Fox TV sells Dunedin's NHNZ

Part of the NHNZ family . . . New owner of NHNZ, Australian businessman David Haslingden (right),...
Part of the NHNZ family . . . New owner of NHNZ, Australian businessman David Haslingden (right), is welcomed to the NHNZ team by (from left) NHNZ publicist Rebecca Wilson, executive producer Judith Curran and general manager John Crawford. Photo by Brenda Harwood
Dunedin-based NHNZ, one of New Zealand's seminal film and documentary makers, has been sold by its multi-national owner to a leading Australian television executive.

Fox Television Studios has sold NHNZ to former Fox Networks Group executive David Haslingden in a move that could mean New Zealanders see more of the Dunedin company's work on local television.

Just what he paid remained confidential yesterday but, in an exclusive interview with The Star, there was every indication he saw a strong future for his new acquisition.

Mr Haslingden said he was keen for NHNZ to do ''more of everything'' - including producing more shows for the domestic market and more work on what is broadly called ''contemporary entertainment''.

''I would love to see us expanding into historical dramas and even scripted dramas - it would be great for the hit show in New Zealand to be an NHNZ show,'' he said during the interview in Dunedin yesterday.

Mr Haslingden would also like to bring more young people into NHNZ, enhancing its status as a vibrant and exciting place to work.

Asked if NHNZ could act as a hub for film and television creation in the region, Mr Haslingden said such a thing would be ''a terrific goal'' for the company.

Mr Haslingden left his role as president and chief operating officer of California-based Fox Networks Group late last year. He bought NHNZ in October.

NHNZ was previously owned by Fox Television Studios, under the umbrella of News Corp, Mr Haslingden's former employer.

Since stepping down and moving back to Australia to be closer to family, Mr Haslingden has become chairman of Australian television network Nine Entertainment, and is also chairman of wildlife charity Wild Aid.

Through his role at Fox and as former chief executive of National Geographic Channels International, Mr Haslingden has had a 10-year association with NHNZ.

''As I started my television career with National Geographic, I have always had an affection for the natural history work that NHNZ has been famous for,'' he said.

''One of the things that interested me about the company is the fact that it is very versatile, making and exporting shows around the world.''

Describing NHNZ as his major asset, Mr Haslingden said the strength of the company and the quality of its programmes had inspired him to ''make a big personal bet'' on its future. However, apart from providing strategic advice, he does not plan to take on a direct executive role.

''Really, the change of ownership shouldn't make any difference - this is a great bunch of people,'' he said.

''I hope I will be able to make a contribution and provide support.

''My main message to everyone at NHNZ is 'go for it','' he said.

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