MediaWorks might well feel disgruntled with the latest NZ On Air grants. Yesterday, TVNZ announced TVNZ had been allocated $5 million for two short-run dramas. One is a five part series about the eighties celebrity lawyer Mike Bungay, and one was the second series of a six part family drama with a science fiction theme, called Cul-de-sac.
Just six months ago the MediaWorks CEO, Mark Weldon was supremely confident that taxpayers would give him around $5 million for the proposed TV3 daily soap called Trinity Point. Outsiders thought it wishful thinking, since NZ On Air said nothing in 2015 that made it seem likely, Weldon and TV3 persisted. I’m told the MediaWorks team – led by the CEO – were assertive and pushy while extending their hands for public cash. They even gave the NZ On Air board lessons about what their role should be and what their advice would be given friends in high places. In fact MediaWorks’ and Weldon’s purportedly close relationship with the government had been often talked about but seldom proven. You might say that Weldon’s steely eyed assault was predictable because of Weldon’s modus operandi at TV3. It is also the style of MediaWorks director Julie Christie. TV3’s 2016 schedule was built on the idea of a daily soap running at 5.30 pm weekday, and it had gone to some cost to tee it up, with Warner Brothers as its producer.
TV3 early prime time looks bereft. There are a few promising shows like Family Feud, and Newshub ratings are better than 3News last year. But this is not going to be the year that TV3 breaks away from its trend to diminishing revenue. According to a source, NZ On Air chair Miriam Dean held firm against Weldon. NZ On Air was right to say No. There was no priority to pay for a 5,30 soap and in the event MediaWorks outrage on missing out, it released the reasons why Trinity Point had a weak business case. To be fair there is one argument to spend money on a soap. Some drama producers I spoke to felt NZ On Air has become too focused on higher end expensive dramas like the new series Dear Murderer, about Mike Bungay. The argument goes that a production line produced soap like Trinity Rise would be watched by more working class viewers, rather than Sunday Theatre viewers. But that assumes that Trinity Point would have rated and that viewers would have taken it to their hearts. Whatever, Its cold bath time with no soap at TV3 in 2016.