Pacific Islands

Newshub set to close at end of June, Warner Bros. Discovery staff devastated

February 28, 2024 12:21 pm

Staff react after the news [Source: NZ Herald]

Up to 300 jobs are expected to be lost as one of our biggest commercial media company’s newsrooms – Newshub – is set to close at the end of June, with dozens of high-profile presenters and journalists out of roles.

Dozens of high-profile presenters and journalists such as 6pm news presenters Mike McRoberts and Samantha Hayes and new 7pm show host Ryan Bridge are among the hundreds about to lose their jobs.

Up to 350 people work at Warner Bros. Discovery in New Zealand with about 200 understood to be devoted to news. A slimmed-down company might see only 50 staff remain, one source has suggested.

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Warner Bros. Discovery laid out the plans to close Newshub at an all-staff meeting at 11am today.

Presenter and journalist Paddy Gower was said to have delivered a morale-boosting speech at the end of the meeting.

”He ended his speech with ‘keep calm and we will carry on’,” camera operator Jenna Gotlieb said.

”He is, of all the people in the newsroom, someone who can bring us all together.”

It is understood Paddy Gower’s show, Paddy Gower Has Issues, will close under the proposal but that his documentaries would survive with any approved NZ on Air funding.

A steady flow of stunned Newshub staff left the meeting in tears and with stunned looks on their faces.

Former AM Show host Ryan Bridge told journalists they were “going to go and have a drink”.

Anchor Mike McRoberts described the news as “heartbreaking”.

“We are a pretty good newsroom, if we can’t make it work who can.”

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was told about the Newshub closure around 45 minutes before the 11am staff meeting.

“Look this is awful,” Warner Bros. Discovery NZ boss Glen Kyne told staff at the meeting.

The company would look to co-fund local news but ThreeNow was now the “core” of a future digital business, staff were told.

In a statement at 11.18am, Warner Bros. Discovery said it had started consultation on a “proposed remodelling and restructure of its ANZ free-to-air business in New Zealand”.

“The proposal includes the closure of all Newshub’s multiplatform news operations and output, and new local programming would only be in collaboration with local funding bodies and other partners.”

One staff member said they were “gutted”.

“These are staff who care very much about news and this is devastating.”

The New Zealand arm of Warner Bros. Discovery posted a $35 million post-tax loss in 2022. At the time of the 2022 financial results being signed off, on May 31 last year, the company gave a minimum 12-month commitment to continue to finance the New Zealand operation.

Warner Bros. Discovery Asia Pacific president James Gibbons said today that the proposal was not 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,” he said.

”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.

”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.”

Gibbons said the proposal followed a review of the New Zealand business.

The proposed new model would be focused on a digital future, with ThreeNow at the core of the model, supported by free-to-air linear channels, said Gibbons.

“It is proposed that ThreeNow and Three’s offering would feature local programming in conjunction with funding partners, acquisitions across drama, comedy, sport, reality and factual, and key titles from Warner Bros. Discovery’s extensive library. Bravo, Eden, Rush and HGTV would continue in their current form with the same content slate.”

Staff in Auckland were asked to attend today’s meeting in person; those around the rest of the country, or who can’t otherwise make it, dialled in on Zoom.

“Staff are super anxious,” said one source before the meeting.

They said the meeting had been scheduled for some time – but the language for the invitation changed this morning, with the suggestion it was an important announcement and roles might be impacted.

Kyne said it was a hard day.

“Everybody who works for Warner Bros. Discovery ANZ has done everything we could have asked. This proposal is not a reflection of these efforts.

“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. We’ve now reached a stage where any further reduction in costs means proposing major changes. This is why we are proposing to shut down the newsroom. This would mean stopping all news production including the Newshub website from June 30.”

Kyne said if the proposal was implemented, the company would be committed “to retaining a local presence, albeit with a much smaller operating model and lower cost base”.

”We know that Newshub has been such an important and central part of TV3 since day one, and is a crucial part of a functioning media sector in New Zealand.

”We also know that New Zealanders have come to love our local shows, from Dancing with the Stars, to The Block NZ, to Black Coast Vanishings.

“Free-to-air and news are expensive businesses to run. Put simply, the economic headwinds means the returns are not there. These proposed changes will be hard if they are implemented, but we think they are necessary, which is why we have commenced consultation.

The consultation process runs until mid-March. A final decision is expected early April once feedback has been carefully considered.”

He said all other Warner Bros. Discovery ANZ operations were not part of this consultation, including Theatrical Production and Distribution, Content Licensing, Affiliate Partnerships for Pay TV Channels, and independent local production business, WBITVP NZ.