Saturday, December 15, 2012

Max TV remembered

From RipitUp, Jan 1998. Click to enlarge

I wrote an article for RipItUp published in April 1999, looking at the state of local music videos. For that piece, NZ On Air's Brendan Smyth told me “At one point there, around the end of 1997, we had about four hundred hours of music television a week, with Max, Cry, MTV, Dog TV, Juice. And then it went down to four hours a week, very much feast or famine.”

Here is a piece then RipItUp editor Murray Cammick wrote in early 1998 on the demise of Max TV. It was a huge loss for the Auckland music scene, at the time. I remember going up to the Max TV studio, above the Ponsonby PO on the final night, to say hello to my buddy John Pain who was operating the control desk for the final hours. It was a sad night.

By Murray Cammick, RipItUp, p7, #245, January 1998

The closure of Max TV on Wednesday Dec 3 was a confusing event. There was a willing buyer (TVNZ's company BCL) and willing sellers (the directors of Aztel Holdings Jeff Thorpe and Kevin Black) and a price tag somewhere between $1 million and two million.

There was a lot of anger vented on the day with Max TV hosts holding the buyer (TVNZ) responsible for the closure of the channel and Mikey Havoc of MTV sending an incendiary fax suggesting the sellers were responsible. To quote Mikey, ''you are championing the wizened husk of Max like children defending a runaway Father (or Fathers).''

The buyer TVNZ's BCL said they knew Max TV was up for sale and the sellers claimed that 'TVNZ boss Neil Roberts approached them to buy the frequency. 

So at the end of the day I guess the buyer is happy on four counts; Firstly. TVNZ have a frequency to use for digital television next century.

Secondly, they have removed a competitor in the field of music television (though I would argue the stations reached / or were programmed for different demographics).

Thirdly, Neil Roberts has made good on his MTV launch statement that '' I don't think they (Max TV) have a future." But fourthly and I think most importantly, TVNZ has moved to block an independent (irrespective of broadcast content) from operating in the Auckland market and pushed up the price of entry to the Auckland television market.

The sellers of Max TV should have been happy too, they were winners, they made good on an enterprise that was looking like a financial liability. They were up against tough competitive practices. The initial TVNZ sales line on MTV advertising was if you buy ''X value'' on MTV, you get ''X value'' of spots free on TV2.

So who are the losers? Well the obvious losers are Aucklanders who have lost a great local channel that did a lot more than just play videos, the people who work at Max TV who lost the chance to gain experience in the industry, and New Zealand musicians who enjoyed high rotates for their video clips

But there are other losers. Why can TVNZ find money to buy a frequency for unspecified future use when they cannot find the resources to let the MTV staff in New Zealand broadcast a credible selection of videos relevant to the New Zealand market? The million-plus figure could have been used to facilitate MTV improving the product it broadcasts. People in all centres that get MTV would benefit, if the dross content beamed from London was cut drastically.

An Auckland musician wrote to RipItUp to defend the outbursts of anger broadcast on MaxTV on the final day. ''Why didn't Neil Roberts inject this large sum of money into his own music channel to make it more competitive or more relevant to New Zealanders rather than Europeans.''

Does any New Zealander, whether a young teen or a young adult, want to see former members of Take That, Boy's Own, unplugged Bryan Adams, a Bon Jovi weekend etc. Sure the kiddies eight to 12 want their Hanson, Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys but that's all that is on MTV throughout the day. Is it just a pre-teen, kiddies channel? Well, if it is, it will not gain many viewers due to the closure of Max TV.

Sure, there's a kiwi oasis, the Havoc show in the sea of dross, but there's talk of it being cut back and there were many shows on Max TV as good as Havoc at a fraction of the budget - Peter Urlich's The Tube (everyone talked about that), |Risky Business, Aaron Carson's Rock bogan fest, the new cooking show with Karen Walker and the Mad Butcher was sublime. Who will. screen the shows we only saw trailers for?

I think the losers are not just whinging Aucklanders, on the day the million dollar deal was done we lost two video channels, Max TV, and the possibility of Enzed MTV, while the rest of the country have just lost the possibility of Enzed MTV. But, to look on the positive side, it's now easier to turn the tele off. I've read a book since Max TV went off the air!

Max TV's Hans Hoeflich

ADDED Hat tip to Steve Adams for pointing me to this - the final video ever screened on Max TV...  "Goodnight Auckland, whatever you are..."

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