By REBECCA BARRY
It's no surprise TV One's new late-news show Tonight is up against TV3's 10.30pm Nightline. But One News reporters should expect a bit of in-house rivalry, too.
Tonight co-presenter Eric Young says he's most looking forward to "seeing how six o'clock does things and knowing we can do them better."
No doubt TVNZ's head of news and current affairs, and former Nightline political commentator Bill Ralston will be watching to see if this is the case as the programme makes its debut tonight.
Young will present the half-hour nightly bulletin with Kate Hawkesby, who is used to rising at 4.30am to host the two-hour Breakfast programme. Like Nightline, Tonight will wrap up the day's news, and cover arts and entertainment stories often overlooked at six o'clock.
"What we'd really like to do is establish that late-night spot again," says Young. "It has essentially been handed to Nightline for a very, very long time."
While critics moan that Nightline has swung from ballsy to conservative over the years, it has cinched about 35 per cent channel share of all those aged over 5.
Of TV3's 18-49 demographic, an average of 28 per cent tune in on a nightly basis. In the meantime, TVNZ's ratings have been as inconsistent as its line-up and those who missed the six o'clock news could get a mere five-minute run-down on Late Edition at 10.30pm.
The commitment to entertainment and the entire half-hour is not only TVNZ's bid for younger viewers but its answer to those who argue there is greater support of the arts on the rival channel.
And while producer Greg Boyed says TV One is "certainly not emulating TV3 or using Nightline as a template", he says the difference between the two programmes will be the involvement of its presenters.
"Both Kate and Eric are going to be very hands-on. They're going to be able to get some of themselves over in the presentation as well as in the stories they do. Both came here as journalists. Eric has a really broad sports background and Kate's got a news background as well."
It should be noted Tonight has employed a full-time reporter and that Nightline presenter Carolyn Robinson is a trained journalist who also contributes to stories.
The stories themselves will not make this a magazine-style late show as has been predicted but there will be items that are not strictly classified as news, such as film and DVD reviews.
In tonight's broadcast, there will probably be a segment on Friday's Big Day Out.
As a straight news item, even yesterday it was as old as the hills yet if it is presented in a magazine style it could work, much as TV2 youth news programme Flipside's excellent coverage of the Lord of the Rings premiere a couple of weeks after the event. Likewise, Hawkesby and Young are known to indulge in on-screen repartee.
"You can't screw with the news," says Young, "and you can't trivialise it by inflicting personality on it. That doesn't mean there's no room for comment, that doesn't mean there's no room for having a bit of fun, it doesn't mean there are not interesting people in news, and all of those things that six o'clock doesn't really have the time or opportunity or motivation to really do. And those are the things I quite like doing.
"We will be more relaxed than six o'clock, we will use more relaxed language, we will use a more relaxed style, a more relaxed set."
Still, it won't be so relaxed that you'll drift off over your mug of Milo, he promises. Young worked on Nightline when it first started but now finds it "safe, comfortable".
"I remember the first time Nightline went to air - my God, that was exciting - because that was taking a trip into the unknown," he says. "All those unknowns are now being forgotten. It's not the Nightline that earned its spurs all that time ago.
"In no way do we want to be compared with Nightline. We won't be comparing anything other than the ratings."
Where and when: TV One 10.40pm week nights