Mediaworks & Fox: what you need to know

21:30, Nov 07 2013

So there I was, quietly reading through the comments on Stuff's story about Mediaworks ending their output deal with Fox - a topic I spent a good 1200 words covering last week - when suddenly I spy this:

"Check out the TV blog for details. Im sure Chris will be responding to this news soon too."

Well ... okay then, sure, why not!

In case you missed the news yesterday, Mediaworks announced that their receivership period is over. But the announcement came bundled with something a little more ominous: their existing output deal with Fox is over, effective today, and their channels (TV3, Four) are now forced to remove all Fox content from the airwaves, effective immediately.

"MediaWorks new board has chosen not to pursue an output deal with FOX and is working to establish a new arrangement with the studio," reads a press release sent out yesterday."Programmes supplied by FOX include Homeland, Modern Family, Bones, Sons of Anarchy, New Girl and The Simpsons."

My understanding is that Fox have insisted on renegotiating the existing output deal which would mean Mediaworks would pay through the nose for a ton of shows they don't want just to get a handful of shows they do want. The new board at Mediaworks have declined in favour of pursuing a spot-buying deal in which a network gets to cherry-pick shows. Mediaworks currently have such a deal in place with Sony.  


As I wrote last week, spot-buying deals are quickly becoming the industry standard both here and around the world. Mediaworks were right to push negotiations in that direction.

"We are moving with the times and have embraced a different strategy with regard to international and studio content," Mediaworks TV CEO Paul Maher says in the press release, which you can read here. "In our view, full output agreements are outdated and don't make commercial sense in the New Zealand market."

"Instead we want the advantage of selecting the international shows that work for us. We can then capitalise on the financial flexibility we achieve through that approach to invest in local content which we see as a major competitive advantage."

However, as I read through those comments yesterday (198 comments total, as of Midnight), it quickly became apparent that there is a lot that people don't understand about what all this means. Fear not! I have come to explain as much as I can! And like the TV networks, I've cherry-picked a few comments that stood out - here are my responses ...

"is Family guy and American Dad part of this?"

They sure are. We don't yet have a complete list of shows affected, but we know that the list of shows no longer airing on either Mediaworks channel includes Sons of Anarchy, The Simpsons, Homeland, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Bones, Modern Family, Glee, Raising Hope, American Horror Story, The League, Last Man Standing, The Gates, The Glades, Touch, Burn Notice, Bob's Burgers, American Dad, Family Guy and The Americans.

(My thanks to Throng for their help in compiling this list.)

"Shows also include Glee, Hells Kitchen and the X Factor"

Okay, Glee is included in the deal, but the others aren't. It's important to understand the distinction between Fox as distributor and Fox as channel that broadcasts in the USA: the deal Mediaworks have ended was with Fox the distributor, aka 20th Century Fox Television, who produce shows for a number of different outlets in the United States.

So, while Glee is gone, The X Factor USA is staying because it is not distributed by Fox, even though it airs on Fox the channel. It goes the other way too; The Following airs on Fox the channel, but is part of TVNZ's deal with Warner Bros Television (which is why it ended up on One). In short, not all shows that air on Fox the channel are affected by this deal.

As for Hell's Kitchen, that doesn't even air on TV3 - it's a TV2 show. Geez!

"Do I understand correctly? TV3 also has to stop showing reruns/repeats?"

You do understand correctly! The terms of the end of the output deal with Fox are such that Mediaworks has to cease broadcast of all Fox properties "on settlement" - that means that anything Mediaworks previously acquired through their deal with Fox (ie: the shows mentioned above) are now off TV3 and Four until at least the end of the year.

Mediaworks yesterday announced massive changes to their schedule, not all of which are necessarily bad. Here are a few silver linings:

You can check out all the changes via TV3/Four's online TV Guide (episode guides on Sky and Freeview have been updated too), and have a closer look at changes to Four here.

"get ready for more "the block" type shows...."realty" tv is cheaper to make"

This is not necessarily the case: while true that reality television is cheaper, the list of the Top 20 highest rating entertainment shows on TV3 are split evenly between reality and scripted. Mediaworks will know that retaining audience numbers will invariably mean scripted drama and comedy - and their existing deals with NBC Universal and Sony mean we'll be seeing shows like Hannibal, The Blacklist and House Of Cards before too long.

Dr Llortcipe El
"Question! (Chris Philpott, I'm looking at you :P) Essentially, if the new season episodes haven't started yet, doesn't that mean it's not really a big deal if a Fox deal is signed up later on? ... Nothing was said about there never again being a deal with Fox, just that the output deal wasn't accepted (which isn't actually a bad thing)."

"Surely anyone with half a brain will realise they will sort deals out with Fox for the shows that actually rate. Why pay a premium for all the shows when 90% are crap and can't produce any revenue. Smart move i say."

These are both good points (and Salazar is right, this is a smart move): the press release does say that Mediaworks are still trying to retain content from Fox on a spot-buying basis - since shows like Sons Of Anarchy and Modern Family weren't going to start until February next year anyway, and if Mediaworks can pull it off, most viewers probably won't notice much of a difference. The point is, Fox want to have their content shown in New Zealand and will do a deal with whoever meets their terms, including ...

"I hope Sky or TVNZ step in to save the day and screen a couple of these!"

TVNZ have already stated their intention to pursue content from Fox ("Fox is one of the three biggest producers of TV and feature film content in the US, so yes, we would be interested in taking a look at what might be available for our various channels and platforms.") and Sky TV would be fools not to chase this content as well; niche shows like Homeland and The Americans are a perfect fit for SoHo, and the rest would form a solid backbone for Prime.

Look, Fox want their content to air in New Zealand - they only have to work out the details of how and when and where this might happen. These delays and deal changes are inconvenient for fans of those shows affected (and, one would have to imagine, for Mediaworks) but the majority of the shows, the most popular of the bunch, will be coming back. I would be very surprised if we don't hear a new announcement in regards to Fox content within the next couple of weeks.

"I think what everyone wants to know is: What did Fox say?"

A sombre chorus of "hatee-hatee-hatee-ho, hatee-hatee-hatee-ho, hatee-hatee-hatee-ho ", followed by a rousing "Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow! Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow! Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!"

(And that's the only way to end this blog post.)

Do you have any other questions about yesterday's announcement from Mediaworks? Feel free to post them in the comments section, below, and I'll try to answer them as best I can (or seek help in fetching answers for you) - plus, share your thoughts on this massive change to TV3 and Four. What shows will you miss most?

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