Axe falls on Newshub as Stuff enters NZ broadcast mix

New Zealand will lose hundreds of media jobs but keep its only commercial television news bulletin after media company Stuff inked a deal to broadcast news to embattled station Three.

The US owners of Three, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), announced in February it would shutter the station's journalism arm Newshub, unable to stomach the newsroom's costs against weakened advertising revenue.

Last week, WBD turned down a proposal from leading Newshub journalists that would have kept its news operation alive, but with vastly scaled-back costs and output.

With Newshub set to close, a behind-the-scenes negotiation was playing out between media companies to win a contract to provide Three with news.

On Tuesday morning, Stuff leapt into the breach, announcing it had reached agreement with WBD to provide nightly bulletins.

"Our proposal to WBD was to deliver high-quality news now and a news product for the future," Stuff owner Sinead Boucher said.

"We will look to innovate not replicate the 6 o’clock news, building on our expertise in digital audiences and engagement and our ability to deliver live and lively news 24/7 all over Aotearoa.

"Newshub and Three, over an incredible 35 years of journalism, has been known for gutsy, independent, non-partisan reporting, values that we share and will proudly continue to uphold."

The terms of the deal have not been released, and it is not clear whether the Newshub brand will be retained.

On a possible new name, Ms Boucher said "We'll take submissions" at a press conference.

The outsourcing deal means Newshub journalists and employees will be made redundant in July, with 290 roles to be disestablished.

Ms Boucher said Stuff was yet to decide who or how many Newshub staff they would hire, but said it was likely to be fewer than the 40 or 50 mooted in the staff-led Newshub proposal.

"We'll be utilising the strength of our whole operation," Ms Boucher said.

"There's certainly no sense that it's just an on-the-cheap iPhone only thing ... we'll be investing in proper equipment."

Three, previously known as TV3, is the plucky underdog in NZ's media landscape, running on a fraction of the costs of state-backed broadcaster TVNZ.

Newshub held its own by producing pull-no-punches reporting of national significance, often in a more tabloid or youth-focused format.

Around 900,000 Kiwis watched or read Newshub stories each week, including a website which was more popular than TVNZ's.

The last Newshub-produced bulletin will take place on July 5, with Stuff's first show the following evening.

Stuff has the most popular news website, 19 newsrooms around the country and daily newspapers in several cities, including Wellington and Christchurch.

While predominantly an online and print publisher, it has grown an audio and podcasting arm in recent years, and with this deal, makes a giant splash into broadcasting.

Stuff was owned by Australian companies Fairfax and then Nine from 2003 to 2020, when Ms Boucher led a management buyout for $1.

WBD head of networks Glen Kyne said Stuff was chosen over "a number" of proposals, with Sky TV and NZME reportedly in the mix, due to "clear editorial and cultural alignment".

"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," he said.

Mr Kyne said it was an "exciting day" but also a "difficult announcement roday because we're not saving all the jobs in the newsroom".

An agreement is yet to be reached on the use of Three's archives, though Ms Boucher said she was eager to retain it alongside Stuff's own 165 years of New Zealand's history.

On top of the Newshub job losses, TVNZ is also shredding 64 jobs as it cuts costs, which will also see the end of highly-acclaimed current affairs show on Sunday.

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