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Traditional TV is Where the Kids Are

Calling all media pundits. Get ready for a surprise. 83% of all New Zealanders watch traditional television every day and only 6% watch Online TV!

Why am I excited about this? Because I am surrounded by pundits, friends, bloggers and Ministers of Broadcasting who insist that all the kids are watching online TV, not traditional television.

Craig Foss watches Apple TV and creates policy that assumes everyone else does; most of my television mates watch DVDs and downloads; everyone else I meet has stopped watching television because it’s so terrible. They all say “Why worry about TV? Everyone is watching video on the internet and no-one cares about old channels any more”.

But this week NZ on Air released research confirming what I have long believed. That the traditional television channels are hugely important still, and continue to be in the future. Each day 83% of all Kiwis watch the regular television channels compared to just 30% who click on YouTube and a mere 6% watching Online TV such as Apple TV and Netflix. Audiences may be time-shifting but they are still watching old-school, traditional television en masse. And that is where our broadcasting policy needs to be tightly focussed.

Sadly the current broadcasting policy is all about content, content, content, content at the expense of channels. The result is an abundance of programmes for ‘Household Shoppers aged 18 to 49’ and practically nothing for anyone else, especially in primetime. Does this government not understand how commercial television works? Or do they actually want to fail most Kiwis watching television?

They were wrong about TVNZ7 viewer numbers, they were wrong that most TVNZ7 programmes would continue on other channels, and they were wrong about how Kiwis watch television. That eliminates all the government’s excuses for closing down TVNZ 7. And this new research contradicts the logic behind current broadcasting policy - that audiences are moving away from traditional television and will watch content wherever it’s available. Audiences are habitual, fickle and diverse. Like most things in life, they don’t fit the simple market model of supply and demand, and neither should our broadcasting policy.

Either the government confesses to trying to ruin public service broadcasting, or they admit they have no idea how the industry works and ask around for some better ideas. But don’t ask the pundits who only know their own viewing habits. Do the research, ask audiences what they want, and get ready to be surprised.


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