AUCKLAND — CanWest New Zealand is relaunching entertainment channel TV4 as a terrestrial commercial music channel in October.
TV3’s sister channel has been bleeding money since startup in June 1997 due to overly optimistic sales forecasts and programming commitments.
CEO Rick Friesen estimates it has lost $16 million over six years including TV4’s share of an $11 million TV3 programming writedown in 2000.
Friesen arrived in 2000 amid declining market share and a major shake-up.
He says CanWest was hobbled with programming commitments — mostly with indie distributors but some with studios — piggybacked onto TV3 deals.
Now that those deals have run their courses, CanWest can make changes without dragging down the balance sheet.
The music channel launches October with no-cost musicvids and low-cost programming.
Friesen says he has had upbeat talks with New Zealand on Air, the government’s TV funding body that has been hand-wringing since pubcaster TV2 closed its midnight-to-dawn musicshow, leaving no outlets for its archive of funded local musicvids.
On that score there are cheers all round from the local music biz. CanWest already owns half the radio stations in this country of 4 million.
However, it may not be smooth sailing: Two music channels came and went in the late 1990s — Max TV and a localized version of MTV U.K.
The TV4 announcement on April 22 came two days after a rebranding launch for TV3, the first substantial change to the channel since it started 13 years ago.
The marketing boost aims to up audience share, which has increased from an early 2000 low of 21% to 25% in March for the target demo aged 18-49.
Program director Kristin Marlow says the biggest leg up has been from the 20th Century Fox deal she signed in 2000 netting primetime hits “Malcolm in the Middle” and “24.”