Stuff promises to recruit displaced Newshub staff but not all

Colin Peacock

Colin Peacock

A New Plan For 6 Pm News: Warner Bros Senior Vice-President and Head of Networks Glen Kyne and Stuff Publisher Sinead Boucher at the media conference on April 16, 2024 (Stuff Livestream Photo Via RNZ)

Warner Bros Discovery has done a deal with Stuff to provide news to replace Newshub.

It will keep news on TV channel Three from 6 July and help Three retain some viewers.

It also means important income for Stuff, but it will also stretch the company’s staff, finances and technology.

Stuff will provide a one-hour Bulletin each weekday and a half-hour on weekends. 

Stuff will also retain a live Newshub website.

Warner Bros Discovery Warner Bros Senior Vice-President and Head of Networks Glen Kyne

and Stuff Publisher Sinead Boucher confirmed the arrangement at a joint news conference on Tuesday (April 16).

“Stuff not entering the TV business”

Ms Boucher had told her staff that the Company would “definitely be bringing some Newshub staff” to produce the 6 pm Bulletin.

She then told reporters that she was unsure how many staff would be required, but it would be fewer than ‘40 to 50’ specified in a ‘stripped back’ proposal from Newshub staff.

“We are not getting into the TV business. We are a digital-first multimedia company building a new 6 pm product for Warner Brothers,” she said.

Mediawatch understands that many media companies approached Warner Bros Discovery with proposals to provide news after the company first proposed the cost-saving closure in late February. However, by the time of the confirmation earlier this month most of those had been rejected by the Company.

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Sky TV was also reported to be in the running. It currently runs a Newshub-produced Bulletin at 5.30 pm each weekday on the free-to-air channel Sky Open and would require a replacement. It also had plenty of TV production facilities.

Ms Boucher said that a Sky Bulletin was not included in the deal, but she hoped there would be discussions about that. Negotiations were carried out in secret both before and after Warner Bros Discovery confirmed the complete closure of Newshub on July 5, leaving the company with no news presence.

Stuff refused to comment during the process and Stuff journalists told Mediawatch on Monday (April 15) night they were unaware of an impending announcement.

“We did not want to raise expectations for Newshub staff when we were not sure what would be required,” Boucher told reporters today, explaining that the deal had been done in haste.

Michael Morrah, Newshub Investigations Correspondent says there could be a ray of hope as a counterproposal is put together to salvage the newsroom (RNZ Photo)

Why do the deal and what is it worth?

The money that Warner Bros is putting into the deal is confidential but it is certain to be just a fraction of the current cost of running Newshub- tens of millions of dollars a year.

Warner Bros was determined to carve that cost off the bottom line of its loss-making local operation. The financial benefit for Stuff may not be great taking the set-up and running costs into account.

Mr Kyne said that neither company would comment on specific commercial details but when asked about the possible profit margin for Stuff, Boucher said, “Both parties are satisfied with where we have ended up.”

But while the audience for TV news Bulletin is declining and the advertisement revenue has fallen accordingly, it is still substantial for TVNZ 1 and Three.

The ‘appointment viewing’ time of 6 pm creates a viewing peak that TV broadcasters use to hold viewers for the entertainment or factual programmes that follow.

Former Newshub Chief Hal Crawford told Mediawatch the overall audience for Three could collapse without news in the evening.

“There is still a reason that the 1 and the 3 on remotes around the country are worn down. News is one programme that runs 365 days a year, which the schedule is going to rely on to lead into primetime. So the rest of your schedule is going to dwindle. Ratings are gonna fall off and everything is going to go to pieces,” Mr Crawford told Mediawatch.

“The loss of the newsroom represents the loss of the ability to respond to any event in real-time. That is the heart and soul of a traditional TV broadcaster.”

Why Stuff? 

Stuff has journalists in more places around the country than any other news publisher.

Ms Boucher recently told a Parliamentary Committee that it has journalists in 19 locations, even after years of cuts and successive retrenchments.

“We have re-platformed our business and have new ways of working. We look at this as starting this Bulletin afresh rather than using the broadcast-heavy technology of today,” she told reporters at today’s news conference.

It also has audio and video production facilities at some sites and some senior journalists with TV reporting and presenting experience, such as former Newshub Political Editor Tova O’Brien, former TV3 Current Affairs Reporter Paula Penfold and Senior Journalist Andrea Vance.

But Stuff video ventures have not endured. It launched its own free online video platform Play Stuff in mid-2019. It also hired key former TV3 current affairs staff for its long-form video productions but disbanded the Stuff Circuit team earlier this year.

When the Stuff app and website were refreshed recently, short vertical videos were added as a feature, called Stuff Shorts.

Stuff’s weakness has in the past been a dependence on newspaper advertising. It was only last year that Stuff launched its first paywalls for online news for three of its mastheads.

Stuff’s main rival NZME has half the country’s radio networks in addition to newsrooms supplying its newspapers and websites. NZME’s New Zealand Herald has been getting revenue from ‘premium content’ digital subscriptions for four years.

After Ms Boucher acquired Stuff in 2020, Stuff embarked on a digital transition creating more digital audio and video content. It has hired executives from multimedia companies such as Nadia Tolich (ex-NZME now Stuff Digital Managing Director) and former NZME digital leader Laura Maxwell, now Stuff’s Chief Executive.

Will the new News Service succeed? It depends on what you mean by ‘success.’

Warner Bros is planning for a future beyond linear TV broadcasting and all the transmission costs associated with it. Possibly, the Company has done a deal with Stuff mainly as a kind of gap-filler to hold as much of the ‘rusted-on’ news viewers as possible term in mind while it plans an online-only transition.

Investment in Technology

It recently upgraded the formerly clunky ThreeNow online app. It added a number of streaming FAST channels, which mimic traditional linear broadcasting and carry live advertising but are only available online. If the Stuff/Newshub service is not well resourced it will not compare well with TVNZ’s 1 News at 6.

TVNZ Chief Executive Jodi O’Donnell said recently that the state-owned broadcaster invests $40 million in news annually.

Ms Boucher said that the new Bulletin will not be “on the cheap” stuff produced on iPhones.

“We will invest in proper technology,” she said.

Longtime TV3 news boss Mark Jennings (now Co-Editor of Newsroom) told Mediawatch that any substitute service made on a fraction of the current budget would have another problem – TVNZ’s 1 News.

”you are up against a sophisticated TVNZ product and hence viewers will have an immediate comparison. Probably that will not be favourable for Warner Bros,” he told RNZ.

Stuff will be using Newshub’s existing studio in Auckland while it sets up its own dedicated studio. The Company will have to spend money on technical skills and equipment to get up to speed to produce a daily Bulletin just three months from now.

This could be a stretch for a company that is also under financial pressure.

The inherent risks

There is also the risk for Stuff that its existing news journalists and editors are stretched. Most will have to learn new skills and cope with the addition of daily deadlines.

“Most of our journalists are used to being in front of a camera now. Some may be nervous but there will be training and it is an exciting opportunity to reach a new audience,” Ms Boucher said.

Stuff has recently had to rejig regional reporting and made several Sports reporters redundant.

Colin Peacock is the Media Presenter at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and pictures have been published under a special agreement with

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