28 Feb 2024

Discovery Warners to close Newshub in June

From Mediawatch, 11:51 am on 28 February 2024

Warner Bros. Discovery plans to close its Newshub operation on 30 June, ending its TV news broadcasts and online news. The company has blamed an economic downturn and decline in advertising. Around 200 journalists and staff are affected and it could mean the end of a legacy in local news and entertainment programming that stretches back to the introduction of commercial TV in 1989. 

Newshub at 6 presenters Samantha Hayes and Mike McRoberts

Newshub at 6 presenters Samantha Hayes and Mike McRoberts Photo: Supplied

Warner Bros. Discovery statement says the proposed restructure of free-to-air business in New Zealand "includes the closure of all Newshub’s multiplatform news operations and output".

That would mean Newshub at 6, Newshub Late and the AM show will cease on or before the end of June.    

"New local programming would only be in collaboration with local funding bodies and other partners," it says, casting doubt in the future of local factual programmes and popular entertainment shows like The Block and Married at First Sight.    

The shutdown was announced at an all-staff meeting fronted by Warner Bros. Discovery's Australia and New Zealand chief Glen Kyne this morning.

Newshub staff told Mediawatch the meeting had been scheduled for some time, but most workers hadn't understood its importance until emails were sent out this morning saying attendance was mandatory and it would affect their jobs. 

Several people were in tears after the news was announced, staff said. They described a general air of devastation - though not necessarily surprise - at the move, as most knew the company's news operation had been losing money.

“We’re a pretty good newsroom, if we can’t make it work, who can?” Stuff quoted long-serving TV3 and Newshub  news anchor Mike McRoberts as saying. 

James Gibbons, President, Asia Pacific, Warner Bros. Discovery said it is "not a proposal the business arrived at easily."    

“We are acutely aware of our position in the local media landscape and what this means for our people, and for the country as a whole." 

“There was no single trigger that caused this, rather it was a combination of negative events in New Zealand and globally. The impacts of the economic downturn have been severe, and the bounce back has not materialised as expected.  

“Advertising revenue in New Zealand has disappeared far more quickly than our ability to manage this reduction, and to drive the business to profitability.

Delays in new programmes such as Newshub Nation and a new 7pm current affairs show Bridge prompted some commentators to ponder the possibility of cuts to programmes, possible job losses and roll-backs in production plans - but no-one had predicted the entire closure of the news operation. 

MediaWorks closed its talk radio station Today FM and its radio news operation in June 2023. Bauer Media closed its entire magazine publishing operation in April 2020 early in the first Covid Level 4 lockdown.

But this would be the biggest and most far-reaching news closure in the post-Covid era. It would also leave state-owned TVNZ as the sole national broadcaster of TV news programmes.        

“Every time we think we’ve landed on stable footing, something comes along and makes it unstable again, forcing us to look at ways of further reducing costs," Kyne said in a statement.

"We’ve now reached a stage where any further reduction in costs means ... proposing to shut down the newsroom. and the Newshub website."  

“Everyone can see that the media sector, here in New Zealand, and around the world is facing some very tough circumstances. While Warner Bros. Discovery is a large global media company, each business is managed on its ability to sustain itself within the market it operates in. Subsidising losses for ongoing years indefinitely is not sustainable," said James Gibbons. 

Discovery Warner Bros says its proposal is to make the ThreeNow online app "the core of the model, supported by free-to-air linear channels" such as Three, Bravo, Eden, Rush and HGTV. 

The consultation process runs until mid-March. A final decision is expected early April once feedback has been carefully considered. If this proposed model went ahead, the changes would not take effect until after 30 June 2024. 

DWB acquired over the TV channels and Newshub assets from Mediaworks for $23.5m in December 2020. 

Newshub's shutdown comes in the context of a deepening financial crisis for New Zealand's media organisations.

TVNZ is in the midst of a restructure as it prepares to announce its results for the 2024 financial year.

Multiple TVNZ sources have told Mediawatch they expect the report to reveal large losses.

At a select committee hearing on the proposed Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill last week, Stuff owner Sinead Boucher said several media executives had told her their news divisions were "clinging on by their fingertips".

She warned that proprietary innovations in AI could make a dire financial situation worse.   

“This is looking increasingly like an extinction-level event.”