Shopping Channel cuts live broadcasts

EVA LONGORIA: Came to New Zealand to help launch The Shopping Channel.
EVA LONGORIA: Came to New Zealand to help launch The Shopping Channel.

The Shopping Channel maintains that its ratings are holding up well, despite cuts to its live broadcasting time.

The television channel, launched five weeks ago by American TV star Eva Longoria, started out broadcasting eight-hour live segments six days a week, with replays on Sunday. But the channel is now broadcasting live only two days, on Tuesday and Thursday, and doing more pre-recording.

Chief executive Alistair Duff said the move had changed the hours of its 14 presenters but no one had left.

Industry insiders have said the channel is struggling and that presenter jobs have been cut back. They wished the channel well but questioned its ability to thrive in the small New Zealand market.

Duff said five weeks down the track, the company now knew when its peak viewing times were and were scheduling to suit.

"We needed to go to air to understand where the sales were coming from."

Duff, a former head of media sales at TVNZ, said going live added "impetus" but pre-recording had raised the quality and consistency of the ad-libbed presentations and this was now being reflected in its sales.

Viewers were tuning in most strongly from 9am to noon, with peaks after school till 6pm, and in the evening after the news.

Once this was clear, he said the channel was able to make some decisions about when it went live.

"People don't sit down and watch us for four hours at a time, so that's why you can [repeat material] over the day because each time you're actually attracting a new audience."

Duff said the channel's initial audience "has been immense" but he could not reveal its ratings until media research company Nielsen had finished its monitoring work.

Neilsen confirmed it would probably make the Shopping Channel's ratings available by Christmas or New Year.

Martin Gillman, of media consultancy MGCom, said many people had commented that the Shopping Channel had its work cut out in New Zealand because it was unaccustomed to TV shopping.

"The Shopping Channel is a really bold gamble. Most people would say New Zealand is a bit small to support a shopping network on its own but my understanding is that they have much bigger plans than New Zealand."

However, cashflow might well be an issue "because it takes a while to get people into new behaviour."

Gillman said he did not put much store on Nielsen's ratings because it counted any viewer who spent longer than a minute on a channel.

But audiences were not the most important thing for the Shopping Channel as long as the products were selling.

The Shopping Channel, which is on Channel 18 on Sky and Freeview HD, is owned by a family trust associated with Ogilvy advertising agency managing director Greg Partington.