Media works dumps TV4
And then were more... reality TV shows on offer.
Mediaworks will close the youth-oriented channel FOUR in July and replace it with a new reality TV channel. Bravo will screen reality shows such as Million Dollar Listing, Top Chef, Shahs of Sunset, Flipping Out and The Real Housewives.
Mediaworks' under-fire chief executive Mark Weldon says New Zealand is "very low" in broadcast hours for reality television.
While its news division is in turmoil after a string of exits headlined by star news anchor Hilary Barry, Mediaworks is focusing on producing more reality TV by forming a new company, Bravo New Zealand.
MediaWorks CEO Mark Weldon.
It's a partnership with NBCUniversal - which distributes shows such as Keeping up with the Kardashians, Million Dollar Listing and Real Housewives. It provides content to 176 territories worldwide, across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific.
Days after Barry resigned - in what some commentators have called the 'last straw' for MediaWorks' news and current affairs operation - Weldon sat down with journalists to talk about the future of "premium unscripted programming".
BEVAN READ/FAIRFAX NZ
It's all change at MediaWorks.
He declined to comment on problems at MediaWorks, which has lost a large number of long-time employees in the 18 months since he took the top job.
Last night, board chairman Rod McGeoch endorsed Weldon's position as CEO, saying he had the board's "full support".
The Real Housewives of New York City is an incredibly popular Bravo show.
"We have to change and we are changing," said McGeoch. "We have a clear strategy for this, led by our CEO."
The first local offering on the channel, The Real Housewives of Auckland, launches in August.
Weldon said MediaWorks had identified a gap in the market for female-oriented reality programming, which tends to engender loyal and passionate fans.
You can expect more of this coming to a screen near you: Gina Liano of the Real Housewives of Melbourne.
"We strongly believe that the specialist focus on audiences that are loyal is the right way for us to go.
"We have a few reality format shows — The Bachelor, The Block, we've done Dancing With the Stars — but in terms of total hours per year compared to other markets, the UK, the US, Australia, we're actually very low in the genre," Weldon said.
"There was scepticism when we launched The Bachelor —who's going to watch it and who's going to talk about it — and I think you only need look at the Herald and Stuff and the number of stories on them," said Weldon, commenting on the value of highly engaging "talk-able content".
The Bachelor has been a hit for MediaWorks, and proven there is an appetite for even more reality TV, says CEO Mark Weldon.
"That was a very good trial for these types of significant investments."
He also said that FOUR's youth focus had been identified as a problem because young people don't watch television the way older people do.
"The other trend is that free-to-air is gaining in strength. As the country has a little less Sky, a little more Freeview, the opportunity grows," said Weldon.
MediaWorks' star Hilary Barry meets Oprah Winfrey.
Chris Taylor, the managing director for NBC Universal's New Zealand and Australian distribution and networks, said Bravo's programming appealed to the "household shopper demographic", namely women with children. He described it as an "adult" network.
Taylor said there was further opportunity for the production of local versions of some of the Bravo mastheads, as is the case with The Real Housewives of Auckland.
Paul Henry is known to have great affection for the departing Hilary Barry.