‘Being number one is irrelevant’: Media buyers react to Seven’s content plans for 2019

On Friday, Seven unveiled its content slate and strategy for 2019. But what did buyers make of the commercial broadcaster's plans, and indeed, its position as the number one broadcaster?

Media buyers have commended Seven for a strong backbone of content and a partnership deal with News Corp which they believe will shape the way of the future. However, some hoped for more information around automation and transformation when Seven revealed its content plans and strategy for the years ahead.

Overall, the buyers who attended Friday’s event, described Seven as “consistent” with new opportunities for buyers, but most want more information before making final decisions.

And, it seems, being number one really doesn’t matter all that much.

Peter Vogel, CEO, Wavemaker

Firstly, thoughts on the content lineup? 

“Channel Seven has recognised the need to really invest in good, locally produced content because that’s obviously what’s resonating with the Australian consumers most.

“They’ve got a great sporting line-up throughout the year, which is obviously a fantastic spine to build their whole schedule around. They’ve most probably got the strongest sports spine running throughout the year.

“And then, obviously they have their big successful tent poles, be it, My Kitchen Rules, or House Rules. It’s good when the network’s got some good tent poles that can deliver consistency for the year.

“The other encouraging thing is the investment in drama. I suppose with a lot of the other streaming products out in the market, it’s really good to see the broadcasters investing in good, local drama. Overall, certainly the ambitions that they have in terms of the shares that they’ll want to deliver for the advertisers is good. It certainly inspires some confidence, which is really what people are looking for, is that consistency of viewership and I think that they’ve got a strong spine, there’s a couple of new programmes that they’re venturing into.”

Is two series of MKR too much MKR?

“I got the sense that certainly the anniversary series towards the end of the year wouldn’t follow the same format. I don’t know if it’s a matter of getting the winners from all the 10 previous ones, or whatever the case is. I would say, as long as it’s not literally running the exact same format, just running it twice in a year, as long as they don’t do that they do make it special or different or interesting and intriguing for the consumer, then that’s fine.”

What did you think of the launch of 7Food Network?

“It certainly makes sense from across platform perspectives. They have a lot of other assets that can feed into that, and it is a big … food is a big thing in Australia. It has been for a number of years, and it still remains that.

“I wouldn’t want to predict how it will do, but it’s certainly what the consumers are interested in. If you look at all the foodie shows across all the networks, or even on subscription television, it still is very much a big trend in Australia. It’s all about obviously making it compelling enough to draw a decent following, but you can’t fault the strategy.

And what about Navigate Auto – the partnership with News Corp?

“What we see and certainly what we need as media agencies, and even what our clients need, is much more category expertise, and I know a lot of the media vendors are toying with changing the way that they engage with clients or with agencies in terms of having deeper category experience.

“It’s not a new thing, and certainly a number of other vendors; digital vendors, multi-channel vendors have certainly started embracing that. It’s good because it turns the relationship around from someone just literally coming and selling their wares and what they have, to being able to have quite a robust conversation about the solutions that they can develop for a specific category or specific consumer segments.

Certainly what we as agencies are looking for is for that depth of the expertise as opposed to someone coming with a smorgasbord of things to sell us. It does then result in a much better partnership discussion and also makes it a lot easier to leverage the integration of multiple platforms or opportunities across the organisation.”

Seven spoke a lot about being the number one network. Is that important to advertisers?

“For everyone in business, number one is more important to them as opposed to us to be honest, but I suppose it’s always nice to be able to talk about that because that inspires confidence and whatever, but for me that’s not an important.

For marketeers for many agencies ..good consistent, strong delivery is much more important, and then how you intelligently leverage your scale, all your different platforms, that is all how you are performing in a specific segment or demo. For marketers and agencies, it’s less important, it’s more about delivering what they promise they are going to deliver, in a consistent way, and then also how they deliver in a specific sort of category or segment.”

Is there anything more you would have like to have seen?

“It’s an interesting question and I suppose the answer is most probably a bit subjective, but I suppose they presented a very strong. You can’t fault them in terms of that sport line-up, in terms of some of those programmes; absolutely. A bit more about future transformation and what they’re going to be doing, maybe. But you know what? It was at the right time and place to that, or did they focus on what the core thing is we want from them, which is great content.

You can debate whether the upfront should be about all the data and the transformation. It depends what you want out of the upfront. The focus is on next year and the content, so you can’t criticise them for that.”

Anthony Ellis, chief investment officer, Zenith

What did you make of the lineup?

“The Seven line up is consistent and strong, combining proven product with some new formats. This content is underpinned by the very solid backbone of premium sport that underpins the entire calendar year, creating a great platform to promote themselves.

Is two series of MKR going to fatigue the format, or is it a smart strategic play? 

“The strategy of creating various versions of successful formats is not new and it is true that it hasn’t always worked in the past. That said, I believe that a format that is likely to contain past winners or favourite contestants will provide Seven with positive results in the back quarter of next year. The fact that it is locally produced and already has long term sponsors will also help drive premium revenue.

Initial thoughts on the News Corp partnership? Do you think this is the first of a number of partnerships between News and Seven?

“My initial thoughts, with limited detail, is that any partnership that provides greater results for clients is attractive. The challenge with cross company partnerships is always how the revenue is divided.”

What about the launch of 7FoodNetwork? Will advertisers be pleased with the opportunities from this space?

“The launch of 7FoodNetwork will be very appealing for the right advertisers. The challenge for Seven is that the launch will also come with expected budget growth, and whilst the television market is showing steady growth, it still means more inventory to sell.”

Is being the number one network important to advertisers?

“Scale is important, however I would say consistency across the year in the right demographics is key.”

Chris Walton, managing director, Nunn Media

Chris-Walton CEO Nunn Media

Thoughts on the content lineup?

“What came across well is that the backbone of the schedule is largely a known quantity. All of the sports, Sunrise, Hone and Away and to My Kitchen Rules, all of that stuff is known.

“TV buyers want known, you want consistency and strength and they’ve got that. They actually delivered it in a way that was quite compelling. They had very clear messages that they kept on mutilating through the show – consistency and strength and doing what they say they’re going to do. They’ve managed to wrap up their whole offering in a good way. I went into more cynical than I came out of it.

“The message of what they are going to do next year is known. It really shows the oft-repeated but growing importance of news, current affairs, live sport, and known franchises.”

Is two series of MKR too many?

“That’s a big question mark that people would have before over committing themselves to that franchise is how much is too much. There’s only so many ways to poach an egg. The casting of the show early next year – with those two innocent looking, but straight-talking guys – that to me was very good casting. But when Tim Worner at the end said there was this anniversary thing, there was no detail and you’re kind of thinking well how much is too much, you know?”

What about the launch of the 7Food network?

“I’m not quite sure what reaction they expected. Okay, so more food. Basically you are doing your food works, a whole channel towards it, then some more repeats, some anniversary food at the end. I took out more of the positive was how they outlined their schedule and their consistency and their focus on this strengths rather the new stuff.”

Thoughts on the News Corp and Seven partnership?

“That’s interesting. I’d like to know more detail on that, but what appeals to me with that type of partnership is the fact that as a buyer everybody comes to you with their own walled garden and says – ‘jump in here, ours in the best’. Actually if you’re a major buyer looking to invest dollars you want to realise that nobody spends all their time in one with one media owner. Certainly in this day in age of potential that data analytics offers us is people joining up their walled gardens. And so I’m interested to learn more about that. But what that means and how it works I need to understand.”

Is being number one important to advertisers?

“No. Any self respecting media buying won’t get too distracted by that. You don’t get carried away. Your motive – they’re worth speaking to for briefs and on behalf of your clients, but what they get at the end of the day will be linked to how any buyer thinks they add value to their brands.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have seen?

“I didn’t leave there with anything – thinking I would have liked to have seen that or that.”

Nicola Lewis, chief investment officer, Group M

What did you make of the lineup? Is two series of MKR going to fatigue the format, or is it a smart and strategic?

MKR’s tenth anniversary is a highlight. Audiences like MKR and I don’t think people will have fatigue round it. It’s a proven format and reached its 10-year milestone because people like it. The treatment of it will be key, but if it’s bringing something the audience haven’t had before in the MKR environment, that will be really positive.”

Initial thoughts on the News Corp partnership? Do you think this is the first of a number of partnerships between News and Seven?

“Navigate, and Seven’s tie up with News Corp, was a powerful announcement. Any opportunity that allows advertisers to leverage the scale of both Seven and News Corp in one platform is a good thing.

“The challenge will be to build bespoke opportunities that work for individual brands rather than off the shelf packages. When looking at cross media owner opportunities, clients typically will need something bespoke, built based on their individual KPIs.”

What about the launch of 7food Network? Will advertisers be pleased with the opportunities from this space?

“Advertisers want to engage with audiences in spaces they are interested, so having a network in a genre that Australians are proven to be engaged in is a positive thing, and will help Seven drive its audiences.

Is being the number one network important to advertisers?

“Seven spoke a lot about 12 consecutive years on top, and while it’s good to a strong performer and it’s reassuring for us and for advertisers, it doesn’t directly affect spend decisions.

“Where advertisers choose to advertise comes down to individual programmes, to the audiences within a time slot, the value of that audience and how the advertiser wants to talk to that audience – whether it’s in a broadcast or a cross-platform environment.”

Ashley Earnshaw, chief investment officer, Amplifi

First thoughts on Seven’s Allfronts?

A solid performance by Seven on the day.

“To me the partnership with News around auto points to the future of the market. From a market dynamic point of view, in order for local large, media businesses to effectively challenge the growth, partnerships like the news partnership with Seven is really smart. There’ll be a market demands from auto around exclusivity and a multiplier effect and use of those multiple platforms and the reach across those two media owners is a really smart move. That should be a really interest test case for how businesses can collaborate in future. You can see into next year there being, in the vertical spaces and in this example – auto – increased opportunities for our clients. It’s very positive.”

What about the launch of 7Food Network? 

“7Food network and that launch, if auto is successful, does that give the opportunity to go into the food space and retail? Food is obviously a passionate point for Australians, it’s a big revenue driver through supermarkets, potentially the auto partnership could be replicated into mid to late next year with the food partnership. The guys at news have the Taste platform which would align with 7Food Network.

“7Food Network reflects the requirements of TV networks and content distributors to add more content and add more channels to their portfolios. It would be interesting as part of a larger play. Seven themselves have said it’s a 1% play that they are making. Food channels, through Foxtel platforms or SBS, have been with us for some time. It’s not a new launch to market, but it’s a part of Seven’s strategy to capture audience into 2019.”

And the content slate? 

“They demonstrated they have a number of reliable, returning formats. Whether that’s MKR or Better Homes. They referenced Home and Away, News. They have a very stable spine down their line up. It highlights the challenge of launching new formats into any market now and how competitive gaining people’s attention is in the viewing space.

Is two series of MKR too much?

“For me, it’s wait and see with a bit more information. It’s important they came out and shared with the audience that there was a plan for q4. Is that enough to bridge the gap? For our clients we’ll be looking a bit more at what the format looks like. We need to know a bit more about it. There’s obviously a risk of format fatigue however it is such a strong format and it’s delivered strong numbers consistently that if you are going to take a chance on one of your hit shows, it’s a reliable performer to do that with.”

What about being the number one network? Is that important to advertisers?

“The focus in being metro television is less than important to be.”

Is there anything else you would have liked to have seen?

“For Amplifi, we would have like to have seen more detail on their road map around automation and targeting and verification. They did a good job of setting up a store with content, they did a good job of demonstrating that to the audience. I came away wanting to understand more about what the road map was around automation, the ability to target with new layers of data with our clients, and also about what their road map looks like for cross-screen investment strategy.”

Victor Corones, managing director, IPG’s Magna-Global

What did you make of the lineup? Is two series of MKR going to fatigue the format, or is it a smart strategic play?

“Great to see local drama get more attention this year. The creation of local content allows Seven to own, control and monetise that content across their entire media eco-system.  They have a solid existing programming line-up and have made efforts to attract younger audiences to balance out their overall audience profile.

“I’m less concerned with 2 seasons of MKR in a year than I am with the overall length of each season.  It’s getting hard to hold consumers in for too long; a big a commitment when there are a growing number of content options.  This is where I see the greatest risk of fatigue with programming.  Better to have a short, sharp seasons that really engage and hold a consumer’s attention all the time versus a drawn out season.”

Initial thoughts on the News Corp partnership? Do you think this is the first of a number of partnerships between News and Seven?

“I can see if SWM get this approach right it has the potential to expand into other verticals for other advertisers.  However the implementation of such a vision is likely to face some executional challenges along the way.

“Many media owners find it hard enough to align and integrate their own assets let alone expand that across another big media owner like News Corp.   What this partnership does signifies is the importance of scale and being able to go head to head with global digital players.  Having media owners collaborate locally to achieve scale makes sense.  Mergers and Acquisitions are also likely to continue fire up the local market to achieve scale.

What about the launch of 7FoodNetwork? Will advertisers be pleased with the opportunities from this space? 

“Food is a strong passion point for many consumers.  This channel will only lead to greater audience fragmentation.  SWM will need to invest significant marketing dollars to launch the channel on the lead up to Christmas. Beyond that I see this as a strategic play to broaden and deepen SMW’s overall media eco-system to try and maximise their overall audiences.”

Is being the number one network important to advertisers?

“Being number one based on Total People is irrelevant.  What matters is whether a network has the audiences we’re after.”

Toby Barbour, managing director, Starcom Sydney

What did you make of the lineup? 

Can the Seven effect win again in 2019 and make it 13 years straight as the No. 1 network? I’m not so sure.

Twelve consecutive years deserves respect and Seven did deliver on their promise to strengthen the second half 2018 schedule with audience growth. However, I think 2019 will be a fascinating battle, and if ever Nine were going to take the lead it’s in 2019, while Ten with the backing of CBS will also bring interest to the competition and lineup.

Seven will once again rely on sport as the spine to combine with news, MKR and Home & Away as the base foundation for audience stability.

Is two series of MKR going to fatigue the format, or is it a smart strategic play? 

MKR 10th Anniversary will be a winner, again.

Initial thoughts on the News Corp partnership? Do you think this is the first of a number of partnerships between News and Seven?

Navigate Auto is certainly interesting for our auto brands Inchcape (Subaru, PCA and Trivett) with also Fiat Chrysler Australia. More interesting is the alliance with News to create this vertical solution: is it a sign of the future?

What about the launch of 7FoodNetwork? Will advertisers be pleased with the opportunities from this space?

The Food Network is a significant announcement and will take time to build audience.

Is being the number one network important to advertisers?

Brands want integration and confidence around quality and reach, plus the ability to deliver results. Overall Seven had a very different performance to Nine, it was less slick and the messages less clear. However 12 years as No. 1 does deserve respect, and 2019 will be close!

Is there anything more you would’ve like to have seen?

I was underwhelmed by Seven’s cricket offering – no new technology or benefits for the viewing experience. The brands’ sponsorship board is impressive, with a balanced commentary team and good community integration. The women’s sport promotion with T20 Internationals is great, but I expected more on the product itself.

I question the strength of Seven’s slate with new content launches : The Super Switch vs MAFS, The Proposal vs The Bachelor, I’m really not sure here.

The overall brand integration opportunities across the slate is also a question for me versus Nine, and what is the clear solution of Powered?

Seven has the No. 1 BVOD platform with 7Plus, but I’m less convinced of its addressability solution and data story, with 3.7 million UIDs, it will be interesting to watch in 2019 with 7 million UIDs at 9Now.


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