LOD a Hit for TVNZ 1? LOL!

Acquiring Grand Designs UK as part of its Grand Designs NZ deal is rewarding TVNZ 1 on Thursday nights, where the original has been winning its 7.30 hour in the channel’s 25-54 demographic in two of the last three weeks.

But TVNZ 1’s surprise acquisition of an even bigger UK hit isn’t generating the same viewer interest.

The channel launched Line of Duty three weeks ago and although I haven’t seen the overnight ratings for the season-six premiere, the subsequent two episodes have rated abysmally.

Even on the back of 3.3% for the season-premiere of time slot-winning Beat the Chasers, ep 2 of LOD could line up only 0.9% of 25-54 year-olds, with viewership more than halving over the hour, from 2.0% to 0.2%.

In the 18-49 demo, it averaged only 0.6% after Chasers’ 2.5%.

Last week’s episode rated fractionally better — 1.1% of 25-54s and 0.9% of 18-49s — but still suffered huge erosion (from 2.7% of 25-54s to 0.1%, and from 2.2% of 18-49s to 0.1%).

LOD is the type of UK crime drama that once was a mainstay of TVNZ 1’s schedule but in recent years the network has peppered shallow/lurid/gimmicky US procedurals amid its reality/lifestyle-dominated slate.

So trying to make a relatively-high minded example of the genre work in primetime when the network’s core audience has long since been weaned off it was always going to be a big ask — especially launching it over Easter, when normal viewership is upended because of holiday plans, and scheduling it around another long weekend just three weeks later.

Moreover, each season of LOD has an unusually complex arc that spills over into subsequent seasons.

So getting to grips with the characters and context was always going to challenge free-to-air viewers who hadn’t seen the previous seasons on Sky, Acorn TV or Netflix (a critic for The Times described the series as “developing with the skill of an epic Russian novel” while The Telegraph’s wondered if creator Jed Mercurio “had grown a little too enamoured by the show’s own folklore”).

It’s also a series riddled with acronyms that trip up even hardcore fans of the anti-corruption drama and risk making it unfathomable to the uninitiated.

With this in mind, I asked TVNZ about the reasons behind its decision to try to pick up LOD, courtesy of corporate communications general manager Rachel Howard:

  1. Did the broadcaster approach the distributor or vice versa?

This came about through our existing relationship with ITV Studios, the distributor rather than an approach either way.

  1. In any event, why did LOD appeal to TVNZ given none of the previous seasons aired on the broadcaster?

Rights for LOD have been tied up with other broadcasters/streamers for some time (on UKTV and then Netflix). The opportunity for us to take the show came up for the sixth season and we jumped at the chance. There are new storylines in season six which appeal to existing viewers and also allow new viewers an opening to come in, so the timing felt right.

  1. Was its popularity on Netflix a factor?

We’ve seen the programme grow in popularity on Netflix and we hope existing fans of the show come and watch with us. But a lot of the TVNZ 1 audience haven’t had an introduction to the show yet and that’s the audience we’re focused on.

  1. Strategically, does it make more sense for TVNZ 1 to launch a series with built-in branding than take a punt on an unknown new crime drama series?

No – it’s incredibly important to have a mix of known propositions and new finds, it’s a balance. Brand new ITV and BBC drama plays an important role in our schedule each year and we won’t be moving away from that.

  1. Often TVNZ fast tracks a series OnDemand ahead of its linear premiere. Why not do the same with LOD given it’s become very challenging for FTA channels to make drama rate in peak hour?

We secured these rights for our TVNZ 1 audience with episodes following on TVNZ OnDemand. The programme has built a strong linear home overseas and we feel the show can do that in New Zealand too.

  1. Does the LOD acquisition signal a more aggressive UK drama strategy on TVNZ 1’s part?

No – We have strong relationships with ITV and BBC (as well as other UK distributors) and TVNZ 1 has always shown premie UK drama in primetime and that will continue.

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4 Responses to “LOD a Hit for TVNZ 1? LOL!”

  1. Looks like they avoided giving answers to some of the questions directly.

  2. That was really interesting, thanks Phil.

  3. When will BBC’s Roadkill air on TVNZ 1? The first episode is actually quite good with late Helen McCroy and Hugh Laurie has performed well.

  4. Love the LOL in the title!

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