Mediaweek New Zealand: News, August 4 2017

Mediaweek writer John Drinnan rounds up the media news in the NZ market

TVNZ appointment

Kym Niblock has been appointed chief product and information officer at TVNZ. Niblock was previously the chief executive at the subscription video-on-demand service Lightbox owned by the dominant telco Spark. She left last September amid restructuring of the service. TVNZ CEO Kevin Kenrick said Niblock was responsible for growing Foxtel’s IPTV business in Australia and was head of broadcast operations for Sky UK. She starts at TVNZ on Monday.


Accounting firm EY is expected to soon break its silence over the future of its business journalism awards. News media companies – including National Business Review, NZME and Fairfax – have withdrawn entries over EY quashing a story about one of its clients. Business writer Rebecca Macfie withdrew as judge saying one entry was not going to be recognised “because of the problems fall-out from the story was creating for EY”. The article by former National Business Review reporter Karyn Scherer alleged accounting irregularities at the New Zealand operations of a multinational. EY has refused to comment for more than a week. The row has raised questions about whether the awards can be revived this year, or in the future.

Weta Digital

Wellington digital effects studio Weta Digital has begun work on four Avatar sequels, following on from the original move that earned $2.7 billion on the global box office. Producer James Cameron, who lives near Weta part owner Peter Jackson in the rural Wairarapa district, said that since making the first Avatar, “Weta continued to prove themselves as doing the best CG animation, the most human, the most alive, with the most photo-realistic effects in the world.”

Avatar producer Jon Landau said the four sequels “promise to be even more ambitious than the first film”. Weta’s Director Joe Letteri added, “The four Avatar sequels are being filmed simultaneously, with pre-Christmas releases scheduled for 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025.”

NZ On Air

New Zealand On Air is funding a non-commercial website aimed at children aged five to nine. The website is taxpayer funded through New Zealand On Air and managed by TVNZ. It is aimed at children who are watching less broadcast TV. The site will launch in March. No name has been chosen yet.

Election Campaign

The upcoming election looks set to be a boon for Kiwi media. Local media questions about new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern‘s baby plans sent traditional and social media into a spin. Three’s The Project set the ball rolling with frontman Jesse Mulligan’s authorised question of his pal, the 37-year-old leader of the Opposition. Next day AM Breakfast show sports host and former Test cricketer Mark Richardson asked less politely and was firmly told off, amidst attacks from feminists. Headlines and outrage followed globally including mentions in The Guardian and The New York Times. Ardern made a splash eight weeks short of the September 23 election. The new fizz has been gratefully received by media who were primed for a dull campaign.

PR Victory

Sky TV has suffered a tough year since its merger proposal with Vodafone was knocked back by the Commerce Commission. It is under pressure from sports customers and journalists who complain about high rates and its dominance of sports rights. Chief executive John Fellet enjoyed a publicity pick-me-up when Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said his favourite possession was his Sky remote.


Maori TV staff are accentuating the positive from Nielsen TAB ratings for televising the annual Matariki awards for Maori achievement. The estimated audience for the primetime show was 900, though the broadcaster estimates that another 4,100 watched online. Even on that basis, a $100,000 taxpayer subsidy meant it cost $20 per viewer. The public broadcaster faces challenges with the early departure of CEO Paora Maxwell and the move to new studios at the end of the month.

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