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BusinessApril 16, 2024

‘Some’ Newshub staff to be taken on by Stuff for new 6pm bulletin


Warner Bros Discovery has confirmed that Stuff will provide a 6pm news bulletin for Three, replacing Newshub, with ‘limited’ roles for laid-off Newshub staff.

1pm: Updated

Less than a week after Three confirmed that its proposal to completely shutter Newshub was going ahead, Stuff has won the pitch to create a new news product to run in the vital 6pm slot for the channel.

In a joint press conference with WBD held outside Stuff’s Auckland office this afternoon, the company’s owner and publisher Sinead Boucher said “some” Newshub staff would be recruited to run the broadcast, but said she couldn’t say how many or who. She added that fewer than the 40-50 staff members a Newshub staff proposal pitched to save would be brought over. Around 250 people are losing their jobs when Newshub shuts down.

At an all-staff meeting held at 10.30, Newshub staff were told there would be a “limited” number of roles for them on the new bulletin. WBD’s Glen Kyne said it was “a difficult announcement today because we’re not saving all the jobs in the newsroom”, and there were a range of feelings in the room. Newshub staff have been invited to express their interest in working on the new Stuff bulletin via a dedicated email address.

The new 6pm news show will begin on Saturday, July 6, the day after the final Newshub bulletin airs. It will be an hour from Monday to Friday, with 30-minute programmes on Saturday and Sunday evenings. A new name is yet to be decided.

Glen Kyne and Sinead Boucher at today’s press conference (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Stuff journalists from all over the country would be invited to take part in the new project, said Boucher at the press conference, and training would be provided for any staff asked be on the news bulletins who weren’t comfortable in front of the camera.

The new show may be broadcast from Newshub’s Flower Street studios in central Auckland temporarily, said Boucher, but they aren’t expected to be the permanent home. Stuff’s studio spaces are currently much more geared around podcasting and audio than the pricey and expansive sets from which major news bulletins are broadcast. 

Earlier today, NZ Herald reported that the Newshub website would transfer to Stuff. At today’s press conference, Boucher and WBD’s Glen Klyne said it hadn’t been decided whether the websites would merge or remain separate, but preserving the website’s archive was a priority for both companies.

In the press release confirming the news this morning, Kyne said Stuff had offered the “most compelling option” for the daily bulletin, as he thanked other organisations that submitted proposals.

“Stuff put a lot of thought into not just the bulletin but also a broader partnership with a real future focus which would benefit both parties and New Zealand,” said Kyne.

“As a large, already-established news organisation with newsrooms around the country, Stuff’s proposal offered us strong confidence in the future we’ll now embark on together,” said Kyne. “This agreement also gives all New Zealanders confidence that there won’t just be one broadcast news option on TV.

“It’s critical for democracy that we have a strong fourth estate to hold the powerful to account and that there are different voices asking different questions. We were deeply aware of the dampening effect the Newshub closure would have on media plurality and we’re very pleased that New Zealanders will be able to have a choice about what news they watch at 6pm.”

No financial details of the deal were revealed during today’s press conference.

The Spinoff understands that Stuff arch-rival NZME did pitch for the opportunity, along with other parties, but that WBD preferred Stuff’s option, in part due to the potential for its scope to expand over time. Last week, an NZME spokesperson told The Spinoff that “we’re not currently part of the process on this” – today’s news confirms that it has lost out on a fairly major opportunity within a generally depressed news market. 

Sky did not bid for the rights, while two groups of Newshub staff that were working on their own proposals to continue the brand had already been told they were unsuccessful, according to reporting by the NZ Herald’s Shayne Currie. Sky Open currently broadcasts a 30-minute bulletin at 5.30pm, fronted by Eric Young, which is produced by WMD out of the Newshub studios in Auckland. In a statement to The Spinoff, a Sky spokesperson said, “We have previously said that we remain interested in delivering strong local news, where it makes commercial sense, and are considering our options. In the meantime, there is no immediate change to the bulletin for our Sky Open customers.”

The move completes a sea change in strategy for Stuff, one in which it has farewelled a large number of star print journalists, and pushed harder into audio and video since the arrival of new CEO Laura Maxwell. Last year, following the collapse of Today FM, it won the race to sign ex-Newshub star Tova O’Brien, who has a chance to make an unlikely return to Three’s 6pm bulletin, after an acrimonious departure from there to Today FM in early 2022. Stuff has history with courting ex-TV talent and trying to build a major video product – it hired the core of Three’s investigative unit 3D to create the now-disbanded Stuff Circuit, former 6pm anchor Carol Hirschfeld and ex-Fair Go presenter Ali Mau – though with the exception of Paula Penfold, all have since departed. 

With a new “live and lively” strategy for Stuff, this deal represents an opportunity to dig deeper into fast-turnaround video, meshing with its new TikTok-style “Stuff Shorts” carousel of vertical video.

Stuff and WBD have been approached for comment. 

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