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2020 is a watershed year in time for the screen industry because of COVID and the Level 4 lockdown we endured.

New Zealand On Air’s latest ‘Where Are The Audiences’ research was conducted during May and June, when we had come out of Level 4 and were in Levels 2 and 1.

Although potentially skewed because of COVID and possibly having an irreversible effect when it comes to content viewership that’s too early to truly gauge, the results make interesting reading, and potentially signal the writing is on the wall for free-to-air TV2 with its target audience of 18 – 49-year-olds.

Two’s popularity with all New Zealanders 15+ showed a continued decline from 27% in 2014 to 14% in 2020. More telling is that from 2018 when the survey was last conducted to now, The channel’s popularity declined by 7%, its biggest drop for the two-year periods across which the surveys have been conducted since 2014.

The research indicates that 2020 is the crossover point between traditional media and digital media for attracting the biggest daily audiences of New Zealanders overall with YouTube video now the most popular site, station or channel. But for 15 – 39-year-olds, a large part of Two’s audience, that crossover point occurred in 2018 or earlier.

Exacerbating the problem for Two is the increased adoption of digital media by those aged 40 – 59, containing the remaining chunk of the channel’s audience. This 40 – 59 age group is moving away from free-to-air TV and towards SVOD, OnDemand, and other digital options.

2020 would seem to be the cross over point for the 40 – 59 year-old shift from traditional to digital media.

On the bright side for TVNZ, OnDemand popularity is increasing, rising from 7% in 2014 to 21% in 2020.

Coincidentally, the percentage increase in popularity of OnDemand is essentially the same as the decrease in popularity of TV2 at 6 – 7%.

The younger demographics are digital natives or early digital adopters and as time passes the older age groups are utilising digital more on more. While free-to-air viewing remains stable, you’ve got to wonder how much more of a decline Two can take with its core demographic before it becomes unsustainable for TVNZ, who are contributing to Two’s audience cannibalisation with TVNZ OnDemand.

We’ll likely know come the next survey results in 2022.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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New Zealand On Air’s Where Are the Audiences? 2018 Report makes for interesting reading.

If you haven’t already seen it, the key findings for the screen industry are:

  • Weekly audiences for traditional broadcast media are stable, and continue to deliver the biggest audiences.
    – But the gap to online video and SVOD is closing.
  • The weekly reach of SVOD has nearly doubled since 2016 – now reaching more than 6 in 10 people.
  • On a daily basis, linear TV has declined – driven by a fall in Sky TV penetration (Free-to-air actually grew 9%.)
  • Daily more people view videos on sites like YouTube and Facebook than read a newspaper.
  • On Demand viewing is stable but there’s a growing use of this as a content source, as opposed to catch up viewing.
  • New Zealanders still spend the most time each day on traditional broadcast media – 2.5 hrs watching linear TV, 1.5 hrs listening to radio, compared to 62 minutes on SVOD.
  • There’s significant behaviour difference between under 40s and over 45s, but the generation gap is closing as older New Zealanders adopt new tech.

So what does this mean for public broadcasting, particularly as it relates to TVNZ and Radio New Zealand?

As Sky subscriptions fall there has been a positive effect on free-to-air TV, particularly the daily reach of TV One. Conversely, the daily reach of TV2 and TV3 is declining dramatically, while Prime remains steady and Maori TV shows slight growth.

TV One is definitely the strongest TV brand and will, therefore, be the biggest revenue earner in the free-to-air space. Their On Demand offering is working, as attested to by the growth it’s achieving. Two though is languishing and looks to be going the way of Four, which is over and out, as does TV3.

TV One is the dominant free-to-air player as a commercial entity, much to the chagrin of Mediaworks CEO Michael Anderson who is doing his best to convince anyone who will listen that TV One should be turned into a public broadcaster. He knows the writing’s on the wall if he doesn’t get the changes he wants. But should One become the public broadcaster? Or would it be better to be flicked while its star is at least glimmering. There again is the elephant-in-the-room question of what to do about a public screen broadcaster.

Radio NZ is holding its own as a radio station. While Radio NZ’s daily reach is dropping, its audience share remains strong and it’s the single most popular radio station. RNZ is also increasing its online video content offering, which has been strengthened by the extra funding for commissioned programming recently announced.

Does TVNZ’s On Demand success hold the answer? As would be expected, SVOD’s weekly reach is up dramatically according to the report, and TVNZ On Demand is showing growth, not just for Catch Up but also as a content source.

If Radio NZ had a digital On Demand platform that offered a significant content source for ‘free-to-air’ programming and built its eyeball numbers to rival or surpass TVNZ’s On Demand, then we’d be in a place where quality programming could access NZ On Air funding without the commercial imperative that controls what does and doesn’t get made currently.

I’m clearly better on the questions than the answers, but I’m certainly not the only one trying to figure out how to take advantage of the global changes sweeping the TV industry that still haven’t really arrived here.

If you’ve got some bright ideas, let me know.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director