TV3 news and current affairs director Mark Jennings is putting a brave face on a ratings slide for 3 News against One News, saying "these are challenging times for us".
Nielsen TAM ratings show a big slide since January last year, when the two news shows were nearly level-pegging. Today, TVNZ says the gap between them is the widest it has been for 10 years.
On Tuesday, One News attracted 42.1 per cent of the 25-54-year-old audience and 3 News had 14.8 per cent, says TVNZ.
"News ratings will always be cyclical and I have seen them ride up and down a lot in the last 20 years," said Jennings. "Our turn will come again.
"I am hoping that when we launch our new 7pm current affairs show, Story, it will give us a boost." He also saw promise in a small rise in the Paul Henry breakfast ratings.
Jennings is correct that the slide at 3 News is partly the result of a poor 5.30pm lead-in to the news.
But in my opinion, a dramatic fall over many months is caused by more than that.
The shift to TVNZ is also about more people recognising a dual-personality element at TV3, which does break news stories but sometimes embarks on tabloid coverage and personalised rants.
All media companies are going through change, but some TV3 staff say news and current affairs no longer has the central place at MediaWorks that it once did.
Jennings has a lot of faith in Story, but there are scant details about its resources and whether it is on target to launch on August 10.
And the success of Story relies on growth at 3 News, and there are no signs of any new initiatives there.
MediaWorks sources acknowledge that the company has previously considered changing 3 News to a half-hour show. It might work, but you can bet that if TV3 goes to half an hour, TVNZ would follow soon after.
This time unlucky
Many of TV3's ratings problems go back two years, when MediaWorks' receivers were unwilling to make a long-term commitment to the Australian soap Home & Away, which ran at 5.30pm and delivered a big audience to 3 News.
Soap operas are one of the few genres that can entice viewers to watch regularly at 5.30. TV3 has backed the US-owned production company Warner Bros NZ (formerly Eyeworks) to make it a new soap for the timeslot.
The funding agency NZ on Air was considering the proposal this week.
Although no decision has been announced, staff are understood to have advised the government-appointed board to deny the application, and the board would be unlikely to reject that advice.
One production industry source suggested the application was for about $10 million a year - a lot of money for a 5.30pm show.
NZ on Air routinely advises applicants in advance about staff recommendations, and one production industry source said MediaWorks was told in this case.
A lot rests on this and it would not be surprising if the Warner Bros project were to re-emerge in another form at the next NZ on Air meeting.
A commitment to subsidise a daily soap - with taxpayers paying about 75 per cent of the budget - would be valuable for Warner Bros and for MediaWorks' Los Angeles owner Oaktree Capital, as it looks to find a buyer for its Kiwi broadcasting asset.
RNZ catches viral boost
Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed the astonishing results Radio New Zealand recorded for its digital service The Wireless, and wondered if the figure of 1.57 million users for the year to date was a misprint.
But the numbers were boosted by the amazing pick-up of an item that went viral during May and June. The On A Plate comic strip by Auckland illustrator Toby Morris was picked up by the Boing Boing website on May 22, exposing it to a huge audience.
Huffington Post linked to it and the item broke into social networking shortly thereafter, initially on reddit, then on Facebook and Twitter. In the week after the item was posted, 160,000 views came via Facebook, 64,400 through reddit and 32,000 on Twitter.
A second wave of sharing on June 2 resulted in about 360,000 views on just that day, said Radio NZ spokesman John Barr.
The managing director of editorial outsourcing company Pagemasters, Peter Atkinson, was in Auckland this week planning for the downsizing of its New Zealand operation after NZME ended an eight-year relationship.
Atkinson said some staff would be moving when the sub-editing of titles went back to NZME, but it had not been decided how many jobs would go.
"It will be downscaled and moved to our other facilities, but we still intend to have a full-scale operation here [in New Zealand]."
The NZME decision to take its sub-editing functions back in-house is linked with the company's move to a new Auckland building this year and the convergence of its newspaper and radio operations.