Geekzone readers were asked to submit questions to Brent Impey, CEO, MediaWorks NZ Ltd, and we now publish the answers to those questions
Brent Impey is Chief Executive Officer of MediaWorks NZ Limited, which operates two national television channels (TV3 and C4), radio stations out of 23 markets (including network brands More FM, RadioLIVE, Solid Gold, The Edge, The Breeze, The Rock, BSport and Kiwi FM, as well as regional stations Mai FM in Auckland, Rotorua and Northland, Times FM in Orewa, Sounds FM in Blenheim, Radio Dunedin, and Coromandel FM) and a new media division (MediaWorks Interactive).
He was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the More FM Group in 1998, and in 2000 took on his current role leading the MediaWorks operations. Brent practised as a lawyer, specialising in media law, until 1990.
He has had a long association with the media, including previously being a director of several radio companies, Executive Director of the Radio Broadcasters’ Association and its predecessor the Independent Broadcasters’ Association, and a media consultant.
Outside of business, Brent is actively involved in his other passions – rugby, yachting, and community services including acting as Chair of the Fred Hollows Foundation in New Zealand for the past nine years.
He was a director of the 1989 Fisher & Paykel and the 1993 Yamaha Whitbread Campaigns.
Q.Will you be putting any of your radio stations on Freeview?
Brent Impey: Not at this stage
Q.If you do add your radio stations to Freeview are there any plans to make use of the additional features the MHEG-5 platform provides? The BBC in the UK displays MHEG information about station, track etc for a number of their radio channels.
B I: No
Q.Given you have a full multiplex on DTT is there a chance you will sub-let some capacity?
B I: No. TV3 +1 and future channels will take full capacity.
Q.A number of high profile shows have moved from TV3 to C4, eg 90210, and no longer have a HD picture or 5.1 audio. Any possibility of C4 going HD or at least gaining a 5.1 audio stream?
B I: Yes, possible
Q.Do you have a time frame for a mostly HD prime time? At the moment we are lucky to get one HD show a night.
B I: As resources permit
Q.Are there plans for HD news and current affairs shows such as Campbell Live?
B I: Yes, HD to be gradually extended
Q.TV3 has introduced some catchup television with local and Australian programming available online. Can we expect to see offshore content become available in the near-future? What are the impediments to this? Will this include pre-roll or insert advertising (as opposed to the advertising-free content that you currently show) and do you expect that an economic case can be established for long-tail content online rather than broadcast?
B I: Impediments are studio contracts. Likely to be ads at start and end.
Q.Why TV3 +1 rather than introduce a new station?
B I: Cost.
Q.What has been the impact of rebranding the provincial radio stations under the More FM banner, and how have the changes been received by the audiences of these stations?
B I: Strategy very successful. No negative impact on audience.
Q.How about rebranding TV3 to say C3? At present it sounds like a part of TVNZ brand...
B I: Don’t agree with your premise.
Q.What are your plans for DAB in NZ?
B I: NIL. No money in it.
Q.Regarding RadioWorks rebranding all the individual stations around the country as 'More FM'...
Can you explain the reasoning behind this? (a slight in-house interest as I used to work for RadioWorks in Dunedin)/
B I: Do gain a marketing advantage. Individual stations not able to compete with Networks on marketing.
Q.You have a somewhat privileged position with regard to the visibility of NZ's corporates economic health. Can you give us an idea of the economic activity (either through media spend or anecdotal observation) that you're seeing from both nationals (and multi-nationals) in television and the local spend in radio?
B I: Spending holding up well. Both TV and Radio have been up or flat for 2008. Other media, e.g. newspapers, are down.
Q.I understand that the market is very short for forward bookings and wonder if you can contrast this on a pre and post election basis?
B I: No, it is driven by economic climate.
Q.If you are looking for a cheap way to fill up a channel; would it be possible to create a channel with old classic shows (there are tons of them out there), that is more kids orientated during the day, and then more adults in the evenings? Run 1 or 2 classic movies later on; also may be put on an international news programme or two if you have the rights to them? I am sure there is plenty of content like this you must already have the rights too, or could quite cheaply get the rights too?
B I: No, not economically sustainable.
Q.With the launch of the +1 channel, some have been concerned that exclusives like the V8 coverage wouldn't be broadcast all weekend, such as TVNZ might do with their sports extra channel. Will this +1 channel's normal programming be stopped temporarily to allow constant coverage of an event like this? If not, does mediaworks plan on launching a channel that will?
B I: It will be +1 in all respects
Q.Also some have given negative feedback on the +1 channel, suggesting that it was a "waste of space" or that Mediaworks had launched it to fulfil their 2nd channel requirement for joining Freeview. What is your response to this, and does MediaWorks plan on launching a tv or radio channel in the next year or so with new content?
B I: Disagree with your premise. We would have launched “new” channels if we had $79m Government funding.
Q.Are there any further plans to move C4 away from being a music channel? Is this part of the strategy for MediaWorks with moving it on channel 12 on Sky Digital/TelstraClear?
B I: It is evolving with increased long-form programming.
Q.I understand that MediaWorks are committed to two new channels on Freeview. When you get to the fourth channel could you consider a different genre. I feel we could have a viable alternative type channel. SciFi would be a great place to start but if one genre can not carry a full weeks programming about a multi genre channel eg Scifi during week and Movies during weekend.
B I: No decisions until post-April 2010.
Q.Also have you considered anyway to carry a pay channel on Freeview. I realise the boxes being sold do not have slots for pay cards but this could probably be handled in other ways.
B I: Freeview government funding did not permit Pay
Q.Why was the decision made to go with 1080i rather than 720p for TV3?
B I: Efficiency
Q.It's obviously still some time off yet but if/when the two additional Freeview MUX's are rolled out once ASO occurs do you see MediaWorks having any interest in them?
B I: Yes
Q.Ironbridge have no other assets in the media industry. Is this a downside or upside compared to ownership under CanWest who were a large media organisation?
B I: It is a good time NOT to be publicly listed
Q.What sort of plans do TV Works have for expanding its on demand content? The quality of on demand programming at present is low and not suitable for somebody who wants to view on their TV. Do you believe local NZ programming should or could appear on a service such as iTunes, your own service or a service in partnership with other media organisations in NZ allowing high quality full length downloads?
B I: All options being considered. MediaWorks is planning to expand On Demand content. We are open to partnerships with other media organisations.
Q.With the rebranding of the legacy provincial stations to all be More FM's, do you see RadioWorks going down the same road as TRN eventually, and only having a local breakfast? I realise that would be more profitable, but if so, isn't that losing a good deal of the local flavour and content?
B I: There are no plans to increase networking on More FM. The local programming is vital.
Q.If not, do you see the local hours of the More FM's expanding? I'm aware that already there are some stations that don't have much in the way of a local presence on the weekends, rather they are networked out of Auckland.
B I: We are comfortable with the local/network combination at present.