Newshub Not-So-Late Not So Great

Three appears to have squandered a grand opportunity to reinvent Newshub Late as a lively mix of news and current affairs in its earlier slot of 9.30.

The reasoning behind the promotion from typically 10.30 to primetime is hard to fathom given the content is largely the same: refried headlines of the day’s previous bulletins.

When there were only two state-owned channels in the 1970s and ’80s, news junkies could enjoy much more dynamic mid-evening news shows like Tonight at Nine and Eyewitness News, which invariably offered fresh rather than refreshed content (most famously then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s calling of the snap election and his devaluation interview which triggered economic and constitutional turmoil).

A decade later, TV3’s Nightline broke the mould with its often irreverent and idiosyncratic late-night take on the day’s news.

But Three’s under-the-radar rescheduling of Newshub Late is as puzzling as the network’s inability to respond to my queries about the reasons why and whether a format revamp would ensue.

It follows WBD’s failure to comment on why Newshub Live at 8pm vanished without trace this year from Eden after being cited as an example of the conglomerate’s commitment to news coverage in this market.

If WBD truly was serious about upgrading the quality of its coverage, adding more HD field and studio cameras would be a priority.

Do executives not see how shoddy SD coverage, including from Parliament, undermines Newshub’s editorial strengths?

As a viewer with a 65-inch 4K TV, and in a marketplace where competing news coverage is largely Tweedledum-vs-Tweedledee, I will always opt for the broadcast with the best footage — and TVNZ 1’s is untouchable vs Three’s.

If Three ever had a chance to close the ratings gap with TVNZ 1 in the news stakes, beefing up and better resourcing Newshub Late for peak-hour was it — especially now that it screens only three hours after the flagship bulletin.

Since that doesn’t appear to be the intention based on the first two broadcasts in the earlier slot (unless you count a live cross to the Supreme Pie Awards), you can only assume it’s a scheduling strategy.

Under WBD ownership, Three’s primetime line-up has degenerated into a largely soulless parade of reality and lightweight docuseries mostly sourced from Discovery’s cable-fodder vault.

It’s anchored at 7.30 with whatever it hopes will be the Next Big Thing in stripped reality (the latest prospect being the upcoming The Traitors NZ), before evolving into factual, light-ent or movies.

Procedural drama used to be more to the fore but that was before Three lost its Rookie and NCIS franchises — it still has the original but the first spin-off Los Angeles has ended its run after being burned off on Saturday nights — and struck out with newcomers like the low-rating Accused.

It’s surprising Accused hasn’t been rescheduled to late-night but the fact it’s still on at 8.30 suggests Three doesn’t have viable alternatives — which may explain why the network has double-billed new episodes of 9-1-1 with repeats on Monday nights (it’s no coincidence that the Newshub Late tactic coincides with 9-1-1 ending its run next week).

By bringing Newshub Late forward an hour, Three lessens its dependence on a faltering three-hour entertainment block that mostly wasn’t competitive from 9.30 by using a staple that frequently won its 10.30 slot with Three’s key audience, 25-54 year-olds. (Newsroom reports last year cost-cutting WBD wrote off $5.4 million worth of programmes “rather than risk playing them and having them rate poorly”.)

The most important period for advertisers and hence ratings is 5.30-10.30, so by shifting Newshub Late to Newshub Not-So-Late, Three would appear to be off-loading weaker fare to post-10pm so it can prop up its primetime prospects.

If that’s the logic, it’s hard to fault — but how much more successful might it have been had Newshub been reinvigorated to capitalise on a stronger lead-in in an earlier slot?

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9 Responses to “Newshub Not-So-Late Not So Great”

  1. Warning: preg_replace(): Unknown modifier '/' in /home/customer/www/ on line 66
    August 2, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    I recently looked at Newshub and also was horrified to see they are using SD cameras out in the field. Seems to me they just trying to be cheap like TVNZ.

  2. There’s no money in broadcast television any more. The revenue (with ever increasing CPT) doesnt cover galloping costs. With regular audiences being so small and networks hastening their demise by pushing streaming first, broadcast second, then there’s no justification for reinvestment and zero justification for the very-expensive news content. Might as well give it away for (virtually) free online … Maybe one-day they’ll paywall news content – it only took newspapers forever to work out that free doesnt work.

  3. WBD are constantly cost cutting. You have to wonder how Three has been largely saved from it so far in such a tiny market losing $30+ million a year.

  4. I just watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 on Disney+ and loved it to bits. I never felt so emotional before 😭

  5. What has that got to do with the topic ?

  6. Great analysis Philip of the latest moves in network news. I believe it is a scheduling decision and as you point out designed to prop up a failing schedule but you can’t help but wonder why WBD would sacrifice its consistent 10.30pm success for this change. Has this change been beneficial for 1News Tonight? On the mystery of Newshub Live at 8pm, has there been any other updates Philip? I know you mentioned that Border Security has been more successful than an 8pm bulletin, maybe they could move Border Security to 7.30pm as a stronger lead in. Are they planning to relaunch Newshub 8pm in 2024 (wishful thinking I know)

  7. Thanks for kind comments, Leo. Nothing was ever said officially about Newshub Live at 8pm, despite repeated questioning. Now that Rebecca Wright is on Newshub Late and Newshub Live at 6pm, it can unofficially be declared a failed experiment and won’t be back in 2024. I’m afraid restricted ratings info means I can’t tell you if Tonight’s picked up as the sole late-night news shows or suffered because of Newshub Late’s earlier broadcast. But it’s not a staple in TVNZ 1’s daily top 10 25-54 shows — which means on Tuesday and Wednesday it averaged fewer viewers than 1 News Midday , the 10am repeat of Tipping Point and the 12.30 broadcast of Emmerdale. However, on Monday it was the ninth most-watched show on TVNZ 1 in the key demo and drew more 25-54 viewers than Newshub Late (which, on that night, aired at the same time because the double-ep final of 9-1-1 pushed it back to 10.30).

  8. I guess that seals 8pm’s fate and no one wants to acknowledge a failure. Cheers for the info regarding 1 News Tonight’s performance. It’s interesting to note that it still doesn’t rate well enough with no competition. The late news on 1 has been quite stale for some time and does need a revamp.

  9. Agree on a revamp, Leo. I do wonder if it’s a case of networks bleeding viewers off to streaming services after their 7:30/8:30 shows and the news just being a victim of that. If Newshub Late moving earlier works, it’ll be interesting. Remembering, too, the One Network News late news used to be consistently at 9:40 … I wonder if those days need to return.

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