Let's get exportin'

The Kiwi screen industry is celebrating today. Last night NZ On Air announced that it will take a much smaller share of the money earned by local TV poductions, meaning that producers will be able to take their programmes to international markets and actually get most of the profits from deals they strike. From today, our TV industry is all about export.

The new deal sets NZ On Air's share of the proceeds at 25 percent—it had been about three times that—and at just ten percent once the initial investment has been repaid. This is a fantastic decision; kudos to NZ On Air and Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey. By giving producers every reason to get on a plane and sell their programmes overseas, NZ On Air is giving the whole industry a kick-start. Maybe the funding agency will even do better out of the deal.

Producers have been asking for this for years but for many the news has come out of the blue. “We’re blown away,” Television Spaceman director Luke Nola told me this morning. “It’s brilliant news.”

Nola and partner Neil Stichbury were already selling their shows offshore. The BBC has licensed their ingenious kids’ show, Let’s Get Inventin’ (which was featured in Idealog #2) and it’s a hit in the UK—Nola says it’s the second-most-watched kids show on BBC1. It’s also been licensed to a Canadian company and hopes are high that PBS or National Geographic will pick it up in the US.

But now the export option is even more attractive. Nola and Stichbury are preparing to pitch a bunch more shows to the TVNZ board; like every other producer in the country, they’ll now be making sure that every idea they pitch has export potential, which is great news for all of us.

Each of the creative TV entrepreneurs we talked to for our November/December 2006 cover story, ‘New boys on the box’, mentioned NZ On Air’s majority share of the export receipts as the biggest issue facing local TV production. The sentiment was repeated constantly while I researched ‘New Tube’, a story about the reinvention of television in our current issue (not yet online). So here’s the sugar on this particular cake: NZ On Air is even applying the new terms to existing contracts.

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