Life With and Without Holmes
By John Dee of JDee Media
Media coverage of Holmes’ defection from TVNZ has been unprecedented. The story has both a human interest and a business
angle: another chapter in a much scrutinized public life, and a huge ratings issue for television. Of course, Holmes is
the Kiwi media superstar who everyone, like him or not, seems to care about.
What impact will the move have on TV One ratings, and what of the appearance that Prime, a minor player, is getting
serious about becoming a bigger player? Depending on what you’ve read, or heard, the impact of Holmes defection has at
times been determined more by emotion than rationale.
The emotive factor cannot be helped as both Holmes and TVNZ are strong brands that divide opinions.
To help determine the real impact of Holmes defection we’re taking a rational approach and looking at some factors that
have been overlooked in the recent media coverage.
The Impact On TV One
We believe the impact on TV One will be minimal- due largely to the Ralston factor.
Since Bill Ralston has taken up the reins as head of news and current affairs at TVNZ, he has been impressive. Ralston
made it very clear when doing his tour of advertising agencies soon after starting at TVNZ, that changes needed to be
made to address the issues that were worrying the industry. He acknowledged at the time that some things would be
rectified immediately but others would take time.
Changes that he was able to implement immediately were: canning Pam Corkery’s late news show, dropping Mike Hosking from
Breakfast, moving Eric Young and Kate Hawkesby to Late Edition and putting an end to news and current affairs personnel
being part of the personality/gossip merry-go-round.
Other less public changes were aimed at ensuring the news team broke more stories more often. In other words, Ralston
wanted TVNZ news and current affairs to get back to its core task of news being driven by journalism not personality.
The results to date speak for themselves. Holmes ratings are the best that they have been in eight years, with audience
levels 14% up on last year. Impressively, in Auckland a market that TV3 in recent years has had great success in, Holmes
ratings are up 20%, and TV One 6pm News is up 15%
This, in our opinion, is proof that TVNZ is getting it right with content winning over personality. In which case, if
TVNZ continues to deliver strong content and uses the right personnel to deliver that content then life after Holmes
should be business as usual. We cannot imagine TVNZ resting on its laurels, so expect TVNZ to use the might of its
marketing budget and the strength of its brand to retain viewers.
TVNZ today is a different beast to say a few years ago when the defection of Holmes would have been disastrous for them.
With Holmes, Prime Want To Be A Serious Player
For Prime, getting Holmes is a coup in a number of ways. The fact that Holmes is New Zealand’s highest profile media
star has ensured that Prime has received publicity and media coverage that it could only dream about. With 5% share,
Prime needed to do something to get itself to the next threshold.
Holmes will give Prime an anchor across the week from which it can start to grow its audience throughout the night.
Holmes will generate interest from those viewers who up to now may have ignored Prime. The same applies to potential
The new Holmes show will face a number of challenges from trying to break stories without the sources that it had at its
disposal at TVNZ, through to finding content that will generate interest in the show.
It’s unlikely that Holmes on Prime will get the big interest stories that PR companies loved giving Holmes on TV One
because of its huge audiences, stories like All Black announcements, Jonah’s latest news, and visiting international
The Holmes announcement overshadowed Prime’s 2005 programme launch which is clearly aimed at trying to win viewers from
TV One with a lineup including quality British drama, and documentaries. With Top Gear and documentaries like Seven
Wonders proving to be ratings successes, there’s evidence that viewers are prepare to go searching for quality
With TV One’s huge audience, there’s the potential for Prime with its programme line-up to grab a percentage of that
audience and lift Prime’s share above 5%.
What Will TV3 do?
CanWest chief executive Brent Impey has said it would review its prime-time lineup following the Holmes announcement.
To date, with Holmes and TV One’s 6 PM News being such strong intertwined news properties, TV3 would have considered
going directly against Holmes as commercial suicide.
Expect TV3 to consider the likely opportunity, but it still has to be a huge risk. A current affairs show featuring John
Campbell would be expensive to produce, and would have to compete against not just TV One but also Prime for the 7PM
current affairs audience.
Probably the biggest thing to come out of the Holmes announcement is that the New Zealand television landscape is going
to change, and will become more competitive.
We should watch this space with interest.
Time will tell whether TV One losing Holmes, in sporting terms, will be like losing the All Black captain to Japan.