The downsizing of our largest local TV broadcasters has been well publicised, and the hundreds of redundancies recently announced between TVNZ and Warner Bros. Discovery NZ are a heartbreaking blow for all of New Zealand.

This is the devastating result of two key factors, the first being the migration of audiences to digital platforms. The number of people watching linear (live broadcasts) on TV has been in decline for many years now, as you will know from thinking about your own viewing habits. People have become used to controlling when and how they watch content on their own terms, with the ability to view anywhere on a phone or laptop computer, the emergence of the streaming platforms like Netflix, and the proliferation of Smart TV’s, all meaning less people, particularly young people, tuning in to linear TV broadcasts. Then, of course, there is the impact of the global tech companies, including Google and Facebook, who have been using local news content in their social channels without regulation or compensation to the local platforms – we have become used to turning to our phones for news and less reliant on seeking news on TV.

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The other contributing factor is the recessionary economy, which has hit the TV advertising market particularly hard – ASA figures have recently revealed that 2023 was down $74 million in TV advertising in New Zealand, which is the biggest year-on-year drop (-14.3%) since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008/2009. TV advertising has become somewhat of a luxury in an environment of reduced marketing budgets, with brands trading down to less expensive, arguably less effective, mass awareness advertising channels.

Come 6th July 2024 we will have markedly different TV programming on air in New Zealand. On TVNZ1 Fair Go, Sunday, plus Midday news and Tonight news bulletins, will have ended in mid-May. Over on Three, Newshub’s 6pm news bulletin, The AM Show, and local 7pm current affairs (The Project having been cancelled in December) will all have ceased broadcast. Shortland Street is at risk on TVNZ2, and Warner Bros. Discovery have advised that production cutbacks will also affect many other popular local shows, including The Traitors NZ, The Block NZ and Married At First Sight NZ; exactly what that means is to be confirmed, but the upshot of all this is that there will be a lot less local content on our screens.

What this will mean for audiences is that live sport and what little local news, local current affairs & local reality/entertainment shows that remain will still deliver a substantial number of linear TV viewers. However, people are unlikely to watch as much linear TV as they do currently, as there will be significantly less of these options available for them.

For advertisers, TV will remain important due to its brand building potential (vs Social or YouTube) – ads on TV being more likely to be remembered for longer, commanding more attention, and being a safe space for brands due to premium content alignment and viewing occurring on large TV screens vs smaller mobile phone or laptop screens.* It will, however, increase the importance of taking a broader screens approach in planning video campaigns to combat the further fragmentation of viewing – linear TV will need to be supported by Broadcast Video On Demand (TVNZ+ and ThreeNow) and Digital Video across YouTube and other platforms in order to reach mass audiences cost effectively.

Live sport also becomes increasingly important to reach TV audiences, and local broadcasters will be hoping for regulatory changes to our rule prohibiting TV advertising on Sunday mornings, whilst those restrictions don’t apply online. This currently impacts their ability to bid for and win broadcast rights to major sporting events, such as the last Rugby World Cup where games fell on a Sunday morning New Zealand time, as they are unable to fully commercialise them with advertising.

Another implication for advertisers will be the reduced environments for integration into content. An effective TV sponsorship, which will work hard to increase awareness and favourability of your brand with viewers, involves so much more than a “Brought to you by…” badge in the opening and closing credits. With less local content being produced, there will be fewer partnership opportunities for brands to integrate their products or services and key messages into shows, so these are likely to be in high demand due to their effectiveness.

Here at Contagion, we will continue to monitor the developments to the media landscape and approach our media planning in an agile manner, whilst continuing to support our local publishers and broadcasters who provide such an important voice for New Zealanders.


*Source: Professor Karen Nelson-Field Benchmark Series Nov 2021


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