TVNZ is telling viewers upset over its decision to drop Dancing With the Stars that popularity does not always equal profit in television.

The broadcaster yesterday cited the "recessionary environment" for what it said was a reluctant decision not to fund a sixth series of the big-budget show, which attracted huge audiences.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said the show's multimillion-dollar budget had a marginal profit - even in better economic times.

"It's our biggest, most expensive, costly entertainment show by quite a long way," she said.

"It's been hard for people to understand that enormous popularity doesn't necessarily translate into a profitable venture for us."

Asked why TVNZ was citing the recession as a factor when many businesses were showing signs of recovery, Ms Richards said: "Programmes are commissioned quite a long way in advance and the money is allocated for it so there's a lag sometimes before the full impact is felt ...

"We will have a look at it again for the following year and see whether the market has returned to a state where we can contemplate doing it again."

Series three winner Suzanne Paul said she learned the show had been cut when she received a text message from her dance partner, Stefano Olivieri, who is now in Sydney.

"He was really quite upset about it," she said.

Ms Paul was with about 15 other women, who were all devastated when she told them.

"They were all so upset ... It was like someone had died."

Ms Paul said she was constantly "uplifted" by people who stopped her to talk about the show.

"It gives me something to smile about. It still affects me every day," she said.

"It really is a great shame."