Bailey Mackey has been a key player on a run of high profile programmes, many of them involving Maori: among them sports show Code, The GC, Sidewalk Karaoke and All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks. Mackey founded Black Inc Media and when the company was sold to Eyeworks in 2008, he became company director alongside Eyeworks NZ chief Julie Christie. In 2014 he set up Pango Productions, with Jonathon Ulrich.
Mackey found himself winning headlines in 2012 after reality show The GC won attention over whether it merited $420,000 of funding from New Zealand On Air. The hit series followed a group of young Māori as they worked and partied hard on Australia's Gold Coast. Later Mackey managed to sell the rights to music show Sidewalk Karaoke to international company FremantleMedia.
The son of a "humble, low-key" shearer, Mackey has argued that the long hours and sweat of East Coast shearing sheds stood him in good stead for his future career in television. As a child he listened to a transistor radio under the blankets, and dreamed of working in broadcasting. As a teen, he was an iwi radio DJ in Ruatoria. Mackey was also a keen sports player, and represented Ngāti Porou East Coast at rugby.
In his early 20s he hitched from the East Coast to Auckland, and successfully auditioned to become a reporter for te reo news show Te Karere. He was "rough around the edges"; the job taught him a lot about telling stories in a short running time. Fellow Te Karere recruit Julian Wilcox remembers what the young man in shorts and jandals used to say when asked about his long-term plan. "He'd say 'I want to produce', and everyone used to laugh at him."
Mackey moved to TV3. He spent the next three years working mostly on sports shows, including time as a presenter on Best Damn Sports Show. After becoming Head of Sports at Māori Television, he created personality-driven sports show Code, which ran for a decade. Realising the importance of language, and that a slogan would help the show "have a life of its own", he took the words "Mean Māori" used in emails by a friend, and introduced catchphrase 'Mean Māori Mean'. It entered popular culture. Code won a 2007 NZ Screen Award for Best Sports Programme.
Since then Mackey has executive produced a range of shows across local networks: from game and reality shows, to comedy (Brown Eye) and docudrama What Really Happened: Waitangi. His work as director includes Tiki Taane concert documentary With Strings Attached, and Anzac Day coverage on Māori Television.
When Black Inc Media became part of Eyeworks in 2008, Mackey found himself learning from Eyeworks chief Julie Christie about making programmes with wide commercial appeal. Among other things, the pair worked on Qantas Award-winner One Land, which saw families adjusting to living how they might have in the 1850s. "I was learning from the master," Mackey told The NZ Herald in 2016. "It was like the ultimate apprenticeship. Yes, Julie can be a task master but she is fantastic at what she does."
Christie in turn praises Mackey's charisma, tenacity, and his skill at pitching potential shows. "He's like a guy with three brains — the one in his head, the one in his heart and the one in his gut — and that's what you need to make it in TV production internationally."
Among the productions Mackey is proudest of are Black Inc's Beneath the Māori Moon and Atamira. A year in the making, the 15-part Māori Moon chronicled the history of Māori rugby, winning a Māori Sports Award in 2010. Anthology series Atamira brought six plays by Māori playwrights to television screens.
In the same period Mackey set up Pango Productions with Jonathon Ulrich (who left the company four years later). Pango won attention early on, thanks to reality show The GC. Over three seasons, the series followed a group of young 'Mozzies' (Māori-Aussies). Some argued that it featured far less Māori content than promised. Mackey talks about the programme in this video interview; he describes The GC as showing just one slice of contemporary Māori subculture among many, and argues that some of the viewers who reacted negatively were most challenged by seeing images of brash, successful Māori.
Mackey and Ulrich went on to create Māori Television show Sidewalk Karaoke. The format sees passersby showcasing their musical talents on city streets. After Mackey took the format to overseas television markets, Sidewalk Karaoke became the focus of a global bidding war. The format was ultimately sold to industry powerhouse FremantleMedia in 2016. Mackey told website The Spinoff that "these guys are on another level in terms of just how they roll things out. We’ll have a conference call and there’s twelve countries on the line." The hope was that the deal would open doors when he pitched future shows overseas.
When TVNZ outsourced its Māori and Pacific programes in 2015, Pango was picked to take over production of long-running current affairs show Marae. Mackey was one of the executive producers of behind the scenes reality show Class Act and documentary miniseries All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks, which screened in 200+ countries via Amazon Prime. Mackey is also "taking on the big boys" with software tool Kaha, 'a digital tool-kit' to help production companies in budgeting and scheduling.
In 2017 Mackey was named as the first winner of Auckland University's Māori Entrepreneurial Leader Award.
Profile updated on 15 January 2020
'Bailey Mackey: The man behind the GC ...'(Video Interview). NZ On Screen website. Director Andrew Whiteside. Loaded 25 November 2013. Accessed 15 January 2020
Pango Productions website. Accessed 15 January 2020
Russell Blackstock, 'The biggest TV star you've never heard of' (Interview) - Herald on Sunday, 19 June 2016
Chimene del la Varis, 'Meet Mr Mackey' (Interview) Te Runganganui o Ngāti Porou website. Loaded 25 November 2016. Accessed 15 January 2020
Bess Manson, 'Temuera Morrison's Happy Hour' Stuff website. Loaded 2 September 2014. Accessed 15 January 2020
Simon Pound, 'Business Is Boring repeat: TV producer Bailey Mackey on being in the midle of a global bidding war' The Spinoff website. Loaded 10 November 2017. Accessed 15 January 2020
Matara Stokes, 'Interview - Bailey Mackey (Ngāti Porou)' Craccum magazine, issue 13, 2013
Yvonne Tahana, 'Second series for The GC' (Interview) - The Northern Advocate, 8 April 2013
Unknown writer, 'University award for Mackey' - The Gisborne Herald, 13 May 2017