New Zealand Television

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NZ Television Archive



New Zealand Television  —  Serving the country from the 1960s


New Zealand's first experimental TV transmissions took place in 1952 when senior lecturer in engineering at Canterbury University (Bernhard Withers) and his team of students broadcast from their station ZL3XT, covering a radius of just a few kilometres around Christchurch with disappointingly fuzzy and barely legible images.


An early colour television test at Mount Kaukau transmitting station (1970)

Cropped image from Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o Te Kawanatanga


Commercial television first began in New Zealand on June 1st, 1960 under the auspices of the NZBC (New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation) with the launch of AKTV2 in Auckland providing two hours per night, two nights per week of black and white television.  Programming wasn't originally networked, but instead each region ran either their own shows, or local variants of shows, some of which were shared between stations, but the mode of transportation of TV shows and news stories between stations was by mail.  Regions often would see news stories which were days old - and in the case of Dunedin, stories could be up to four or five days old.  By 1963, TV viewership had reached 300,000.  The first networked show was the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, when a temporary network was created to show the event to the whole country, the footage having been recorded in Australia and flown over to New Zealand.  A permanent network was established later that year with the first networked new bulletins airing in 1969.


By the 1970s local programming had been fully replaced with networked programming, and on October 1st, 1973 colour TV arrived with the first PAL (Phase Alternating Line) broadcast in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - soon extending to the Waikato and Dunedin, and with full country coverage achieved by 1977.  Colour broadcasting had covered the major population centres for the Commonwealth Games of 1974, and by 1979, television sets were in 95% of New Zealand homes.


TV1 was the main channel, but by June of 1974 a second channel, TV2, (South Pacific Television) had also launched, and although both channels were operated by the Government-owned BCNZ (Broadcasting Council of New Zealand), they were separate from each other, and ostensibly in competition with each other.  Both TV1 and TV2 had their own services and this remained the case until 1980, when the two channels became part of the newly created TVNZ.





In 1980 TVNZ was formed as a State Owned Enterprise (or SOE), and in 1986 legislation was passed requiring SOEs to run as commercially successful businesses.  In 1989 the market was deregulated, and TV3 was launched.




1990 saw the launch of SKY Television and October 1994 saw the final broadcast of Goodnight Kiwi, which had been running since 1980.  1999 saw the abolition of the Television Licence Fee.



In February of 2003, TVNZ became a crown-owned company and advertising revenue surpassed $300M for the first time.  February 2007 saw regional ad breaks no longer being broadcast on SKY's digital platform, and in 2008 television viewership was established at 3.8 million.  On October 1st, 2016 TVNZ undertook a network-wide rebranding, which saw channel TV1 become TVNZ 1, TV2 become TVNZ 2 and Duke to TVNZ Duke.