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Five interesting takeaways from a survey on how NZers consume media

Where do we watch content, what do we want from it, and how do we view New Zealand news? Here’s what we learned from NZ On Air’s latest survey on identity, culture and the media. 

We still like to watch free-to-view TV

Despite the lingering doom and gloom around linear television, almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) reported watching free-to-view TV. The survey found it was the most popular service used to watch programmes for those aged 35 and over, while still being used by at least half of the survey’s younger respondents. 

For those younger respondents, online services like Facebook and YouTube were found to be the most popular, particularly among those aged 16-17 (82%), followed by paid streaming services like Netflix and Lightbox. 

Multiple choices were allowed for this part of the survey, with the average person reportedly using about three different services.

We watch more internationally made content than NZ-made content

No surprises here. When respondents were asked about the most recent TV show they’d watched, just 29% had watched a New Zealand-made programme while 61% had watched a programme made overseas (the remaining 10% didn’t know). 

Among those who watched internationally made content, the majority had done so via paid streaming services (36%) followed by free-to-view TV (28%) and online video (17%). But among those who watched locally made content, an overwhelming number had done so live via free-to-view TV (61%). On-demand services from these free-to-view channels, such as ThreeNow and TVNZ Ondemand, came in at a distant second (16%).

We want to watch more New Zealand-made content – but we want it to be “better quality” and we want it ad free

Among respondents who said they watched only overseas-made content, more than half said it was because they found it not only “more appealing” and of “more interest” (57%), but “better quality” (63%) as well. 

More specifically, many stated there were no/not enough New Zealand-made programmes for their age group (24%), their culture (24%), or their language (10%), with more than 40% of respondents also admitting they weren’t sure of what programmes were even available. On most of these points, agreement was generally stronger among younger respondents than older respondents. 

Interestingly enough, more than half of respondents (54%) who watched only internationally made content thought that – in principle, at least – having locally made content was “important”, even if they didn’t watch it themselves. When all respondents (i.e. those who watched only overseas-made content but also those who watched New Zealand-made content) were asked what it would take for them to start watching/watch more locally made content, the most popular response was if that content was made available ad free. That sentiment was particularly strong among older viewers, which is probably related to the fact that older viewers watch more free-to-view TV (ie: advertiser-funded).

Other than wanting to get rid of ads, better availability, accessibility and convenience were all points frequently touched on by respondents, as well as better-quality programming and having “programmes that I like to watch” (the survey found that dramas, documentaries, current affairs and comedies were the most popular types of programming, but the statement is vague, to say the least).

Older respondents were also far more likely than younger respondents to want stories of New Zealand people and their way of life in order to “see how different people live”. On the flip side, younger respondents were more likely to want content available on the services they watched and if it was made for their age group. 

We listen to more audio content online than on the radio

On average, more than 20% of respondents reported listening to Spotify (29%) and YouTube music (26%) – the two most popular options out of all those offered. Not surprisingly, the gap between older and younger generations is huge, with more than half of respondents between the ages of 16 and 24 listening to Spotify, while less than 20% of those over 50 reported doing so. 

The generational divide also made itself clear in what radio stations people listened to. For example, among young people, The Edge proved to be the overwhelming favourite, particularly among 18-24-year-olds (31%). Meanwhile, Newstalk ZB (23%), The Coast (25%) and RNZ National (29%) proved to be the most popular stations among those 70 and over. 

We want a news media that’s independent and informative

The survey found that respondents had high expectations of the media in terms of keeping them informed “about what is going on in the rest of the world” (81%) and “local issues and community life” (81%). They also had high expectations of the media’s level of integrity, with more than 78% of people agreeing that “free, independent, trustworthy news is critical for democracy in New Zealand”. In general, older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to have these high expectations 

A majority of people also felt that news reporting in New Zealand was “more about entertainment than sharing information” (59%), “more about opinions than facts” (54%), and thought they were more likely to “come across fake news on social media than through the traditional New Zealand news media” (61%). With that said, there were a high number of neutral responses for this part of the survey (the lowest being 23%), so it’s hard to say how indicative these sentiments actually are. For the most part, a decent proportion of respondents seemed uncertain of where they stood on these important issues.

NB: Table has been cropped

 To learn more on what respondents thought on questions of identity and culture, read the full report here.

The 2019 survey was completed online, between 22 and 30 August 2019, with a nationally representative sample of n=1,660 New Zealanders, 16 years of age and over. People who identified as Māori or Pacific were over-sampled, as were young people 16-17 years of age, in order to be able to analyse their results with confidence.


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