Duff stepping down at TVNZ

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- TVNZ programming chief Annemarie Duff has quit at a time the ratings-troubled pubcaster is slashing advertising rates for its flagship channel, TV One.

Duff, who was TVNZ's marketing chief before being appointed to run TV One and TV2 two years ago, resigned Tuesday to spend more time with her family.

She will continue with TVNZ until the end of the year and will present the channels' new-season schedules to advertisers next month.

Her exit follows a restructuring of the TVNZ programming department that would have seen her focus more on the pubcaster's multiplatform future under new head of television Jeff Latch.

Over the past year, TVNZ has weathered a marathon of bad press that has dented viewership of TV One, particularly the nightly news hour that anchors the rest of primetime.

This has been compounded by the ratings rise of chief free-to-air rival TV3, increased penetration by pay TV operator Sky and Sky's decision to beef up its low-rated FTA channel, Prime.

In an interview, Duff described the changes as a "period of transition" for TVNZ and pointed out that TV2 has picked up most of the share TV One has lost.

"TV One took a hit in news, which is where TV3 has picked up its performance, but TV2 dominates all the major demos. TV One also has been stymied by underperforming short-run British product opposite powerhouse U.S. shows on TV2 and TV3.

Duff acknowledges some of the U.K. dramas could have been better promoted but argued that they struggle against such big-budget U.S. hits as "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives."

"New Zealanders are making the choice to watch American (fare)," Duff said.
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