Video content is everywhere on the internet, yet people are lining up - virtually on the website and in real life - to buy tickets for the latest NZ International Film Festival.

This year's festival launches at the Civic next Thursday, July 20, rolling out across the country afterwards.

New Zealanders have never had so many arthouse movies to watch. Beyond independent theatres in the main cities, the Rialto channel changed the market when it started in 2002 and Netflix offers a smattering of indie movies, albeit well after cinema release.

Thirty years ago, you might have explained the popularity of the festival by noting that there was little else to do in cities mid-winter. But that's not the case now, yet - despite a small dip in the audience last year - customer loyalty has been phenomenal, especially for an organisation that survives on limited marketing resources.


Marketing activity includes drumming up interest group support for niche audiences. "We make sure that if there is a movie about, say, mountaineering, every mountaineer in New Zealand knows about it," says festival director Bill Gosden.

He says there is a loyal audience, but they tend to go to film festivals in their twenties, then disappear during early parenthood.

The festival's communications manager, Rebecca McMillan, says its website has been much improved, but the programme booklet remains the biggest marketing tool.

As for the wider market, arthouse veteran Kelly Rogers says Netflix does show arthouse fare after cinemas, but it creates demand for this type of content rather than fulfilling it.

Rogers, the chief executive of Rialto Distribution, says the arthouse cinema audience is healthy at the moment, with such movies drawing a younger crowd than they once did.

Tuning out

The Australian Video Viewing Report, out this week, has caused consternation, by showing TV screen usage has reached its lowest point in four years, as consumers use other devices such as tablets and phones.

It found Australians spend an average of 111 hours and 3 minutes per month watching TV content, down 8 per cent over the past four years, when the quarterly numbers first became available.

The study highlights the dramatic change in TV viewing habits facing the sector, though the diminished TV time identified by the survey is not directly comparable to New Zealand, and Nielsen data here is more narrowly focused, says TVNZ.


A TVNZ spokeswoman said, "there's no doubt, viewing behaviour is changing, our viewers now watch live broadcast TV, time shifted TV, TV streamed on a mobile device, live or OnDemand ... audiences are shifting online - that shows up in year-on-year live TV declines of between 3 to 9 per cent depending on the time of day and audience demographic."

Nielsen says 85 per cent of TV viewing in New Zealand is live.

Turning Kiwi

Last week I mentioned the astonishing marketing success of Miriam Lancewood, the Dutch author of the book Woman in the Wilderness, who has attracted much interest from New Zealand media.

I tracked her down in Switzerland, where she says she is walking with her 64-year-old New Zealand partner, Peter.

She told me she preferred Lancewood to her real name.

"Lancewood is a beautiful tree in New Zealand. I loved the tree, and I made it my email address, consequently people thought it was my real name, and when it came to writing I used it as my pen name," she told me.

Rise and shine

One of the good things about the recently applied GfK radio research system is that it employs the same methodology for both the commercial sector and Radio New Zealand.

Alas, the results are not released in a way that directly spells out how commercial and non-commercial radio interact in markets.

RNZ National's weekly cumulative nationwide audience, released yesterday, was 619,100 listeners a week, up from 579,400 in the previous survey and 535,200 in the survey before that.

Morning Report increased its cumulative audience to 467,000 a week, up from 430,300 in the previous survey. The Panel with Jim Mora and Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman also recorded significant growth nationally.

Under an agreement with the commercial and non-commercial sectors, RNZ figures are released one week later and they do not cover individual city markets.