New Zealand MediaWorks yesterday announced its plans to sell the TV portion of the business, including Three, ThreeLife and The Edge TV.
The channel has produced a range of shows, entertaining Kiwi audiences for 30 years. It recently announced the axing of Married at First Sight NZ, comedy New Zealand Today and trimmed 7 Days from 32 to 12 episodes.
It has also been home to The Real Housewives of Auckland, My Kitchen Rules NZ, Westside, The Block NZ, The Almighty Johnsons, Outrageous Fortune, MasterChef New Zealand and more. MediaWorks journalists were told the news just minutes before a press release went out on Friday morning.
The company’s Flower Street property, which houses its head office and studios, will also be put up for sale. Hundreds of jobs could be lost if a buyer is not found.
CEO Michael Anderson recently talked of the challenges facing television in 2019, from the structural advantage of its rival (TVNZ recently told the government it would no longer pay a dividend, and expected to make a loss in 2020), the advertising challenge of Google and Facebook and the audience shift away from linear television more broadly.
But the NZ government is apparently not willing to change the timeframe of its review into New Zealand broadcasting.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern repeatedly referred to the MediaWorks announcement about the planned sale of its TV business as a commercial decision.
“A commercial decision has been made today,” she said. “Obviously, that does create a period of uncertainty for a number of people working for MediaWorks and so I just really want to acknowledge that.”
When asked if it was a level playing field when TVNZ was allowed to run at a loss, Ardern said the Government was not putting funding into the day-to-day operations of TVNZ “and I think that’s important to keep in mind”.
“No doubt we have had a changing media environment globally for some time and a commercial decision has been made and that ultimately is a commercial decision for the operator,” she said. “The work that we’ve been doing as a Government is to try and strengthen public broadcasting. Of course, we need strong journalism in New Zealand. That public broadcasting element is the area where the Government’s been focused on but what’s been announced today essentially, that is a commercial decision for a commercial player.”
Amongst the potential buyers suggested are Australia’s Seven and Nine, NZME, Sky, or investment funds similar to the current owner -U.S. company Oaktree Capital Management, which was once one of two hedge funds which owned Nine.
MediaWorks plans to retain ownership of radio and outdoor media company QMS.