Mediaworks chief executive Michael Anderson said television channel Three "categorically" won't be shutting down by Christmas after rumours of a December deadline.
The media company announced today the it would be putting TV channel Three up for sale.
The sale will include Three's headquarters on Flower Street, in Auckland's Eden Terrace.
The channel, a major arm of MediaWorks' TV business, includes Bravo and Newshub. MediaWorks will retain its radio network and outdoor advertising company QMS.
MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson confirmed its on-air talent have been called in for one-on-one meetings about the sale.
“That was a courtesy to as soon as we possibly could, bring them in, they’re as affected as everybody else and in some cases even more so,” he told 1 NEWS.
“Any change to ownership makes you question ‘what direction will this take, who will our owners be, etc’ and so then they’re going into a holding pattern as well while we work through this process.”
There are about 600 staff work in the television arm, and some told 1 NEWS many are stressed and a staff meeting this morning was heated.
Mr Anderson said today’s decision was “incredibly difficult”, and while some uncertainty had been taken away from staff - they now faced new uncertainties.
“We remain in a period where staff are going to struggle until we can give them more certainty,” Mr Anderson told 1 NEWS.
He said there was no time-frame for a sale, and no desired price.
“There is no Christmas deadline… I can categorically say we are not shutting down TV by Christmas – that’s a rumour but it’s not fact."
“The market will decide the commercial value”
An advisor has been appointed by MediaWorks to make a list of potential buyers, and there are none in mind.
“We are waiting to see, this is a full process that enables everybody that’s interested to inquire and talk to us.”
On whether there was a preferred price, Mr Anderson told 1 NEWS the market would decide what the business is worth.
“We think the business has great value for what it does … but the market will decide the commercial value they put on that.”
Mr Anderson said a staff meeting this meeting “ran the gamut” of emotions.
“Some accepted, some were calm and some were visibly upset and some were challenging,” he said.
“You’ve got a situation now where who is the buyer? When will we know? What will the buyer want to do? There’s a whole range of things we legitimately cannot answer.”
Mr Anderson said a business as usual approach was the best way forward for now.
He rejected a suggestion MediaWorks was getting rid of its television arm to save the rest of its business.
“I wouldn’t put it that way, I would say we have come to the conclusion that MediaWorks is not the owner that can extract maximum value out of TV in the current circumstance.”
He said other parts of MediaWorks were very strong and growing.
“I think with TV, the best we can do for TV we believe is to find an owner that can extract that extra value out of it.”
“We would never put our people through this just to send a message to Government”
After weeks of sustained public commentary from MediaWorks, Mr Anderson said today’s announcement was not a message to the Government.
“This is not a message, we would never put our people through this just to send a message to Government – this is very legitimate, very real… it’s not a message.”
Mr Anderson reiterated previous concerns about New Zealand’s television sector.
“We’ve never asked for a handout for MediaWorks, what we’re saying is the platform is struggling in New Zealand… and we’ve been asking Government for platform solutions.”
“The reason we believe that’s appropriate is because the Government is the dominant player within the platform, so it can’t take a neutral stance – that’s our view,” Mr Anderson said.
Mr Anderson said MediaWorks has never had an issue with TVNZ’s “behaviour”.
“There’s no issues with TVNZ behaviour, but I do believe and certainly our view is that it comes over many years from a position of privilege in the way that this has been built over successive governments,” he said.
“We’ve been very open about talking to Government and openly about what we believe is a skewed market in New Zealand,” he said.
“This year in particular the TV revenue market has declined greater than certainly any time in the last five years.”
“We reached a point where we felt it was difficult for MediaWorks to create a sustainable profitable Three,” Mr Anderson told 1 NEWS.
The best outcome we believe is for TV to find a buyer that can leverage the assets and the synergies that are available."