaWorks rival, The Radio Network.

But Illegal Records was able to show that the band had plenty of radio airplay - a prerequisite for funding from New Zealand On Air.

The company picked up $20,000 of funding from the NZ on Air Making Tracks scheme.

Taxpayer funding for a new band is a win-win, with popular talent getting help and NZ on Air meeting its mandate.

But you could argue it's another case where NZ on Air underpins commercial product, the music and broadcasting industries.

FOREIGN OWNED

John Barnett will have a continuing role at South Pacific Pictures after he sold his one-third stake in the company for an undisclosed sum.

The producer behind the Whale Rider and the Sione's Wedding movies has stepped down as chief executive, but has been appointed to the new post as chairman for South Pacific Pictures, reporting to its now 100 per cent owner All3Media, based in London.

His number two, respected former TV3 programmer Kelly Martin, will take over as chief executive and will also be on the local board.

Speaking from Cannes where he is attending screen industry markets, Barnett said he is involved in two feature film ideas that had been under development at SPP.

One is relatively advanced and he was looking at directors.

Arguably the best known face of New Zealand film and TV at the international markets, Barnett rejected a suggestion the sale of his one-third stake to the majority owner meant that SPP would lose some of its "Kiwi feel".

He said he had never needed to convince the British company All3Media that the firm's New Zealand-ness was important and was what made its content unique.

Renowned for his driven approach, some in industry were sceptical about the degree that Barnett would hand over the reins to Kelly Martin.

DRAMA QUEENS

SPP's success in dominating drama production has led some to suggest that the company has too much power.

But its influence is largely because it has assembled the industrial strength infrastructure needed to create sustainable popular drama.

Recently it has had three drama series on the three main channels: The Blue Rose on TV3, Go Girls on TV2 and Nothing Trivial on TV One.

Comparatively recently, NZ On Air gave money to other smaller independent drama producers for series Once in a Lifetime and The Cult.

But neither of these shows has been renewed by the networks.

SPP's arch competitor, Wellington-based The Gibson Group, is less involved in local drama production than it was in the past.

Like SPP, Gibson Group has also created a succession plan, with veteran producer David Gibson appointing Victoria Spackman as number two.

ACCOUNTS

Accounts lodged with the Companies Office for South Pacific Pictures Investments, the group which includes four other smaller entities here and in Australia, values total assets as at August 31, 2012 at $25.4 million. Revenue for the year ending August 31 were $50.8 million compared to $45.8 million in 2011. The company declared a dividend of $3 million.

GET SMART

Sky TV's revamp of channel allocations has led to a name change for Country 99. The independently owned premium rural channel will be moving from 99 on the Sky Digital platform to 81 on May 1. It will be renamed and rebranded as The Country Channel.

Chief executive David Rose said the channel - which costs Sky subscribers an additional $14.50 a month - was being incorporated among factual channels "which is where we belong".

Country 99 has been through ups and downs over its ownership, and battled for advertising revenue in a tight market.

Rose said that the company was working on forming relationships with other companies to be a part of their communications strategies.

He agreed that with the $14.50 fee it was important to retain its integrity.

FERRIS WHEEL

Fairfax Media are looking again at how they can boost readership for the Sunday News.

Fairfax rejected a suggestion it is looking at a relaunch of the paper but said that it was carrying out the normal updates and improvements.

Some people feel that the paper has not been nurtured but has delivered editorially, while the Sunday Star-Times had been down at heel.

There is an argument that Fairfax has paid too little attention to its Auckland-based Sunday papers, and been focused on operations further south.

The appointment of Garry Ferris in Auckland has led to an improvement in the content at the Sunday Star-Times and an attempt to pull back the brand's dramatic circulation losses.

RADIO DAZE

A few of the results from last week's Auckland radio ratings update escaped my attention.

Radio Live's slump was countered by its MediaWorks urban station Mai FM whose share of the teenage market more than doubled from 10.3 per cent to 22.7 per cent.

Overall it went from 4.3 per cent of the market to 5.7 per cent.

The Radio Network's oldies channel Coast dipped in some key demographics.

One of the few falls for TRN's Newstalk ZB was in the morning spot with Leighton Smith, which went from 13.1 per cent to 11.7 per cent.

Otherwise, though, it was a good survey for TRN, which is 50 per cent owned by APN News & Media, publisher of the New Zealand Herald.

APN's radio investments won battles on both sides of Tasman, with WSFM knocking long-time incumbent 2DayFM off its number one slot in Sydney.

COMING SOON?

Former Sky City chairman Rod McGeoch is expected to be appointed chairman of a revamped board to run MediaWorks, owners of TV3, Four and half the country's radio stations.

Reality TV queen Julie Christie is also expected to be on the board.

The new body is awaiting a restructuring that will see Ironbridge Capital reducing its stake, and hedge funds TPG and Oaktree Capital take equity in place of debt.

The new structure had been expected to be established after March 31 but nothing has emerged yet.

- 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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