After more than a decade as the hot potato of the broadcast world, the television arm of MediaWorks finally has a new long-term owner.
MediaWorks today announced the sale of its loss-making television business - centred largely around free-to-air channels Three, Bravo and its current affairs branch Newshub - to Nasdaq-listed Discovery Inc.
MediaWorks will retain the radio side of its business, a network which includes stations such as Mai, The Edge, George FM and The Rock.
Simon Robinson, Discovery's head of Asia Pacific operations, said he was well-aware of recent instability in the local marketplace, but believed a 26-year history in New Zealand through programming channels on Sky TV meant he could see potential.
"We're making a bet on New Zealand, with our eyes wide open," Robinson said.
Neither Discover nor MediaWorks would disclose the value of the deal, with both citing commercial confidentiality.
Both companies said the deal was expected to be finalised later in the year and required Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval, and applications for this process had already been filed.
This process was unlikely to be required on the basis the transaction was worth more than $100m - with MediaWorks having written down the value of its television arm in recent accounts to zero - but may have drawn-out the process if the business was to be considered of national strategic interest.
Any concerns of OIO delays were alleviated, however, when associate minister of finance David Parker today signed off on the deal and directed it be allowed to proceed.
Both Robinson and Mediaworks' chief executive Michael Anderson said viewers should not expect any large-scale shake-ups - at least in the short term.
Anderson said while Magic Talk operations would be hived off into the radio business, Newshub - including radio-television combo production the The AM Show - would remain operating at MediaWorks and there was an agreement they would continue to provide news bulletins and content for the stations.
MediaWorks chairman Jack Matthews said the sale would allow his shareholders to refocus their energies and finances on their radio division.
"We've loved TV, but it has taken a lot - a disproportionate amount - of management and executive bandwidth, frankly. It also lets the shareholders invest a bit of money in the business -they'll see themselves investing in a businesses that have a return," Matthews said.
Robinson said there were no immediate plans to shake up programming at TV3 - "today we're focused on celebrating" - but it was unlikely they would become an active player in the sports rights marketplace.
"We don't really have much of a sports business outside Europe," he said.
Today's announcement, raised hopes at the company's television headquarters in Flower St that 14 years of ownership instability was near an end.
The business had been acquired by Australian private equity firm Ironbridge at the peak of the market in 2007, before collapsing into debt-induced receivership in 2013 to emerge largely owned by Oaktree Capital, another private equity firm but this time US-based.
Both Ironbridge and Oaktree signalled their lack of interest in being long-term owners of the broadcaster, preferring to focus on hoped-for capital gains by sprucing up the business for a quick resale. The failure of either to engineer a quick exit led to years of cost-cutting.
There was reported to be jubilation at Flower Street this morning following the announcement.
"It's a massive celebration for everyone at TV: People haven't been so happy in years, because what we believe in - and what we fight for - now has a future," one MediaWorks television staff member told the Herald.
The sentiment was echoed by MediaWorks' Anderson, who joined the company in 2016 following the tumultuous reign of Mark Weldon, and has worked towards the sale for the better part of a year.
"It's pretty ******* amazing," he said.