TVNZ to launch new take on the DIY format

TVNZ and MediaWorks programme launches over the past fortnight have set the scene for reality TV clashes next year.

It could be a boom time for MySky rentals, or sales of other personal video recorders.

This week TVNZ spent up large to hype its 2015 shows to advertising media buyers and journalists - matching MediaWorks' launch two weeks earlier, though with more shows.

MediaWorks had revealed a relatively thin lineup, but with a clear new direction, focused heavily on the lucrative reality TV genre, where advertising and programming blur into one.

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On the other hand, TVNZ aims to offer all things for all people, with most of the hoopla reserved for American shows - though the standout was the rights to the new Thunderbirds.

The state broadcaster still has the inventory to conduct some pincer movements if it so wishes.

Production is under way on TVNZ's new DIY show, Our First Home, made by Eyeworks, the Belgian company that makes The Block for TV3.

In a new take on the format, the show will involve parents and their children renovating homes, then trying to sell them for a profit.

TVNZ head of television Jeff Latch acknowledges comparisons with The Block, but says the shows are different. Our First Home is being filmed now, for a run early in the new year, and will not go head to head with The Block.

It's expected that My Kitchen Rules will be used to steal viewers away from The Block, as it did last year.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the new World War I drama When We Go to War - made with $6.6 million of NZ On Air funding - will clash with TV3's screening of Gallipoli - a TV3-Nine co-production the channel has earmarked for Sunday nights, just when a big budget adult series like When We Go to War would typically screen.

TVNZ declined to discuss its intentions for When We Go to War. NZ On Air said: "We strongly prefer networks do not counter-schedule similar programmes, especially where we have a significant investment in dramas that might appeal to similar audiences.

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"It is in everybody's interests that programmes that are a significant taxpayer investment attract the best audience possible."

Ellis returns

The appointment of former TVNZ boss Rick Ellis to head the national museum, Te Papa, has surprised some former colleagues.

Ellis was most recently group executive of Telstra Media in Sydney, and effectively restructured himself out of a job. He is respected for leading technological advance at TVNZ and repairing the rift between the board and management under his predecessor, Ian Fraser.

At the network he was viewed as a hands-off chief executive, far more interested in technology than programming. But Ellis' time at TVNZ - in two stints - was not without controversy. He led the ill-fated investment in the Australian pay-TV service TiVo, wiping $15 million off TVNZ's books.

Ellis was never deeply involved in cultural issues but there were deep-seated problems in the TVNZ Maori department when he was chief executive.

Promoting MSM

Bauer Media Group NZ chief executive Paul Dykzeul says media should jointly push the benefits of traditional formats.

Dykzeul is building digital products and says they will play a bigger role, but argues that media are underselling the popularity and importance of traditional products.

Dykzeul has always had a cautious approach to digital expansion. Back in December 2008 he drew flak for scrapping the fashion website Runway Report, acquired from Stacy Gregg and Michael Lamb just two years earlier.

Times have changed, but Dykzeul is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

He shares some of the caution about overly hasty - and costly - moves to digital exhibited by John Fellet, the wily Sky TV chief executive who has been cautious about digital innovations.

The family-owned German company Bauer took over ACP Magazines in October 2012, bringing stability to a magazine sector that seemed to have lost its way.

Bauer bought the Australasian publisher from Nine Entertainment for a reported $563 million, getting 20 New Zealand titles such as Metro, North & South, Woman's Day and Australian Women's Weekly.

Bauer subsequently bought the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, the Listener, Simply You, Simply You Living and Creme for a bargain-basement $7 million from APN News & Media.

Dykzeul intimates that after the private equity reign, the new ownership structure comes as a blessed relief, with Bauer committed to magazines.

Staff seem to be genuinely positive and say Bauer will work hard to make magazines succeed. Executives from the Australian office are said to keep a close watch on the products, not just on ad sales.

But they will pull the plug if they are not viable. An example of that was the teen title Creme, quickly shut down when it became apparent it was not making money. "It was clear from the start that we would have had to double the audience," says Dykzeul, "and that was not going to happen."