New Zealand’s MediaWorks put the country’s largest commercial television station up for sale on Friday after sustaining losses for years in an increasingly fragmented media landscape.
The media conglomerate said it intended to sell its Auckland-based Three TV channel, although reports said it could simply be shut if a buyer was not found by year’s end.
“We are in a commercial environment and have to face commercial realities,” chairman Jack Matthews said.
“The market that free-to-air television operates in is tough and has been exacerbated this year.”
He said MediaWorks intended to concentrate on its radio network and QMS outdoor advertising business, which specialises in billboards.
MediaWorks posted a NZ$5.5 million ($3.5 million) loss in the 2018 financial year and the company hopes offloading Three would help turn around its fortunes.
Three has felt the squeeze as Google and Facebook have soaked up digital advertising revenues and viewers have turned to streaming services such as Netflix.
In addition, its main free-to-air competitor is state-owned TVNZ, which MediaWorks executives say creates an uneven playing field.
The company did not confirm rumours of a possible closure if a buyer is not found but chief executive Michael Anderson raised the prospect in August of the channel being shut.
He said losing the station would be a blow for news diversity in New Zealand and create an environment where the government was the country’s only major free-to-air broadcaster.
“Certainly the government (should) never find itself in a situation where (it has) a monopoly on broadcast news,” he told pop culture website The Spinoff.
“Just for the perceived conflict… it doesn’t work for democracy.”
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