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6pm TV3 news saved - Stuff to provide hour-long weekday bulletin, 30-min weekend shows

Shayne Currie,
Publish Date
Tue, 16 Apr 2024, 9:36am
Newshub's outgoing 6pm newsreaders Mike McRoberts and Sam Hayes.
Newshub's outgoing 6pm newsreaders Mike McRoberts and Sam Hayes.

6pm TV3 news saved - Stuff to provide hour-long weekday bulletin, 30-min weekend shows

Shayne Currie,
Publish Date
Tue, 16 Apr 2024, 9:36am

The 6pm TV3 news has been saved - but it will have a totally new look and will be provided by rival media company Stuff once Newshub closes in early July.

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) says it signed a deal with Stuff yesterday “to produce and provide us with a 6pm bulletin”, WBD staff were told by New Zealand boss Glen Kyne today.

Stuff will provide an hour-long weekday bulletin and a 30-minute bulletin on Saturdays and Sundays. The deal starts from Saturday, July 6 - the day after Newshub shuts for good, with the loss of up to 300 jobs.

The Newshub website, which generates a unique audience of more than one million people each month, would transfer to Stuff, Kyne said.

At the same time as Kyne was making his announcement, Stuff owner Sinead Boucher told her staff that the new news service would not be called Newshub. A new name had not been selected.

Stuff owner Sinead Boucher. Photo / StuffStuff owner Sinead Boucher. Photo / Stuff 

Stuff will reportedly use Three’s existing Flower St studio in Auckland for the bulletin initially, before setting up its own facilities.

Kyne told his staff that Stuff had a large newsgathering force and could add specialist skills and talent. He confirmed the Stuff bid had been weighed up with others - that is understood to include NZ Herald owner NZME.

He said Stuff would hire a “limited” number of roles and was seeking expressions of interest.

Rival media companies including NZME and TVNZ have welcomed the news lifeline, saying it is a positive move for jobs and competition.

The news service provided by Stuff is likely to be pared back - for example, it might have only one newsreader. Right now, Newshub has Samantha Hayes and Mike McRoberts fronting the 6pm news.

Newshub's outgoing 6pm newsreaders Mike McRoberts and Sam Hayes.Newshub's outgoing 6pm newsreaders Mike McRoberts and Sam Hayes. 

Under the new deal, Warner Bros. Discovery will pay Stuff an annual fee - likely in the low millions of dollars - to provide the 6pm-7pm weekday news bulletin (and a 30-minute bulletin on Saturdays and Sundays).

The deal offers considerable opportunity but also risk for Stuff, which has no traditional live-broadcast history.

To make it work, Stuff will need to bring in a decent amount of broadcasting and production expertise - including some of the outgoing Newshub talent and perhaps help from the likes of Sky - to meet viewer and advertising expectations.

Then it’s a matter of making it work from a cost/margin perspective - it is unlikely to be a hugely profitable venture.

It is understood NZME - owner of the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB - also pitched for the news service. With more experience in live broadcast, it may have seen itself as a front-runner but also realistic about the price.

Staff at Stuff and Newshub were called to simultaneous meetings at 10.30am, where the deal between the two rival companies was announced. Newshub staff were told it was an “important business update”.

In a press release, Boucher said: “Newshub and Three, over an incredible 35 years of journalism, has been known for gutsy, independent, non-partisan reporting, values that we share and will proudly continue to uphold.”

In the same statement, Kyne said: “This agreement also gives all New Zealanders confidence that there won’t just be one broadcast news option on TV. It’s critical for democracy that we have a strong fourth estate to hold the powerful to account and that there are different voices asking different questions. We were deeply aware of the dampening effect the Newshub closure would have on media plurality and we’re very pleased that New Zealanders will be able to have a choice about what news they watch at 6pm.”

NZME chief executive Michael Boggs told his staff that the announcement was positive.

“As you might have read in media reports, NZME was part of early talks with WBD around potentially providing a similar service. As always, we needed to ensure it made commercial sense for us and for our shareholders, and we haven’t been involved in recent weeks.

“We’ve had a strong first quarter reporting growth and our teams are working so hard to achieve our targets. Adding another element to our business right now would have only been a distraction - something that would need lots of extra resource, and some important projects we’re currently working on would’ve needed to go on the back burner.

“We are able to offer jobs at NZME to a number of people across Newshub and TVNZ who have lost their roles - more on that to come.”

As we revealed last week, Stuff was a leading contender to provide the news lifeline in the form of a pared-back 6pm bulletin.

Confidential discussions have been under way for weeks, although Warner Bros. Discovery has been treading carefully given its requirement to consult staff over the proposed Newshub closure.

Last week it confirmed the closure of its news division and the axing of up to 300 jobs, while also rejecting an internal staff proposal for a new-look news service. 

Boucher and Stuff chief executive Laura Maxwell refused to engage with Media Insider last week. 

Meanwhile, TVNZ has released heavily redacted information about a meeting called by Warner Bros. Discovery in February to discuss a possible new news agency involving the two TV networks and RNZ. 

The meeting was held in Auckland on February 21. Warner Bros. Discovery proposed a single news service for the three operators, according to an internal TVNZ file note released to Media Insider under the Official Information Act. 

The note, written by TVNZ chair Alastair Carruthers, who attended the meeting, said the proposed news service was “akin to the former NZPA and current UK-based ITN”. 

“It would produce content that could be broadcast/ streamed by all three parties. There is no written proposal or slide deck or detail about how it would work. 

“In discussion, WBD confirmed [it] would not be in a position to invest in the vehicle. It would not be a JV - except between TVNZ and RNZ if they wished to combine to create it. 

“WBD would only pay a fee to the new vehicle to procure and transmit news.” 

TVNZ chair Alastair Carruthers. Photo / Ted BaghurstTVNZ chair Alastair Carruthers. Photo / Ted Baghurst 

Carruthers said it was proposed the new news service could hire “from all three newsrooms and WBD could contribute to the restructuring costs of all parties, but not invest in the vehicle”. 

The document reveals six people were at the meeting - Warner Bros. Discovery New Zealand boss Glen Kyne and communications consultant David Cormack; TVNZ CEO Jodi O’Donnell and Carruthers; and RNZ CEO Paul Thompson and senior executive Glen Scanlon. 

Carruthers’ file note says: “[Thompson] suggested the process would take up to 12 months, with three months required to outline and agree key terms, and nine months to implement change and establish the new vehicle.” 

The file note said Kyne had asked for TVNZ’s preliminary thoughts about the proposal but both Carruthers and O’Donnell “declined to comment”. 

A day after the meeting, the TVNZ board rejected the proposal - which Kyne said was “baffling” and “disappointing”. 

A week later, Warner Bros. Discovery announced a proposal to disestablish Newshub - these plans were confirmed last week, with the loss of almost 300 jobs. 

TVNZ also later announced its own news cutbacks, with the closure of Sunday, Fair Go and the Midday and Tonight bulletins. 

TVNZ earlier said of the news agency proposal: “We had an initial discussion with Warner Bros. Discovery and RNZ [at Warner Bros. Discovery’s request]... on how we might work together in news. 

“This discussion was preliminary, but would have seen TVNZ take on significant cost and risk of a new service, so we informed Warner Bros. Discovery that we were not in a position to advance any talks.” 

“We were not told of Warner Bros. Discovery’s plans to disestablish Newshub,” said a TVNZ spokeswoman at the time. 

A Warner Bros. Discovery spokesman would not comment last night on the details of the file note, or today’s meeting. 

Editor-at-Large Shayne Currie is one of New Zealand’s most experienced senior journalists and media leaders. He has held executive and senior editorial roles at NZME including Managing Editor, NZ Herald Editor and Herald on Sunday Editor and has a small shareholding in NZME. 

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

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