A lot is resting on the success of TV3's cooking show The Great Food Race, so channel bosses are remaining optimistic, despite slow-cooking ratings for the programme's debut last Sunday night.

Ratings were about half those for MasterChef on TV One, and I have been told that in Sky TV homes the TV3 show was out-rated even by the distinctly niche appeal of Antiques Roadshow, on the Julie Christie-owned Living Channel.

So TV3 will be hoping the ratings come to the boil this Sunday if it is to recoup some of its big investment in the show. Early indications are that it is a mixture of the British show Come Dine With Me and My Kitchen Rules, but it seems this week we will be inducted into the concept of a "race" as well as cooking.

The 90-minute show was the brainchild of Christie, a former chief executive of the production company Touchdown, before she took up her role as one of three directors on the board that is running MediaWorks.


MediaWorks spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer says the new food show has a hard row to hoe against MasterChef, but TV3 is happy with the first results and will be working with producers to make improvements. Given Christie's pedigree - and expectations that her reality show expertise will propel TV3 into the ratings - advertisers will be watching closely.

The Great Food Race had an average of 93,200 25- to 54-year-olds watching, compared to 185,300 for MasterChef on TV One.

Broken link

Technology and media entrepreneur Derek Handley has rejected allegations of links between his listed company Snakk Media and Kim Dotcom's businesses Baboom and Mega.

In a recent opinion article for the Herald, Handley was positive about file-sharing tycoon Dotcom and welcomed his formation of a political party to promote technology and use of the internet.

Ties with a Michael John Sorensen - a shareholder in Dotcom's Mega and director of his latest venture, Baboom - have been highlighted by blogger Cameron Slater, who has run an intense campaign against Dotcom. Slater called on Handley to "come clean" about any business links with Dotcom.

In the Herald, Handley said Dotcom would "unleash the force of innovation and the internet in the electoral and democratic process". Given Handley's reputation as a tech wunderkind and much-lauded entrepreneur, the article lent credibility to Dotcom and his party. But subsequently, the formation of the party has been chaotic.

Sceptics suspect Dotcom is financing the new party as part of a publicity platform to campaign against the Government and its complicity in US attempts to extradite him over copyright allegations against his former file sharing company, Megaupload.

Handley says he spoke up when he read that some in the internet sector were not stepping forward. As a successful businessman he has the confidence to speak out, standing out from the pack.

Handley says he has met Dotcom a few times. "A lot of people have met him. He's interesting. What he's doing on the internet is interesting.

"But there is no formal relationship and I am not involved with his companies."

Handley's comments supporting Dotcom and the new party were surprising given his appointment to the board of Sky TV in September last year.

His arrival should be welcomed by Sky investors who believe the company has lagged technologically, making too little effort to use internet TV as a way of delivering content.

But Sky TV has a strong commitment to the status quo over film and TV rights, and is opposed to the catchcry of internet freedom that has been so lucrative for Dotcom.

While Rupert Murdoch has sold his 43 per cent stake in Sky NZ, the company still has a vested interest in supporting the Hollywood studios which have led the attack on Dotcom, and supported attempts to have him extradited.

Handley's interests have a 24 per cent stake in Snakk Media, a company listed on the NZ Alternative Market which aggregates publishers' ad space on mobile devices and matches it to advertisers' demand.

Sorensen was a former investor in Snakk Media, through a company named Snakk Trustees. Sorensen is an investor in Dotcom's company Mega and a director of his latest venture, Baboom.

Despite the past association with Sorensen and his championing of Dotcom, Handley says there is no business association between the two firms.

Snakk Trustees has been selling its shares in Snakk Media since shortly after it listed last March, he says.

"Along with SeaDragon, they were investors before we listed on the stock exchange, and both have recently reduced their holdings to zero." Sorensen was "an active angel investor in many companies, as am I.

"We met several years ago when he brokered a deal for one of my old companies. He is no longer a shareholder in Snakk and so now we have no other association."

Country style
Country Calendar returns soon, with farmers and other country people doing the talking, rather than reporters. Country Calendar veteran Frank Torley will provide all the voiceovers.

Producer Julian O'Brien says this is a continuation of a trend over a few years, but I hear staff have been wary about the change, and about their job security.

O'Brien says no reporters are being laid off and the change is about style rather than cost-cutting. Reporters in the field will still ask the questions and write the scripts.

But talent can still do with some friendly advice sometimes, and we can't be limited to seeing only our most articulate, erudite farmers.

Country Calendar is one of the great success stories of New Zealand television, drawing more than 600,000 viewers in its prime 7pm Saturday slot - not bad for TVNZ, which does not pay anything to make the show. The production cost is paid for by Hyundai sponsorship and New Zealand on Air.

Pete and Tessa McKay, alpaca farmers featured in a 2011 episode of the long running Country Calendar.
Pete and Tessa McKay, alpaca farmers featured in a 2011 episode of the long running Country Calendar.

The show started in 1966 and is in its 48th season, which O'Brien believes makes it the second longest continuously running show in the history of global television. He believes it is beaten only by Coronation Street, which also delivers strong ratings for TV One.

Country Calendar is something of an oddity these days. It is a simpler magazine show than it was in the 70s, but is still built around the iconography of rural New Zealand. It's a survivor in a broadcasting environment that is increasingly focused on the flashy, rather than the durable.

Oh dear

The timing could not have been worse for MediaWorks when an article in the Herald this week provided embarrassing details of its mishandling of the Roast Busters story, which led to it dropping its contract with John Tamihere - formerly of the Willie & JT show. Tamihere has since lodged a $620,000 legal action against MediaWorks.

The Herald story included a memo to RadioLive presenters, advising them not to go to the supermarket or their children's sporting events, lest they were accosted by media over the Roast Busters issue.

The Herald story coincided with a visit by bankers who bailed out MediaWorks by taking equity in the company in exchange for its debts.

It is not unusual for media companies to have a poor relationship with other media, but the email to staff has been treated as a joke by others in the industry.