Nothing Trivial About Underbelly Rumblings

Tensions are rife between TV3 and NZ On Air as they lock horns over the network’s programming of Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud.

NZOA wants TV3 to reschedule the HD drama so it doesn’t clash with another HD drama it’s funded, TV One’s Nothing Trivial.

From August 10, both will screen 8.30pm Wednesdays – unless network and NZOA executives today thrash out a compromise.

Both parties have strong cases. NZOA clearly wants to get the biggest bang for our buck, having contributed $11 million of public funding to the making of both series.

And it won’t achieve that if the dramas go head-to-head when it would seem a simple solution to move Underbelly NZ to another slot or night.

But the dilemma for TV3 is it’s a commercial broadcaster that needs to maximise its ratings and ad revenue.

It stands to gain more from scheduling Underbelly NZ at 8.30pm midweek than anywhere else.

True, TV One was first to earmark the slot for Nothing Trivial. But TV3 wouldn’t have known that when finalising its primetime strategy, particularly since TVNZ has aired its HD NZ dramas of late on Tuesdays (Go Girls) or Thursdays (This Is Not My Life, The Cult).

Moreover, TV3 has staked out 8.30pm Wednesdays to showcase predominantly crime dramas or Inside NZ documentaries, including, in 2009 and 2010, the first three Underbelly series.

The programming turned Underbelly from a flop — the first series tanked 9.30pm Sundays — into a spectacular hit and it would seem folly on TV3’s part to break with what’s been a tactical triumph.

It’s possible NZOA might convince the network to push Underbelly NZ back to 9.30pm Wednesdays, which is where the soon-to-end Sons of Anarchy has been a crowdpleaser for the past year.

But that would leave TV3 with a big hole to plug at 8.30pm, against some of TVNZ’s toughest competition, and would risk Underbelly NZ not being delivered the lead-in it deserves.

On balance, as I argue in my Onfilm analysis, Underbelly NZ’s scheduling should be left to TV3, as it has the most to lose if the series goes belly-up.

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One Response to “Nothing Trivial About Underbelly Rumblings”

  1. It’s about time these two got their heads banged together. NZOA should stop funding this stuff as it is obviously commercial by nature. There’s nothing to stop TV3 from rescheduling this to another day of the week. They’ve been pretty good at doing this with other programmes at a couple of days’ notice. Hawaii Five-0 and The Event come to mind.

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