John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Media: Seven Sharp viewers dive

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TV3 seizes on big fall in the audience but programme's losses have not translated into gains for Campbell Live.

The shift from the traditional current affairs show to Seven Sharp has not been straightforward and it is a big risk for TVNZ. Pictured: Greg Boyed, Ali Mau, and Jesse Mulligan  Photo / Supplied
The shift from the traditional current affairs show to Seven Sharp has not been straightforward and it is a big risk for TVNZ. Pictured: Greg Boyed, Ali Mau, and Jesse Mulligan Photo / Supplied

Seven Sharp has been blunted, losing 179,000 viewers from Monday to Wednesday, according to ratings figures supplied by NielsenTAM.

But the show's architect - Television New Zealand head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan - says he is not worried by the fall.

Some advertising professionals are cheering the state broadcaster's courage in starting a new lite format aimed at a younger audience sought by advertisers - a move they hope will halt a slow decline in TV One's 7pm ratings in recent years.

But the shift from the traditional current affairs show to the new-look Seven Sharp has not been straightforward and it is a big commercial risk for TVNZ.

Competitors at TV3 seized on "a massive fall in the audience" but Seven Sharp's losses have not translated into gains for Campbell Live, which has been promoting itself as a more credible, traditional current affairs show.

Dagan is dismissive: "TV3 is being a little bit hopeful ... especially since on two of the three days Seven Sharp had more than double [Campbell Live's] audience, and the third day was a particularly nice evening on a public holiday.

"We have no concerns. The show is bedding in nicely and it will be a month or two before any real conclusions can be drawn," he said.

IT IS EARLY DAYS

It has been an erratic start but three days is far too short a time to judge a show. Summertime audiences are lower because people stay out in the warm weather, and can still be volatile this time of year.

But the slippage fuels niggling doubts that the new-look 7pm show - presented by Alison Mau, Greg Boyed and Jesse Mulligan - will maintain the dominance of Close Up.

The Herald reported on Tuesday that first night ratings for the 7pm slot on TV One were unspectacular but solid and with extensive promotion and many people looking in on the new show, ratings were similar to Close Up the same day in 2012.

Yesterday's figures for the total audience aged over five years show a fall from 508,500 to 410,700 on Tuesday and 329,500 on Waitangi Day.

Campbell Live's ratings moved slightly in that time.

The slightly younger demographic of 18- 39-year-olds that is attractive to advertisers halved to 30,000, losing more than half its viewers and slipping behind Campbell Live.

In the 25-54 age group - the target market for TV One and TV3, Seven Sharp slipped from 131,300 to 109,500 to 75,400.

Last year Close Up hosted by Mark Sainsbury averaged 456,000 viewers a night.

JESSE STARKERS

TVNZ will hope the slip is just a blip and that the show will coagulate into a clear seamless formula in the days and weeks ahead.

There have been some signs that the content is coming together, but the well resourced programme has a long way to go and is taking its time.

One experienced TV programme maker put it this way: "Seven Sharp is not a dog, but it is a dog's breakfast. There have got to be more signs that they are getting on top of the problems, and I'm surprised that by now they have not had one unique commercial news story."

Problems appear to be over a lack of communication about what the show stands for and an uneasy transition between traditional "town & around" light magazine items that were a staple of Close Up, and the muddled and sometimes awkward banter between Ali, Jesse and Greg at the desk.

The mixture of online social banter with the TV show seems hard to follow and at one stage we had former Q & A host Boyed with a camcorder on Temuera Morrison eating Maori kai - shark's liver. It seemed just plain odd. The rapport between the three co-hosts has improved, but as much as I admire Mulligan as a comedian, he has yet to be funny on Seven Sharp.

Even with its generous budget, it can't be easy. But for a show that styles itself as brave and edgy - it seems cautious.

Why, you have to wonder, was the nudist gent featured on Tuesday's show clothed. He and Mulligan should have appeared starkers, at least from the waist up.

WALDO A GO GO

Changing of the guard at advertising agency Whybin TBWA in Auckland signals an upcoming shake-up in the agency world.

Chief executive David Walden and his executive creative director Andy Blood have stepped down to be replaced by Todd McLeay and Toby Talbot, who is returning from London at the end of the month. Walden will stay on until later in the year.

Walden's departure from the helm of Whybin marks the end of an era for the agency which he launched in 1997.

The creative agency started out with Nissan New Zealand which remains a client through international links, but it is perhaps best known for the ASB Goldstein campaign and for implementing the highly successful marketing plan for the telecommunications challenger brand 2 Degrees.

Both accounts have been heavily focused on Kiwi-centred creative images, and Walden says that is an important part of Whybin TBWA's approach.

Ad agencies ignore New Zealand-ness at their peril, because an idea transplanted from overseas would not make a brand work in New Zealand, he said.

Whybin TBWA had long been focused on digital advertising. But Walden said that search advertising like Google Adwords was not going to work at getting a brand a following.

His departure date is not clear, but Walden expected to continue in the branding business. "I'm never going to retire," he said.

TODD AND TOBY

Advertising agency people are not surprised by Todd McLeay's appointment as the new chief executive at Whybin TBWA. A former chief executive of the New Zealand Lotteries Commission and chief operating officer of APN New Zealand, he has been focused on the marketing end of business.

Some in the media world expected him to rise through the ranks of APN News & Media where he had played a key role in the move to a compact format and other changes at the Herald.

McLeay left APN after a restructuring at the top of the company.

McLeay says he was approached by the executive search company Hollister after the London-based executive creative director Toby Talbot indicated he wanted to return to New Zealand after a short spell as executive creative director at London-based RKCR/Y&R.

Talbot also worked at Colenso BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi and DDB, where his stature grew.

Talbot had worked closely with McLeay on the Lotteries Commission account, and that was a factor in their being selected, he said.

But having played a role building DDB into the biggest creative ad agency, and an established rapport with many of DDB's clients, it would be surprising if he did not try to bring some clients over to the much smaller Whybin TBWA.

CONTENT KING

Sky Television is ramping up the status for its content executives amid new platforms and potential for their competitors to buy TV shows. The move is expected to formalise Sky's role in developing itself as a wholesaler to other pay TV operators.

Sky has appointed two content executives to its top table, with Megan King director of content, strategy, planning and delivery. Martin Enright is the director of content acquisition.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

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.

Read more by John Drinnan

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