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Changing media use and public perceptions of the classification system

30 June 2016

We commissioned Colmar Brunton to carry out a survey of the public’s views about, and understanding of, the classification system — and about New Zealanders' changing media use habits.

This representative survey of 1,000 people found that New Zealanders continue to have a high level of trust in the classification system, despite a rapidly changing entertainment media environment. This research follows on from similar research conducted in 2006 and 2011. The results show:

  • 69% think the Classification Office is doing a 'good' or 'excellent' job
  • 73% think classifications are 'about right' — not too strict or too lenient
  • 92% think classifications are important when choosing entertainment media for children and teens

Download the full report - Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' views (2016) (PDF, 1.33MB)

Blog post: New Zealanders want trusted classifications in a changing media environment


These classifications are assigned by the Classification Office, and are preferred by the majority of New Zealanders

This research follows on from a representative survey by UMR released earlier this year, showing that a clear majority of New Zealanders want the same classifications to apply in cinemas, on DVD/Blu-ray, online and on TV — and most would prefer to see the classifications currently assigned by the Classification Office.

Research: New Zealanders want one classification system for movies, TV shows and games

This page provides a summary of findings of the public understanding research:

New Zealanders' changing use of entertainment media

The research asked how New Zealanders view or play content over a variety of platforms and services — including broadcast television, DVD/Blu-ray and a variety of online services. The report goes into a lot of detail about the popularity of different platforms or services for watching shows, movies or playing games — here are just a few interesting findings.

How people watch tv shows and movies

Chart showing media use by format/medium

Free-to-air broadcast television is the most popular way for New Zealanders to watch movies and shows. However online video on demand services of various kinds are now used at least weekly by around half the population. Frequent DVD/Blu-ray use has fallen significantly in the past five years, with fewer than one in five people frequently watching movies or shows on physical video formats. Sixteen percent said they watch movies or shows at least weekly from an illegal torrent site, however legitimate video on demand services are much more popular. Television shows are more popular than movies — 87% watch shows at least weekly, compared to 65% who watch feature films. You can read more detail about these findings in the report.

How people play video games

Chart showing video game use by format/medium

Just under half of the population play video games at least weekly, from a wide variety of platforms. Mobile app stores are the most popular way to access games — with around a third of New Zealanders playing these games at least weekly. Around one in five New Zealanders play games weekly using a traditional gaming disc for console/PC, or using a download service for a console (or services like Steam for PCs). Men are around three times more likely to play games this way; younger people (18-29 years) are also more likely to play games this way. However, women were as likely as men to play games from a mobile app store or on a web browser, and age differences were less pronounced for these platforms.

Young people's media use

Chart showing children's media use

We asked parents and caregivers about children and young people's media use in their household. We found that teenagers are now significantly more likely to frequently watch movies or shows online, compared to DVD/Blu-ray. However, primary or pre-school age children were more likely to watch movies or shows on DVD/Blu-ray. See the full report for information about the frequency of cinema attendance and use of video games.

Perception of the Classification Office and the classification system

The public think the Classification Office is doing a good job, and generally agree with our classifications.

Perception of the Classification Office

Chart showing perceptions of the Classification Office

We asked people what they thought about the Classification Office, and a big majority think that we are doing a good or excellent job. Only 15% thought we weren’t doing a good job. Of those who knew enough about the Classification Office to give an opinion, 82% thought we were doing a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job. Younger people tended to be more positive about the job we do, along with frequent game players and people with under 18s in the household. You can find out more in the full report.

Perception of the classification system

Chart showing perceptions of the classification system
Around three-quarters of New Zealanders think that classifications are 'about right' — rather than 'a bit' or 'much' too strict, or 'a bit' or 'much' too lenient. Great care is put into classification decisions to ensure a level of consistency while remaining in line with public opinion, and so it's great to see that the majority of New Zealanders believe the classification system is applied appropriately. In general, older people were more likely to think classifications were too lenient. You can find more analysis in the full report.

Use, understanding and views about classification labels

People have a good understanding of most of the classification labels, and people think classifications are important when choosing movies, shows and games for young people.

Classifications are important when choosing for children

Chart showing importance of classifications when choosing for young people

The vast majority of New Zealanders (92%) think classifications are important when making decisions about what children and teens can view or play. This backs up research earlier this year which found that New Zealanders would like these labels on movies, shows and games regardless of how they’re accessed.

Understanding of labels is generally high

Chart showing understanding of classification labels

New Zealanders generally have a high level of understanding of official classification labels, though the level of understanding is a bit lower (by an average of 4%) than the last time we did the survey in 2011. Fewer people knew the meaning of the RP labels (which require parental accompaniment), though these are used rarely. More concerning is confusion about the meaning of the M label — unrestricted but recommended for mature audiences 16 years and over.

People support NZ classifications on all video games

Chart showing support for NZ classification labels on all games

Currently, only restricted games need to display classification labels in New Zealand. We asked if all games should require New Zealand labels, and a majority (63%) thought they should. Around a quarter thought the system should stay as it is. This is another indication that New Zealanders appreciate the guidance and protection provided by official classifications — made in New Zealand by an organisation they trust.

People support legal age restrictions

Chart showing support for full age restrictions

It is against the law to supply restricted movies, shows or games (classified R13, R16 or R18) to people under the age of the restriction. We wanted to know whether people still support these sorts of restrictions, or whether the public think parents/guardians should have more choice. Results show that a majority of New Zealanders agree that restricted content shouldn’t be given to young people even if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Let us know what you think

We'd love to hear what you think about this research. If you have any feedback you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact us by phone on 0508 236 767, or by email at