Television New Zealand has allowed a financial services company to sponsor a show in its 7pm current affairs slot for the first time.

TVNZ announced yesterday the new show Seven Sharp would be sponsored by RaboDirect, a subsidiary of Rabobank New Zealand Ltd.

ASB Bank has sponsored news updates and the late show Nightline, and ANZ Bank has done the same for news updates.

But it is the first time a broadcaster has sold sponsorship rights to a prime time news show.


TVNZ was criticised for allowing finance company Hanover - which used former newsreader Richard Long as a spokesman - to sponsor weather updates.

Indications are the bank's brand will be incorporated more into the Seven Sharp format.

TVNZ head of sales Jeremy O'Brien said that a "level of innovation" would be introduced over time, to reflect the "very different nature of the programme".

Georgie Hills, another TVNZ spokesperson, later added that the reference to a new level of innovation did not mean the deal would open the door for sponsorship influence on editorial.

"Our editorial choices are made independently. It's not the thin edge of the wedge," she said.

Innovation was related to distribution of the show through different media, she said.

As the show's presence evolves online, to mobile and the like, their sponsor will have a profile on these platforms too, she said.

Advertising industry veteran David Walden - whose company Whybin TBWA has the ANZ account - said that in the past there was media reticence about who could be directly involved in sponsorship of current affairs shows.

"But that is all gone now, you can sponsor anything."

Kia had sponsored Close Up and Mr Walden said the current affairs genre had been popular with car companies - Mazda sponsors TV3 Campbell Live.

But Kia opted to not carry over its sponsorship over to Seven Sharp.

Walden expected that the deal would include an option for the bank to not be included in any show that raises issues about the financial services industry. Similar ad withdrawal options were available for other advertiser sectors, such as cars.

ASB head of marketing Roger Beaumont said sponsorship for the show had been available for some time.

Ad industry sources did not know the value of the deal, but normal prime time
placement for that kind of sponsorship would raise more than $1 million.

In a statement, RaboDirect said Seven Sharp was the perfect fit for a business that embraces straight talking.

Seven Sharp was looking to take a different approach with their new format and was taking current affairs into the digital space, the bank said.

"As an online savings specialist, we feel we will both appeal to internet-savvy viewers who are socially aware and up with the play," said general manager Melanie Templeton.

Advertising commentator Martin Gillman said TVNZ had traditionally been protective when it came to incorporating brands into current affairs.

With the short lead up time he doubted it would break any new ground in tonight's launch.