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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

TVNZ v Warner Bros. Discovery New Zealand: Comparing their 2023 programming line-ups – Stuff

ANALYSIS: As the streaming landscape shifts once again via cheaper, ad-supported options and new players, as well as the threat of more big global companies entering the New Zealand market, our two main television broadcasters face challenging times.
Both also have their own internal issues, TVNZ just months away from an enforced merger with Radio New Zealand and Warner Bros Discovery New Zealand wondering how their parent company’s cost-cutting might affect them and when they will finally be able to unleash the full power of the Warner-Discovery empire’s potentially vast catalogue of programming options on the Aotearoa audience.
With both recently having launched their 2023 slates, Stuff to Watch has run the rule over their offerings to see how they compare – and who might be best placed to keep viewers watching linear TV (as the Black Ferns have proved over the last couple of weekends, there is still an audience more than willing to tune in) and keep or enhance their share of the Kiwi streaming pie.
* TVNZ reveals MKR’s return and a double dose of Celebrity Treasure Island for 2023
* Why Kiwi viewers will have less Choice on free-to-air TV from next week
* What’s at stake in RNZ-TVNZ merger: a competitor’s view

While polarising audiences, there’s no doubting that reality shows and competitions are the programming that get viewers talking and tuning in. So it’s no surprise that both TVNZ and WB Discovery are investing heavily in them once again for 2023.
Bake Off, Lego Masters and Snack Masters’ return to the state broadcaster are unsurprising and an NZ-version of The Dog House was perhaps inevitable (and surely a ratings-winner), but the return of MKR New Zealand for the first time since 2018 feels like a desperate move and a double-dose of Treasure Island could end up backfiring – especially the Fans v Faves edition where the former appear to have been hand-selected by the producers, rather than the result of casting call.
Even more interesting though is TVNZ’s decision to move away from anything resembling a dating show (although perhaps understandable given the furore surrounding FBoy Island), instead debuting a kind of Down For Love spin-off in Four Go Flatting and creating a local version of The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes (a UK series about an eatery staffed by people living with dementia).
WB Discovery also appear to have read the room on waning interest in televisual romance, with only a Kiwi version of Couples Therapy amongst their prospective line-up. It’s part of eclectic mix that also includes The Traitors NZ (a show that sounds distinctly like a riff on The Mole), the Jaquie Brown-hosted balloon artistry competition Blow Up and the delayed arrival of South Island hide-and-seek show Tracked, hosted by former Wales international footballer Vinnie Jones.
Perhaps most interesting though is what’s not on WB Discovery’s list – despite confirming both The Block NZ and Match Fit’s return, so far there’s no room for Dancing with the Stars, The Masked Singer or MasterChef NZ (although word is no decision has been made on the last one just yet).
The area where WB Discovery has had a significant edge over TVNZ for many years now and 2023 looks like no exception. While the state broadcaster can only boast returning seasons of Patriot Brains, Educators, Kid Sister and Have You Been Paying Attention, WB Discovery not only has more 7 Days, but also Sam Wang’s Homebound 3.0, the Chris Parker and Alice Snedden-penned Double Parked and Guy Montgomery’s Spelling Bee (which could either be genius, or a nightmare akin to Are You Smarter Than a 10-Year-Old?).
Discovery were silent though on the fate of New Zealand Today, or any of the programmes they piloted on Thursday nights over the last few months – Comedians Giving Lectures, Tom Sainbury’s Love Hour and Rabble Rousers.
While the return of the critically-acclaimed Creamerie is likely to be one of the local TV events of the year, it’s the battle of the Robyn Malcolm shows that is perhaps the most intriguing. In the WB Discovery corner, there’s true-crime story Far North (which also stars Temuera Morrison), while TVNZ boasts crime thriller After the Party.
The pair’s seemingly balanced line-up also features WB Discovery’s one-two of post-earthquake Kaikōura tale Friends Like Her and the Whangārei-set Madame Mom up and TVNZ’s RTE Ireland co-produced murder-mystery The Gone and pastor-queer podcaster teaming The Bishop. Of course, TVNZ also has a couple of other older-skewing heavy hitters up their sleeve in the form of returning favourites The Brokenwood Mysteries and Under the Vines.
It was perhaps inevitable that Newshub’s Patrick Gower’s run of one-off investigations would eventually yield a series and the brilliantly titled Paddy Gower Has Issues finally fulfils that expectation for WB Discovery. They will also take a look at the disappearance of six people at Piha Beach in Black Coast Vanishings, while pig farmer and Jamie Oliver’s mate Jimmy Doherty heads our way in Jimmy Doherty’s NZ Escape.
Over on TVNZ, it’s the chalk-and-cheese of Pacific and Pan-Asian immigration exploration Passengers and a look at the life of MMA fighter Kai Kara-France in Caged.
Together though, it only feels like a week’s worth of Netflix releases, so they have to be pretty special to stand out.
Despite all the potential resources of Warner-Discovery, it’s here where the state broadcaster still rules –for the moment.
With all their HBO shows still currently tied into a deal with Sky TV, what’s left is a fairly uninspiring laundry list of reality shows, ranging from yet another Gordon Ramsay-led cooking competition (Next Level Chef) to floristry-off Full Bloom, jewellery design series All That Glitters and the usual multi-show suspects like Married at First Sight, The Real Housewives and Love It or List It.
In comparison, TVNZ is promising a Bradley Walsh’s revival of Blankety Blank, David Attenborough’s much-anticipated Frozen Planet II, a double dose of David Tennent via Litvinenko and Tell Me Everything and star-studded Aussie mini-series Bali 2002.
However, as we’ve recently seen, they are having to pull out all the stops to find new shows as their old deals with the likes of the BBC (thanks largely to the Brits’ co-production deals with Netflix and Disney+) and Disney’s ABC and Fox start to dry up, so this is an area where the balance may well shift, sooner rather than later.
Perhaps though, the biggest potential game changer and unknown announced in the past fortnight are WB Discovery’s 24/7 Fast Channels. Promising “exciting new content for ThreeNow” and an “opportunity to unlock the depth and breadth of the Warner Bros. Discovery content catalogue in New Zealand”, this “Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television” concept sounds exciting, but could just be “curated content” similar to TVNZ+’s strands like iwonder, Pulse, Lifetime and OUTtv.
© 2022 Stuff Limited


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