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Party time at MediaWorks

New season programme launches are hard things for television networks to get right.

The advertising industry expects plenty of razzamatazz, lots of booze and some exciting new TV shows they can entice their clients to buy slots in.

The launches cost a lot of money and network executives devote much time crafting speeches that sell the hype but are not too devoid of substance.

In recent times, the lavishness has been muted by the economic straitjacket that free-to-air Television finds itself in.

But confidence is everything in television and yesterday MediaWorks went all out to show that while the wolves may be hanging around the door they are not gnawing on the bone – just yet.

A smart event and sit-down lunch for about 400 advertising and media types at the Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront would have taken more than $100,000 out of the marketing department’s budget.

The comedy team of Jono and Ben are experienced MCs at these events and their formula of self-parody coupled with crudeness works well, especially as the afternoon wears on.

The duo announced early on that there was some “exciting new shit” to be announced.

In fact, none of it was very exciting but some of it was new.

The announcement of a new channel, Three Life was unexpected.

Its content won’t be a surprise though, we have seen a lot of it before.

The network will run theme nights with topics such as food, DIY and romance. It says it has bought some international hit shows including Bondi Vet.

The line up on MediaWorks’ main channel, Three, is mainly returning shows including the hit, Married at First Sight.

The Block, Grand Designs NZ, Westside and Jono & Ben are all back.

It’s a solid looking line-up that performed well last year and should do the job again.

The network will want Dancing with the Stars to rate through the roof but the announcement of the first two contestants, ACT leader David Seymour and socialite Gilda Kirkpatrick suggests it might be down on celebrity firepower.

Three needs to convince some of its own stars like Sam Hayes, Amanda Gillies, Kanoa Lloyd or Mike McRoberts to sign up, but it is a career risk for news presenters as they could get tagged with a label no journalist wants – lightweight.

News is clearly enjoying some strong support at MediaWorks, particularly since the departure of former CEO Mark Weldon who felt it needed to perform better financially.

Both CEO Michael Anderson and Chairman Jack Matthews have stressed to Newsroom how important Newshub is to the broadcaster.

Today it announced its European correspondent, Tova O’Brien will be Newshub’s new political editor.

Paddy Gower stepped down from the role before Christmas and will have a roving commission to break stories in his new job – national correspondent.

Gower had a part to play into the launch but it was a bizarre one. He took the stage to interview Duncan Grieve, the manging editor of pop culture website TheSpinoff.co.nz

Grieve and Mediaworks are partners in a new programme called The Spinoff TV due to go to air in June.

Gower asked a noticeably nervous Grieve (the pad in his hand was shaking) what the show was about. Grieve struggled to answer but finally said it would be something like a “television version of the website.”

He did come up with best joke of the day though, when Gower asked him who was going to present the show.

“I think it is going to be like the National Party, we will go through a very public audition for a few months and then choose the wrong person.”

Grieve hinted the show would likely run late on a Friday night “when everyone is a bit drunk” (It is also a time when not many people are watching TV) which is interesting given a production company is getting $700,000 of NZ OnAir funding to make 16 episodes of the show.

Earlier in the afternoon MediaWorks unveiled its new corporate logo, receiving a favourable reaction from most of those present.

The new design sweeps away the last vestiges of Mark Weldon’s reign. The controversial CEO had the last logo designed by the same company that designed the wine labels for his Terra Sancta vineyard in Central Otago.

Staff never warmed to it and described it as reminiscent of barbed wire and prisons.

So, was this a good launch? Largely yes, and the fact it was still going threehours after its official finish time of 4.30pm was proof that MediaWorks can still throw a good party.

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