Campbell LiveMany casual observers of the ratings have opined all manner of theories as to what is going on at Mediaworks, particularly in regards to the review of Campbell Live. What is clear is that post the review announcement, viewers have flocked back the show and have regularly made it the most watched thing on TV3 each weeknight. Unfortunately, those viewers have tended to abandon the channel post 7:30pm, leaving TV3 with audience numbers that are much lower than they’d want.

Some have suggested that the discussion around audience retention into the evening was a shifting of the goal posts but this is simply untrue.

In 2009, TV3 told us that the reason they would never move Home and Away from its 5:30pm slot was due to the audience it delivered 3 News. After TV3 lost the Aussie soap, the 3 News audience hasn’t been the same and they’ve never been able to schedule something that delivers the same level of retention at 6:00pm.

The bosses at TV3 have spent up large on big international reality formats for their early evening lineup. The X Factor, The Bachelor, Masterchef and now Dancing With the Stars are all part of this drive. The expense associated with this requires TV3 to be able to draw large enough audiences that makes advertising there a lucrative option. The problem is that they’re simply not delivering.

Up until the review, Campbell Live’s audience figures were down significantly. With the big budget shows on the way, having a 7pm show that wasn’t delivering audience across was clearly going to be challenged. With viewers rallying to support the show, many of whom were advocates of Campbell but simply hadn’t been watching, the resulting influx has created quite the problem for TV3 and their programming decisions.

It is abundantly clear that Campbell Live has an audience. It is also abundantly clear that that audience has no appetite for the type of reality programming that TV3 has been serving up so far this year. So what are they to do?

Irrespective of whether or not the CEO or executives are mates with those in the government, their employment and loyalty is to their shareholders who are demanding results. So what options do they have.

The first, and probably their preferred option, would be to replace Campbell Live with something that would suit their 7:30pm programming. The problem with this is that the audience that TV3 have developed at 7pm over the last decade is highly likely to be alienated, with a percentage of them abandoning the network in protest. Depending on how large that number is, Mediaworks may just not care.

The second option, and what I would be contemplating as a first choice, would be to make some radical changes to TV3 and Four and build some consistent programming for specific audiences across those two channels. At present, TV3 is attempting to be all things to all people. It’s almost as if it is a combination of TV One and TV2. Not that long ago, Mediaworks indicated that it was going to target TV One’s audience. Unfortunately, TV3 also looks like it’s trying to take on TV2 at the same time. The lack of consistency is what I believe is hurting them.

If TV3 were to become Mediaworks’ version of TV One, then all the reality programming could be moved to Four which could be turned into more of a targeted entertainment channel. Four would need to be upgraded to HD and Mediaworks would need to get the channel moved up Sky’s EPG to its rightful place but this approach would give viewers a more compelling proposition than what is currently on the table.

Mediaworks seem Hell bent on pursuing their reality TV thing so the question is, how can they do that and not lose Campbell Live or alienate his audience in the process?

I believe it would be irresponsible of the management to allow that to happen. Undermining a solid foundation of years of good work isn’t going to be anything but detrimental to their current goals.

The thing that TV3 lacks is consistency. What has been the most successful thing TV3 has done? Their comedy line up on Fridays. A consistent block of programming that delivers similar ratings across the entire night. That’s what works.

If TV3 could deliver programming that the Campbell Live audience wanted to stick around for, then to me, that would seem the logical step to be making.

A few years ago, TV One tried to freshen things up a bit and move away from their core identity. It failed and they moved back to the tried and true. If TV3 want to be the serious player that their shareholders are expecting them to be, then the moves they need to be making are to things that work, not things that aren’t.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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  • toby_toby

    Jono and Ben sent Guy Williams to talk to the Save Campbell Live protesters. One lady was quite… umm… vociferous in her opinion. She declared loudly that she has boycotted every programme on TV3 except for Campbell Live. She said she turns her tv on at 7 and turns it off at 7.30.

    She is a terrible advocate for saving Campbell Live. TV3 wants people who watch all their stuff and therefore all their advertising. People like her don’t quite understand what they’re up against.—Save-Campbell-Live/tabid/3692/articleID/111757/MCat/4432/Default.aspx

    • Regan Cunliffe

      This is the exact problem with the protestors. As justified as they might be in voicing their advocacy of the show, TV3 is not the Campbell Live show. Campbell Live only makes up 12.5% of TV3’s 7-11 weeknight TV schedule. If Mediaworks can make that 12.5% deliver greater returns on the other 87.5% of content then you can bet they will. Or, as I’ve suggested, make the other 87.5% more compatible with the existing audience…

      • Maria Hayward

        The problem is, though, that I don’t like the shows that follow Campbell Live. Why should I endure watching them to keep Campbell afloat. If MediaWorks were to put on a show that interests the Campbell viewership afterwards before putting on their usual reality stuff, they may get another hours viewing time…

        • benpaul12

          The viewership numbers tuning-in then tuning-out is just evidence of the eventual manner in which people will watch TV with streaming and entertainment elsewhere. TV1 and TV2 are structured around the idea that you watch all night, what advertisers want, but this model is doomed. That’s why TVNZ invest so heavily in their online platforms (which are very well done) – where you are picking and choosing what to watch. Maybe Campbell Live should actually be considered an excellent stand-alone show for on-demand viewers?

    • Lesley Young

      Tv3 is clearly at a tipping point financially. Will be interesting to see how it plays out with all these Campbell live groupies thinking that saving Campbell live with save the channel. As others have stated he is attracting the older demographic that no body is going after. How could that be any other way when he’s been on air for at least 10 years?

  • Regan what would your thoughts be if MediaWorks shifted their news hour to 6:30pm?

    That would put the back end of the news up against Seven Sharp and push Campbell Live to 7:30pm running up against TVNZ’s varying weekly reality formats (Police Ten-7, Border Patrol, Fair Go etc). That may give viewers the illusion of consistency over TV One as Campbell Live remains a fixture at the time when TV One breaks away from its consistent news/SS block. It would also enable TV3 to not have to find a half hour fill to bridge between 7:30 and 8:00pm before they bring their upcoming reality lineup into play

    Or, is running the news hour neck and neck with TV One too lucrative to pass up? Given that 3 News is regularly outrated by other programs in TV3’s schedule, I’d be surprised if that’s the case.

    • Regan Cunliffe

      It’s a really interesting idea that has been tossed around many times before. A slightly later news hour might work for those stuck in rush hour commuting and I certainly like the idea of programming starting on the hour as opposed to the half hour but what do they do about 5:30pm to 6:30pm still?

      TV One had almost 800k viewers last night so taking a small shift is quite possibly worth the risk. The only problem is that whoever jumps first won’t be jumping alone…

      • Well with all the talk about TV3 putting a nightly soap in somewhere (regardless of whether it will or won’t happen), a 6pm start for a soap would be more highly sought after by viewers than a 6pm start for the news with the whole rush hour thing. MediaWorks might also find there’s a market for a Crowd Goes Wild type show between 5:30 – 6:30, or even a game show like the millionaire style formats typically imported from Aus or the States. Having a full hour to experiment with options would be much better than just 30 minutes in any case, one would think.

  • Shannon Ryan

    I don’t think TV3 would be considering moving their lighter shows to FOUR, because FOUR is already chock-full of shows that cater to a younger audience. Endless repeats of animated comedies is FOUR’s identity, as well as old movies and live action comedies – which seems to work really well. TV3 actually need to retain their current programming as they have nothing to fall back on. Yes their Friday comedy block is the highlight – which is light entertainment! So the reality competition shows fit in perfectly with this mould.

    The problem is consistency. Most other nights are a mixture of current affairs shows and dramas with reality shows thrown in the middle. These just simply need to be split apart, and anchoring Campbell Live to lead the more serious programming later in the evening is the obvious choice. That way, you could start light entertainment programming at 7pm and have it go for a couple of hours to retain that type of audience. 3 News is fine where it is because as the show goes on, it transitions into light features like sport and weather. So really it’s not about the content – just the time slots.

    • Regan Cunliffe

      Perhaps, but Four rates significantly less than TV3 does. If both Four and TV3 were rating the same, that would be a marked improvement.

      • Shannon Ryan

        Well The X Factor NZ and The Bachelor NZ are almost over now – which seem to be the reality-competition shows that draw more of the younger audience. Upcoming MasterChef NZ and Dancing with the Stars are more in tune with TV One’s audience (having both been on the channel previously) so I think this will provide TV3 with better direct competition to TV One.

        But with ratings for all the crime dramas and 3rd Degree down significantly, I think having Campbell Live screen immediately beforehand would really help the ratings for the later evening programming. This move also allows for a point of difference to all the other 7pm options, where MasterChef and DWTS would fit in nicely. Now that The Blacklist and CSI are finished, I would love to see crossover-friendly SVU, Chicago PD and Chicago Fire do well at 9:30. Additionally 3rd Degree could go back to an hour instead of this shocking idea of combining with 3 News on Sunday.

  • Simon Green

    I think Mediaworks trying to clone One and TV2 would be a bad mistake. In Australia, the digital channels (e.g. 7mate, 7two, Go and GEM) regularly rate around the 4-5% each night.

    Four does its job as a youth channel, as an alternative to the ‘mainstream’ programming of the three main channels. Unfortunately for them, the youth are now consuming media in other ways.

    I watch Campbell Live each night, but the shows at 7:30pm don’t interest me (other than Jono and Ben). There is so much other choice at 7:30pm.

  • Mr Guess

    They do need new content on FOUR. It feels like they’re letting it slip (like the original TV4), as they try to ‘fix’ TV3. I only watch Sitcoms on FOUR, no laugh-tracks or dumb one-liners. Nothing has really replaced HIMYM yet, or South Park (stuck with old ep’s forever?), or Misfits, The Riches, Heroes, that funny 1-season cop show in 2013, Always Sunny in Philli, I could go on…. less movies, more ‘alternative’ comedies/dramas please!

  • Gabrielle Pearson

    It always seems strange to me to be talking about lead-ins. I just watch programmes that I want to watch, no matter what time they are on. On tv3 I’m watching Blacklist and NCIS at the moment. I watch tv one news, but after reading the news on the internet, it is becoming less relevant. I could easily give it up.

    • benpaul12

      Exactly and that’s where TV is heading with streaming anyway, pick and choose with less advertising (and less crap).

  • Lesley Young

    Thanks for an interesting analysis of tv3s predicament. I don’t think they can win, viewers that watch the news aren’t the same demographic that watch the reality shows. I used to think that tv3 had some very good serious programmes eg the Nation was good when Plunket presented it, 3rd degree. I liked Paul Henry at night but not his morning show. The lights seem too bright on the morning show. Their news always seems under funded and like it’s been produced by a bunch of 23 year olds. Mysky and the Internet has made a big difference to my viewing habits. I just skip through the ads with mysky recorded stuff. We buy an Nba league pass and watch that over the Internet. So we are even watch sky less. Don’t watch Campbell Live, can’t stand his presenting style. It grates.