Six big media firms are making moves as the industry shifts towards digital and recovers from the recession.
RADIO NEW ZEALAND - RADIO WITH PICTURES
Non-commercial radio, online
Radio New Zealand faces a big makeover next year with the Government expected to merge the public radio operation with non-commercial TVNZ 7.
The plan is to create a new public broadcasting institution. Labour is understood to be broadly behind the merger.
Such a move is being challenged by TVNZ, which wants to keep government funding within its otherwise commercial focus. But surprisingly the biggest sceptics are within RNZ management.
A merger would mean a revamp of RNZ which has been caught in the cross-fire with Government demands that it works within existing budgets.
It would require the transfer of some TVNZ staff, and possible pay rises for some at RNZ, sources say. The new body would provide both radio and TV, though it is understood the Government is not yet convinced TVNZ should not be allowed to continue to provide some TVNZ 7 content.
A combined radio and TV operation makes sense, removing public service from the increasingly commercial focus of TVNZ while injecting fresh energy into RNZ.
Chief executive Peter Cavanagh has done well to maintain a credible non-commercial service inside diminishing funding. But would he head the new body?
TELEVISION NEW ZEALAND - EVEN BAD TIMES ARE GOOD
Television, online, digital
Taxpayer subsidies still buoy the state television company, which ended the June financial year with a small but as-yet-unpublished profit.
Free-to-air TV has yet to negotiate the tortuous road to shoring up viewers.
Hazards including PVR ad-zapping, the dominance of an unregulated Sky and and growing social media use remain in its path. TVNZ's trick thus far has been to secure government understanding of those issues so the state can accept poor profits and dividends while continuing to allow the broadcaster to invest in the future as a fully integrated digital media company.
As a result TVNZ is poised to benefit from the tentative ad recovery, and that makes it more attractive if and when the Government becomes a seller and/or a buyer does emerge.
Elsewhere chief executive Rick Ellis is criticised in the TV industry for shifting the focus away from TVNZ's core business - making television - as illustrated by the botched 50 years of TV celebration show.
He has taken a radical business approach - halving the commission TVNZ pays to ad agencies.
Having grasped National's lack of interest in the network's cultural role, TVNZ seems to be enjoying its status as a commercial broadcaster that does not have to make commercial returns.
The biggest immediate challenge for the company is to hold on to taxpayer funding to produce a non-commercial TVNZ 7.
MEDIAWORKS - BEYOND THE BLACK HOLE OF DEBT
Television, radio, online
Capital restructuring last year kept the banking wolves from the door at MediaWorks.
But the owner for TV3, C4 and half the country's commercial radio stations still has big challenges beyond its weighty debt.
MediaWorks owners have rewarded management, but unlike the Government and TVNZ, they have not made major investments to take advantage when the ad markets shows signs of recovery.
The company has lacked clear leadership since the departure of former chief executive Brent Impey and there remain tensions between the radio and television arms, with online somewhat undernourished in between.
TV general manager Jason Paris - who many thought was poised to head both operations - made a name for himself at TVNZ introducing new media developments.
Some improvements have been made, but MediaWorks is clearly trailing other media. Local shows such as Outrageous Fortune and other taxpayer-funded content keep the company profile alive, but it would be a miracle if private-equity owners Ironbridge recovered their investment.
Rumours linger of a white knight investor in the background, but none has declared its hand.
APN NEWS & MEDIA - INTEGRATION AHOY
Newspapers, magazines, radio, online, outdoor advertising
Buoyed by its Queensland newspapers, APN survived a radical slump in ad revenue last year.
With that ad revenue tentatively recovering, the buzzword is integration between its diverse interests. Chief executive Brendan Hopkins exits at the end of this year, inevitably fuelling interest in the way ahead under new leadership.
Change is not just in management. In April Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien replaced Sir Anthony O'Reilly as the biggest single shareholder in Independent News & Media - the Irish media company which is the biggest investor in APN.
In New Zealand APN survived the media-wide collapse of advertising through a frugal approach to costs that has been eased with the tentative recovery of the ad market.
The publisher is unveiling a major makeover of the Weekend Herald tomorrow and has repositioned the daily Herald - taking a racier approach to front-page editorial values.
Elsewhere The Radio Network - 50 per cent owned by APN with the United States Clear Channel Communications - cut staff during the advertising slump, but still faces incursion by MediaWorks into its Auckland heartland. Online the major battle is with Fairfax's Stuff and TVNZ.co.nz.
FAIRFAX MEDIA - JUGGLING WITH ONLINE
Newspapers, magazines, online including Trade Me
All media companies have been juggling the relationship between well-established "old media" assets and still-emerging digital arms.
But Fairfax's balancing act has been more apparent because of communications between the old and new media arms.
Chief executive Brian McCarthy - appointed after a reverse takeover by Fairfax family interests - replaced the expansionist David Kirk in 2006 and slowed the pace of online expansion. But commentators have questioned whether moves at Fairfax will revive the digital push.
The great man himself - John B. Fairfax - has resigned as part of bid freshen the Fairfax board and McCarthy considers a strategic review on relationship between the online and print assets. If there is any such move there will be implications for the role of Jack Matthews - CEO of the digital arm which oversees Trade Me.
In this country, corporate accommodation at Fairfax is being reined in and the company has finally closed its uneconomic business title the Independent. Fairfax is increasingly trying to produce content across the group with specialist "hubs".
But the largest impediment remains its low-profile Auckland market and there continues to be talk of a new Auckland newspaper - or, perhaps more likely, an Auckland website.
SKY TELEVISION - IN THE BOX SEAT
Rumours that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation was considering increasing its controlling stake in Sky TV have boosted the share price.
But such speculation was hardly required for a corporation that has led a charmed life for several years. Talk of regulation is verboten at Sky, even though it has largely dissolved under the National Government anyway.
Sky Television - which is in nearly half of New Zealand homes - is in a box seat to expand with the new era of internet television, in large part because of its contacts and prime position they give it when it comes obtaining online rights to TV shows. While TVNZ and MediaWorks privately lobby for restraints, in practice the TV industry has accepted that the future of Kiwi television is largely under Sky's influence. TVNZ's decision to place its nostalgia channel Heartland on Sky - ignoring the free-to-air platform Freeview - is one example. There will be those who argue that this makes sense.
New Zealand is such a small television market that it needs a dominant broadcaster such as Sky. Of course similar arguments were made for leaving Telecom unregulated.