TVNZ will expand its public broadcasting channel TVNZ 7 and launch a new commercial free-to-air youth-targeted channel in March 2011.
TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis said today the expanded TVNZ 7 channel would add a number of viewer favourites including pre-school children’s programmes from the current TVNZ 6 channel to its schedule.
Mr Ellis said TVNZ 6 would be discontinued in March and the transmission frequency used for the new commercial advertiser-supported youth channel.
Unlike TVNZ’s other channels and operations, TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 have been Crown funded. The $79 million over five years for the channels is due to expire in the 2011-12 financial year. Both were funded to encourage Freeview uptake and New Zealanders to move to digital television.
The Government had asked TVNZ for a plan to continue two channels on Freeview past the expiry of the funding. The accepted proposal is that one of the frequencies be commercialised and funded from advertising and the other continue to be publicly funded as a public broadcasting channel at least until the end of the current funding.
He said as well as a two hour pre-school children’s block, the expanded TVNZ 7 would have family-skewed information programmes and a commitment to arts and cultural programmes. The hourly news updates and the hour long “News At 8” would continue, along with popular programmes like Back Benches and Media7.
“The expanded TVNZ 7 is the best of both existing channels and will continue to offer advertising free television with programmes that are often difficult to see on commercial channels.”
TVNZ Head of Digital Channels, Eric Kearley said the new youth channel would be a first for New Zealand broadcasting, focussing on “social television” for 15 to 24 year olds.
The programmes on the youth channel would be a combination of reality and factual entertainment. But, importantly, the channel would exist both on air and online with the opportunity for new kinds of interactivity so audiences could use it to connect and socialise with each other.
The youth channel would be broadcast from midday to midnight. It was likely to have a daily live hosted show and themed nights such as extreme sports and concerts. Eight hours in the schedule would be first run content.
“There’s a group of young New Zealanders not being served by traditional free to air television and we believe a well conceived youth channel will be able to connect with them.
“MTV has closed its New Zealand operations and C4 is changing to an older skewed channel so there is an audience and advertisers who want to talk with them.”
Mr Kearley said the announcements on the details of the channel, including its name, would be made early next year.