Original Kiwi television has dropped to its lowest level in five years, as the main networks turn to cheaper reruns to prop up their local content.
New Zealand on Air’s latest report shows the total hours of Kiwi content have remained stable, but the amount of fresh content has fallen for the fifth straight year.
Reruns are bulking up the numbers, particularly on Maori Television, which has expanded its broadcasting hours but filled the new slots with repeats of language learning programmes.
NZ on Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said the drop showed broadcasters were spending less on new productions and reflected the continuing fallout from the global financial crisis.
“The underlying trend is a slow reduction in first hours and that is a bit worrisome,” she said.
Much of the reduction was linked to cuts in news and information shows, such as axing the weekend editions of TV One’s Breakfast, and networks were increasingly cautious about new shows.
“There is dependence on fully funded local productions . . . Without us, it would be much worse.”
Lippy Pictures co-owner Paula Boock, who was behind high-end TV dramas such as Tangiwai – A Love Story, said that fewer new local shows were inevitable when funding was static and production costs were rising.
“There is a struggle to make good high-end Kiwi drama because it costs big money and we are in a risk-averse environment.”
However, there were also new opportunities online, which would develop into a much bigger part of the industry. “But at moment, we are in a period of flux.”
Gibson Group chief executive Victoria Spackman said she had noticed a rise in the number of reruns.
“Some programmes they seem to try to repeat without the audience noticing.”
Less money for programming was the “new normal”, and production companies needed to focus sharply on attracting the biggest ratings.
“All the broadcasters are supportive and understand the importance of local content, but if there is not much money around they need to do some hard numbers.”
The report shows TV One had the biggest drop in new local content last year, although the channel still aired more than any other major competitor.
The TV One drop was largely linked to cutting Breakfast and afternoon news shows during the weekend, while TV2 cut its Maori programming.
TVNZ’s Andrew Shaw said both channels were still focused on quality new Kiwi content but with a greater emphasis on primetime.
“There has been a shift to put more investment into primetime and less into volume,” he said.