Shortland Street: South Pacific Pictures pushes for change to govt screen rebate

9:55 pm on 19 April 2024
Shortland Street cast photo.

Photo: South Pacific Pictures

The makers of Shortland Street want the government to help out financially by extending its cash-back scheme for local productions.

The future of Aotearoa's longest running drama is up in the air, with TVNZ and production company South Pacific Pictures in talks as the broadcaster looks to cut yet more costs.

It has already announced the cancellation of four news and current affairs shows - including Sunday - from mid-May.

TVNZ bosses have said they were reviewing all programming to ensure it remained commercially viable. The nightly drama is paid for entirely by advertising revenue.

Some local productions receive up to $20 million of costs refunded as part of a government screen production rebate scheme. However, Shortland Street does not meet the criteria.

South Pacific Pictures chief executive Kelly Martin told Checkpoint host Lisa Owen the company was looking at how to fund the show in future, considering New Zealand was such a small media market.

"They are saying it's tough... and we understand that. This is a big show."

Martin did not know how much the budget shortfall was costing TVNZ. Each episode has a $500,000 threshold for the rebate, but there were a large number of shows throughout the year.

"You'd have to talk to them about that. I'm not au fait with their numbers around that stuff - or not enough that I'd want to talk about it."

The rebate is calculated on the per hour cost, rather than total cost, and because each episode of Shortland Street had a rapid turnaround, the per hour cost was significantly smaller than "every other drama, probably in the world", she said.

"If you were an international company coming in, you could get a rebate based on your total spend, and your total investment, rather than per hour, so we're asking the government to adjust that so that the total investment is taken into account."

The Australian federal government had recently made this move for the long-running soap Home and Away, she said.

"If we were coming over here and making Home and Away over here, they would qualify for a rebate - so we're asking for this anomaly to be righted."

Shortland Street had successfully recouped its production costs "for a long time" in the past, she said.

"But as everyone knows, we are in a really tricky changeover time, between linear audiences and [linear] advertising, and digital audiences and [digital] advertising.

"Shortland Street ... will come good again, but we're in this strange time where the advertising market has fallen off a cliff for the broadcasters, and their digital strategy that they're all working on... hasn't started to give proper returns yet - but it will.

"And the thing with a show like Shortland Street, there's been a lot of talk about, 'Well, this is market-driven', but this show is still hugely, hugely popular with New Zealand audiences, it employs lots of people and it trains lots of people, it's regularly in the top five shows ... so there's still a huge audience for it, but we're a tiny, tiny market so it's finding a financial model that we can take into the future."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs