What can be learnt from The Block

by Alistair Helm in


Transient

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since the nail-biting final episode of The Block and I thought there was value in sharing some opinion on the series.

The first point to make though is that my opinions expressed here will bear very little comment as to the entertainment value of the show or to the participants, or in fact to the renovations – mainly because my exposure to the TV episode was restricted to a single 20 minute segment of episode 2 as well as the full final episode featuring the lie auction.

I have separated my opinions into 3 areas: the show as a commercial venture, the marketing of the houses and lastly the lessons that homeowners can take away from the show. I have for ease of reading, split up the opinions into 3 separate blog posts so each component can be seen in isolation.

The Block as a commercial venture

The TV series was produced by Eyeworks TV for TV3. The series concept originated in Australia and has been exported to more than 8 countries and spans over 350 episodes. The concept is universal as the blend of human emotion reality TV is matched to the DIY / home improvement mindset so prevalent in so many countries and cultures.

The series was destined to be a success before even the first episode was made given the pedigree of international success; what might not have been so certain was the commercial success to the production company / TV company outside of TV ratings and the ensuing commercial revenue from TV adverts around the show.

The renovation of these 4 homes netted the production company and MediaWorks (there is no clear detail of the financial arrangements between the two companies on this production) conservatively well over a million dollars. The sponsorship alone from the 4 anchor sponsors – Bunnings, Kiwi Bank, Toyota and Wild Bean would have totaled many hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. To this can be added the profit from the house sales.

Transient

The amazing thing in relation to these 4 houses at 74 to 80 Anzac Street, Takapuna was the ability for the production company to find 4 near identical homes all next to each other, in need of renovation close to the Auckland CBD and on a road which provided easy access and low risk of neighbourhood disruption as that part of the locality of Takapuna was part commercial.

In retrospect it seems like a minor miracle; or more likely some well planned partnership with a property investor who bought up the properties one by one over time to allow the production company to acquire all 4 houses earlier this years as the land registry records show.

The collective cost to buy the 4 houses amounted to just over $2.5m – the total of the auction reserves (over which each couple would keep the margin) totaled $3.4m. The costs of the work was largely met by materials from sponsors and suppliers; there would certainly have been costs of services and people, however at the end of the day this must equate to a very profitable series. Not forgetting that peak audience of over one million who tuned in to the auction final – very close to or surpassing prior record audiences for NZ TV.

Most TV series would seek to fund the investment in production through sponsorship and advertising as well as any international sales; this series appears to have gone well beyond that in being self financing through property development - maybe the series was more than just human interest reality TV and more a business programme in disguise!