NZ on Air’s $700,000 experiment

NZ on Air and Spinoff TV

COMMENT: The funder of public broadcasting programmes, NZ on Air, is defending its $700,000 spend on the troubled The Spinoff TV current affairs series by pointing to its online content through the week, not just the televised 23-minute programme which has rated poorly.

NZ on Air chief executive Jane Wrightson wrote for Newsroom today that The Spinoff TV's relegation down the Friday night schedule on TV3 from a 9.45pm start to now play from 10.45pm was of no moment. "For some time now it hasn’t really mattered what time content originally screens."

The Spinoff TV attracted just 35,000 viewers in TV3's target 25-54 demographic again last week, down from 70,000 at launch a month beforehand and achieving its lowest audience share, at 9.6, so far in the Nielsen ratings. In the total audience aged 5+, the programme notched its lowest total of 57,000 from the launch night of 114,000.

It was demoted to the later slot but NZ on Air and TV3 both argued the 10.45pm start would be a positive, helping it to consolidate. Which begs the question: why don't more shows start their lives in the graveyard hours?

But NZ on Air also argues its funding was for a hybrid - TV but also online content.

Its head of communications, Allanah Kalafatelis, said: "If there's an NZ on Air logo on it, it's part of the content made for The Spinoff TV

"This is a key part of the project - the intention is to reach a young, more socially-engaged audience than would normally be reached with a pure made-for-TV project."

The Spinoff's own website does not seem to highlight the NZ on Air logo anywhere obvious - it has a house ad that links to the TV3 site where episodes can be viewed - and its Twitter account is largely silent on the NZ on Air branded material other than encouraging people to watch on a Friday night. NZ on Air says material is most easily found on Facebook.

The Spinoff has a big Facebook following (72,000) and its feed does feature some video clips, photos and items from the show.

Kalafatelis says in addition, content created for The Spinoff website through the week is also "fed into the show" for Friday nights.

NZ on Air says it monitors the online audience performance. "We do ask for reporting at certain milestones on online content."

And the hybrid experiment will be reviewed once the 16-part series is complete. "That performance review informs how we view future applications."

Rachel the Builder

Former television and radio broadcaster Rachel Smalley has moved into a growth business - joining the Government's new unit set up to deliver the KiwiBuild housing programme, as manager of stakeholder engagement and communications.

The KiwiBuild unit is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and will drive the house build plans until a new Housing Commission is established to take long-term ownership of the Labour government's flagship residential building plan.

Smalley, a former TV3 and TVNZ reporter and presenter, stepped down from her Early Edition radio slot before the Mike Hosking Breakfast on NewstalkZB at the end of last year and joined the Head of Kiwibuild, Stephen Barclay, in the unit this month. Barclay is a former chief executive of the San Francisco America's Cup Events Authority.

The step into a sensitive policy communications role direct from daily radio is seen as a challenge by PR veterans, given the high degree of political scrutiny expected on KiwiBuild.

This column erroneously touted Smalley as a possible replacement for John Campbell on Radio NZ's Checkpoint programme from September. Applications for that job closed Friday and RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said: "As you’d expect there is a lot of interest in what is one of the best media jobs around. It is likely to take several weeks to make the appointment."

An official insight into the OIA

One government department accidentally circulated a list of the categories of Official Information Act requests that are deemed to require special care. They are almost all predictable but the breadth of requests that must be signalled to the executive suite is wide:

- ones the minister's office will respond to

- media applications

- opposition party requests

- those which seek correspondence to or from the minister's office

- requests on 'risky topics'.

The email reminding officials these need extra care did not say what 'risky topics' were, but it is safe to assume they might have party political implications.

Website audiences

Latest Nielsen online audience figures for news websites show a big gap opening at the top between and its perennial challenger

The June unique monthlies put Stuff at just over the magical two million mark, at 2,083,000 readers and the Herald site more than 400,000 back on 1,677,000. This is the biggest margin for Stuff over the Herald for years, with the two big newspaper companies' sites having been as close as 112,000 readers three months ago.

The Herald is preparing to start charging readers a subscription to view its Premium and In-Depth content from the end of the year, so its move away from putting everything on being the biggest news site in the market needs to be seen in that context. It is devoting journalists and time and space to slower, original, higher value news while for now trying to keep pace and match impact with Stuff.

The June numbers saw several sites lose audience numbers from May - TVNZ, Newshub, RNZ and The Spinoff all falling as winter arrived. Perhaps the strongest performer, relative to its market, is the Otago Daily Times, which rose again, and while leader of the smaller players it targets its own southern territory assiduously, with a strong online reach in that market.

The numbers (Nielsen notes figures for the smaller sites, including Newsroom can jump around because of sample sizes):

Stuff 2083k -- ( 2121k, May)

NZH 1677k -- (1829k)

TVNZ 794k -- (826k)

Newshub 751k -- (857k)

RNZ 427k -- (467k)

ODT 225k -- (216k)

Spinoff 158k -- (180k)

Newsroom 114k -- (70k)

NBR 88k -- (87k)

Noted 81k --(54k)

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