As viewing habits change, free-to-air TV looks likely to go the way of fax machines.

Paul Henry's new TV3/Radio Live show and the proposed axing of Campbell Live are driven by two factors - money and the challenges facing free-to-air television operators.

TV3 has gone bust twice in the past 25 years but its governance team is highly motivated to improve the company's performance.

With this in mind the board and management of MediaWorks, which owns TV3, are strongly incentivised to cut costs and introduce new programmes. These initiatives are likely to have a stronger emphasis on financial returns than broadcasting quality.

Any new programme that attracts advertisers and is inexpensive to produce will be appealing to chief executive Mark Weldon and his MediaWorks executive team.


TV3 Network, which was incorporated in October 1987, was New Zealand's first commercial television operator.

It went to air on November 28, 1989 - six months before Sky Television - and listed on the NZX seven days later after issuing shares to the public at $2.50 each.

The share price traded above the $2.50 for a short period but had dropped below 10c when the company was placed in receivership and delisted in mid-1990.

Westpac converted most of its loans to equity and TV3 continued to broadcast while in receivership. CanWest, the huge Canadian media group, progressively purchased 100 per cent of the broadcaster from Westpac between 1991 and 1998.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the company acquired a number of radio assets including More FM and NZX listed RadioWorks New Zealand.

The TV3/radio group relisted on the NZX in July 2004 - under the MediaWorks name - following the sale of a 30 per cent holding by CanWest through an IPO at $1.53 a share.

Three years later Ironbridge Capital, a Sydney-based private equity firm, purchased CanWest's remaining 70 per cent stake for $2.43 a share and made a takeover for the outstanding 30 per cent at the same price.

This bid was only partially successful and two months later Ironbridge made another offer at $2.68 a share valuing the company at $608 million.


This offer was successful and MediaWorks delisted from the NZX on October 15, 2007.

Ironbridge geared MediaWorks up to the eyeballs, with the broadcaster's debt surging from $165 million before the 2007 acquisition to $769 million immediately afterwards. As a consequence MediaWorks' annual interest costs soared from $13.8 million to $92.8 million with the latter figure excluding $14 million of interest capitalised on loan notes.

Unsurprisingly, MediaWorks was placed in receivership on June 18, 2013 after it drowned in a sea of debt.

The company was reconstituted on August 9, 2013 with new shareholders, mainly banks and private equity firms, and only $90 million of debt. The previous private equity shareholders suffered huge losses as did the public shareholders in 1990.