John Campbell thanks fans after departure news video

RORY O'SULLIVAN/Stuff.co.nz

Presenter Tristram Clayton admits he is devastated that TV3 have drawn a line under a decade of Campbell Live.

Journalist John Campbell has thanked his loyal viewership for its support after news that he is quitting his TV3 current affairs show.

MediaWorks announced on Thursday that Campbell would no longer host Campbell Live, and that it will launch a new current affairs show hosted by two presenters in the 7pm timeslot on Mondays to Thursdays on TV3.

On Thursday's programme, Campbell said: "Seven o'clock is a brutal time slot....but you made the effort to watch us and in doing so you made our team feel very grateful and very proud."

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John Campbell thanks his viewers for sticking with him, after the announcement he was leaving TV3

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On 3 News, screened just before his programme began at 7pm, anchor Hilary Barry got choked up and could not present immediately following a news item about Campbell's departure.

STACY SQUIRES/The Press

Shoppers at Christchurch's Eastgate Mall react to the announcement that broadcaster John Campbell is leaving TV3.

Co-anchor Mike McRoberts took over presenting while Barry composed herself.

TV3 staff who left the MediaWorks building in Auckland on Thursday evening were visibly upset.

Campbell Live presenter Lachlan Forsyth, with tears in his eyes, said he was disappointed.

"John's been a friend, a mentor. What can you say?"

When asked about the atmosphere among the Campbell Live team Forsyth said, "We've put a show out, that's what we do."

He added that Thursday night's show was not the last for Campbell Live. "We're still going, we're not over yet."

Thank you all for your support over the past seven weeks. We are still finalising when our last day on air will be. Just...

Posted by Campbell Live on Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Campbell Live reporter Tristram Clayton said he was "devastated".

Other long-time colleagues of Campbell, including Hamish McKay, Ali Ikram and Amanda Gillies, left the building looking upset but would not comment on the news or what would happen next.

Earlier TV3 staff tweeted their support and admiration for Campbell after the news was announced. Despite dozens of people protesting about a possible cancellation of the show last month and hundreds of thousands of Kiwis signing a petition to keep the show, no supporters gathered outside the MediaWorks building on Thursday night.

Executive Campbell Live producer Pip Keane tweeted the team were still finalising their last night together.

TV3 News quoted group head of news Mark Jennings saying Campbell was asked to co-host the show but he had instead decided to leave the company.

John Campbell left TV3 after it was announced his show would be replaced by a four day a week current affairs show

John Campbell left TV3 after it was announced his show would be replaced by a four day a week current affairs show

"John has decided he wants to take a break from the job and we respect his decision," Jennings said.

MediaWorks staff were told of the news on Thursday. The show thanked their supporters on Facebook.

"We are still finalising when our last day on air will be. Just one point of clarification, John was offered a three-year contract last year but only the first year was on Campbell Live."

Group chief executive Mark Weldon and Jennings said the review was thorough and assessed a wide range of options. This was the best option, they said.

"As much as anything, this was a review of the viability of current affairs at 7pm," Jennings said. "We went in without any preconceived idea of the outcome, but with a clear goal to turnaround the ratings decline...We will be bringing the best of Campbell Live over to the new show, but will be looking at a wider mix of stories."

Jennings told TV3 Campbell's decision to leave MediaWorks was "personally heartbreaking".

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Campbell was "New Zealand's premiere current affairs journalist" and it was "really disappointing" he would not be joining the show in its new format, he said.

Jennings told TV3 he wanted Campbell to be part of the new show but he declined.

"John certainly hasn't been pushed," he said.

"It's never easy, for a lot of factors, but I believe John is exiting in the best possible way."

Jennings said he did not know when would be Campbell's last day at TV3.

It seemed the day started with business as usual for Campbell himself, who tweeted about a story he was working on on Wednesday night. 

Former TVNZ news boss and media commentator Bill Ralston said while Campbell Live ratings had been up in recent weeks, it was the wrong audience for TV3.

"They wanted another kind of viewer that would keep watching all the reality shows that would run afterwards, and that didn't happen."

He expected the show would be replaced with something "light and frothy" that could compete with Seven Sharp on TVNZ.

"I hope John puts his feet up and then comes back on another television show or radio station so we can all have the benefit of his great interviewing."

Journalism commentator Jim Tully said the change suggested New Zealand's two main  television networks had "opted out" of providing serious prime time current affairs.

"[It is] a sad day for those who value an intelligent discussion of news and current affairs  at peak time." said Tully, associate professor and researcher in residence at Massey's University's School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing.

"The ratings had to be consistently higher for Campbell Live to be sustainable.  MediaWorks clearly wants a format which produces a bigger audience as a lead into its  peak time programmes which are clearly going to be reality shows."

Campbell Live sponsor Mazda said it had not had any discussions with MediaWorks about sponsoring the replacement show.

Campbell Live promotes the Japanese car-maker with the tagline "driven by Mazda".

Mazda marketing services manager Maria Tsao said John Campbell's departure from TV3 was "breaking news" and Mazda had not had a lot of information about the programme changes so far.

"But MediaWorks will no doubt approach us," she said.

"We continue to work with MediaWorks and we are going to be engaged with ongoing business but we haven't agreed on anything, or disagreed on anything, or accepted any new contracts for new sponsorship at this stage," she said.

Mazda did not have a company viewpoint on the axing of Campbell Live, Tsao said.

The review was led by TV3 news and current affairs boss Mark Jennings.

Campbell Live has surged in the ratings in recent weeks as the public swung in behind the show, which often campaigns for the underdog.

It has regularly topped the network's ratings, outrating the 6pm news bulletin on Thursday by nearly 100,000 viewers.

MediaWorks expected the new current affairs show to launch in 6-8 weeks, and recruiting for the hosts will begin immediately, TV3 News reported.

Senior management team were reportedly unanimous in their decision.

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