The 6pm television news

It is partly routine that has us read, appreciate and benefit from the Otago Daily Times each day.

It has also been standard practice over generations that viewers watched the 6pm television news each night.

Noticeably, the television news habit has been slipping, especially for younger generations.

Similarly, watching "linear" television according to set schedules is fading fast. Even older generations are using Netflix and other streaming services, or "time-switching" to watch programmes online when it suits.

Television news was always the "prime" attraction, regularly topping the charts as the most-watched programme. Even as the rest of traditional television fades, there is life yet in the old dog.

1News rates much higher than Three’s Newshub, in large part thanks to habit and TV1’s dominant legacy position.

Nevertheless, Live at 6pm still secures sizeable audiences as media consumption splinters.

One estimate puts the number of viewers who tune in over a week at least once as towards a million. A media analyst suggests the news advertising revenue for Newshub owners Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), while falling, is in the low tens of millions of dollars.

Lose the news and WBD would lose a lot of income. Cheap replacements would not attract the same advertising. The Three-watching habit would be broken.

We are also "default" beings. Many viewers do not change channel after the news.

Lose the news and Three’s other ratings would fall further.

It was in WBD’s interest to retain the news hour, or half hour as it will become on weekends.

WBD negotiated for a contractor, finding one in Stuff. For an undisclosed fee, perhaps a few million dollars, Stuff will produce and present the bulletins.

It has a mere 80 days to get itself around the world of television news.

Media observers are fascinated to see how Stuff manages. It will have to run a different and much cheaper operation to make money, no doubt with lower production values than 1News.

It will employ "less than 40" staff from the 250 or so from the Newshub carnage. Those taken on will have to include technical and producing staff, plus probably a few journalists.

The good news is that competition will keep TVNZ’s news at least a little on its toes. A modicum of Newshub’s talent might be kept.

The bad news is that the ranks of this country’s journalism are still being decimated and the Fourth Estate weakened.

Because Stuff will largely use its current staff, the number of journalists and different perspectives remain reduced.

There are doubts about Stuff’s capacity. Its past attitudes led to the rapid and premature downgrading of its large stable of newspapers.

It closed or sold off many community publications and has stripped its regional offices of staff numbers.

In the past six months, it has laid off sports journalists and further sub-editors. It has eviscerated regional and local coverage of news and sport.

Stuff staff are contemplating what it will mean for them.

Reporters, busy with the demands of video for a voracious national news bulletin every night, might find even less time for local issues and news.

The future of the print products is questioned. They have continued to earn most of Stuff’s income for many years while the website garnered the attention and glory.

The number of publication days each week might be cut for more newspapers, as occurred at the Nelson Mail and Marlborough Express.

Although the expansion could provide wider opportunities for journalists, there is considerable anxiety in Stuff.

Like other New Zealand media, Stuff has been facing severe financial challenges as the massive internet giants prey on advertising revenue and "eyeballs", while avoiding regulatory and tax burdens.

While the Stuff replacement far from makes up for the demise of Newshub, it is, at least, something positive — challenges and all — amid the plethora of bad news about news.