Flagship shows set to change in fight to grow audience.

More changes are expected at Radio NZ National. The latest Nielsen survey, for the first quarter of this year, showed no improvement after a big ratings slump at the end of 2014, and RNZ is looking at changes to

Morning Report

,

Checkpoint

and

Afternoons

.

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Simon Mercep, the host of Afternoons, which has lifted its audience slightly, is expected to leave. He met RNZ radio boss John Howson on Wednesday.

Mercep was on leave this week and is to return on Monday. Chief executive Paul Thompson declined to comment on the show's future with Mercep fronting it.

Radio NZ said the survey did not reveal any big falls but on the other hand, nor did the ratings bounce back.

The only appreciable drop was 21,000 fewer listeners for the evening show Checkpoint, presented by Mary Wilson and Jim Mora.

Thompson confirmed he was looking at changes to both Checkpoint and Morning Report.

He said RNZ was well aware that its listeners were wary of excessive change.

For weekday shows, the latest results were:

Morning Report: down 11,000 to 311,000 listeners

Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan: up 2000 to 212,000 listeners Afternoons: up 2000 listeners to 181,000

Checkpoint: down 21,000 to 178,000 listeners

Nights with Bryan Crump: up 2000 to 151,000 listeners

Sky sports with fans

Sky TV's latest online push is designed to protect its flank, drawing in people who might not subscribe to the main Sky package on TV - and who are not keen enough to buy one of the expensive "Fan Pass" season options for entire competitions of rugby, rugby league and motorsports.

Under the planned new addition to Fan Pass, people can watch all four Sky sports channels on computer, or using apps on tablets, paying $15 per day or $20 a week. That compares with $49.22 a month for the basic Sky TV package and $28.29 for the sports package. No date has been set for starting the new offer.

The new daily and weekly offerings mark the first move to break up the main Sky package, and signals an accelerated push to head off potential challengers such as the Lightbox/Coliseum joint venture.

Sky TV chief executive John Fellet said other options were being considered beyond sports.

He acknowledged that the break-up of "linear" channels like Sky Sport 1, 2, 3 and 4 risked cannibalising Sky's audience.

About 75 per cent of Sky subscribers take the sports package, and for all the gripes directed at the the market leader, the depth of coverage remains one of its key selling points. Now Sky TV is making it easier to get sports without paying for a basic package.

The shift online may be necessary, but it's a delicate task for the Sky marketeers.

As with the Sky video on demand service Neon, they cannot afford to sell the new offering too hard or too cheaply, in case they undermine Sky's main source of income.

Fellet insisted that Fan Pass season tickets cater to the super sports fan who likes to be able to see games over again. He rejected a suggestion Fan Pass had so far been only moderately successful.

Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way said the daily and weekly passes would be aimed at fans who were not prepared to commit to Sky, but who might want to watch a great weekend of Super 15 rugby, or get friends over for an All Blacks match, see a week of cricket or the Breakers in a final.

"We think offering the full channels instead of an event is more appealing."

Maori TV in hot pursuit of commercial dollar

Annabelle Lee
Annabelle Lee

Maori TV is trying to make more money from advertising.

The public broadcaster aims to increase its commercial revenue by opening itself to advertising of "treat food", soft drinks and gambling.

Maori TV's ad income is not large. Government departments earn brownie points for spending some of their ad money there, but opening the channel up to these categories of advertisers suggests a transition from being public broadcaster to making ends meet. As well as lifting revenue, one of the main aims at Maori TV seems to be reeling in the independence of the current affairs show Native Affairs.

The resignation of executive producer Annabelle Lee yesterday has added to speculation about the culture of Maori TV. Lee - who is the partner of former Maori TV chief executive Jim Mather - is the fourth senior journalist to resign from the show since its coverage of mis-spending by the Te Kohanga Reo Trust.

That coverage illustrated a cultural rift between the Maori establishment and younger, more liberal Maori. Lee and Mihingarangi Forbes ran Native Affairs with a passionate aim of standing up and being noticed.

Forbes is leaving to join former Maori TV executive Carol Hirschfeld at Radio NZ. Former head of news Julian Wilcox is also rumoured to be under consideration for an RNZ post. Both are refugees from Maori TV, departing after a bitter row over the appointment of Paora Maxwell as CEO.

Maxwell is close to Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, so the scrapping of a current affairs item soon after a meeting with the minister has inevitably led to allegations of political meddling, though the minister denies this is the case.

In the past, Labour has largely ignored the dysfunction at Maori TV, which is, at its heart, a very political organisation. National has left any problems largely in the hands of chairwoman Georgina Te Heu Heu.

Dysfunction has been allowed to fester for weeks.

The situation is complicated by the highly complex Maori politics surrounding the appointment of the Maori TV board, and the close and interwoven politics of whanau, tribal allegiances, and personal friendships.