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How TVNZ Scaled Their OnDemand Service to Reach 2.5M Kiwis

The media company uses Auth0 to reliably reach up to 50% of New Zealand while freeing up time to develop new features


Secure access for everyone. But not just anyone.

TVNZ is New Zealand’s state-owned, commercially funded broadcaster. TVNZ’s all about sharing the moments that matter - whether it’s breaking news, following adventures, sharing stories or putting smiles on faces. Each day, TVNZ reaches more than 2 million New Zealanders through channels TVNZ 1, 2, DUKE and online platform TVNZ OnDemand. Leading news site 1news.co.nz and socially-driven online news brand Re: connect Kiwis to the important issues throughout the day, however they chose to engage.

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Generations of New Zealanders have grown up watching TVNZ. As Michael Robinson, TVNZ’s head of digital capability, puts it, “it was a source of both news and entertainment that New Zealanders knew they could trust.” That special position was threatened in recent years by increased global competition; young Kiwis started getting their news from Facebook and their entertainment from Netflix. But TVNZ evolved by modernizing their digital offerings to appeal to a new generation.

“Our real point of difference is local content,” Robinson says. “But with the issues that have cropped up recently around fake news and not being able to trust all the stories you see on Facebook, people have gravitated back to a news source they feel they can trust.” TVNZ also offers OnDemand streaming services that today reach up to half of the country’s five million citizens with 2.5 million registered accounts. 

TVNZ’s digital transformation is an inspiring success story, but modernizing their identity and access management (IAM) system was fraught with challenges. “Authentication has been a thorn in our side,” Robinson reports. They needed an IAM partner who could help them rapidly scale, migrate users, and maintain their trusted reputation.

“With the issues that have cropped up recently around fake news and not being able to trust all the stories you see on Facebook, people have gravitated back to a news source they feel they can trust.”
Michael Robinson
Head of Digital Capability

TVNZ’s “Stopgap” Identity Solution Couldn’t Scale

Five years ago, TVNZ embarked on its digital transformation in earnest. They switched from on-premise data centers to an Auth0 competitor, but it quickly became apparent that they couldn’t handle TVNZ’s volume of user data. “We were using it for something it was never intended to be used for,” Robinson says. “That’s when we decided we needed a proper solution, so we looked at the market to see what products were out there.”

Robinson lists the requirements TVNZ had: “We wanted it to be modern. We wanted it to be cloud-based. We wanted it to be developer-friendly, with good APIs and good API documentation. We pretty quickly settled on a short list, and Auth0 was clearly at the top of the list.”

“We wanted it to be modern. We wanted it to be cloud-based. We wanted it to be developer-friendly, with good APIs and good API documentation. We pretty quickly settled on a short list, and Auth0 was clearly at the top of the list.”
Michael Robinson
Head of Digital Capability

Using Auth0 to Migrate 2.5 Million Accounts

When they signed on with Auth0 to handle authentication for their OnDemand streaming web and mobile platforms, TVNZ was faced with the task of migrating data for 2.5 million accounts. They opted for a lazy migration method in which user data was migrated only when a user logged in. This prevented TVNZ from forcing all their users into a password reset.

More importantly, the migration process left TVNZ with user data they knew they could trust. “There were always some data integrity concerns with the previous solution, which we don’t have now,” Robinson says. “We feel more comfortable with the accuracy of our data, and I think some of that is attributable to having Auth0 under the hood.”

Accurate user data is essential to TVNZ’s business model because their digital services are free and funded predominantly through advertisements. Auth0 has not only helped ensure the accuracy of user data but also freed up TVNZ’s team to do more with that data.

“We introduced a new feature last year called Profiles where, under a single account, you could create subprofiles for different users,” Robinson says. “If we’d been spending a lot of time doing authentication, we wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to do something like that. And that feature has worked really well for us. We get extra demographic information, and it grows our weekly reach figures.”

“There were always some data integrity concerns with the previous solution, which we don’t have now. We feel more comfortable on the accuracy of our data, and I think some of that is attributable to having Auth0 under the hood.”
Michael Robinson
Head of Digital Capability

Reliable Authentication, Through COVID-19 and Beyond

TVNZ’s digital platforms have faced unprecedented demand during the pandemic lockdown. “We were seeing numbers during the lockdown spike that were a 50% jump in our weekly streams,” Robinson says. In particular, users flocked online to watch Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s daily addresses. “We had 60,000 people turning up for a 1 p.m. press conference, all [logging in] in a few minutes before,” Robinson recalls. Despite this, he reports there were “no real issues on the authentication side. We were really pleased because it spoke to the fact that we had built a good platform, and it was scalable, robust, and able to grow as viewing grew.”

Going forward, TVNZ is excited to keep providing New Zealand with more content, from the upcoming America’s Cup to comprehensive coverage of the General Election. Robinson says Auth0 lets his team make the most of their resources and stay on mission. “Without Auth0, you could dedicate at least two engineers to authentication,” he says. “That might not sound like a lot, but our development team is only 12 or 15 people. So Auth0 frees us up as a small team to go after the bigger-ticket items.”

“Without Auth0, you could dedicate at least two engineers to authentication. That might not sound like a lot, but our development team is only 12 or 15 people. So Auth0 frees us up as a small team to go after the bigger-ticket items.”
Michael Robinson
Head of Digital Capability

About Auth0

Auth0 provides a platform to authenticate, authorize, and secure access for applications, devices, and users. Security and application teams rely on Auth0's simplicity, extensibility, and expertise to make identity work for everyone. Safeguarding billions of login transactions each month, Auth0 secures identities so innovators can innovate, and empowers global enterprises to deliver trusted, superior digital experiences to their customers around the world.For more information, visit https://auth0.com or follow @auth0 on Twitter.

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Secure access for everyone. But not just anyone.