Opinion

When it comes to Channel 7’s Olympics app, the audience is the real loser

Watching the Rio Olympics on 7's app left Dave Cain wondering why the channel chose to add value to advertisers instead of audiences?

Channel 7 rolled into its final 2016 Olympics coverage on Sunrise yesterday with a shout out to sponsors Telstra, McDonald’s, Swisse, blah, etc… as if we had no idea who they were.

Dave Cain - ECD - Green Lights

I was at the gym and having only a few minutes left to absorb some last minute heart-string heroin, I thought what better way to get inspired than to jump on the stationary bike and take in some elite human beings being what I was only dreaming.  So I opened Channel 7’s Olympic app, hit WATCH: Live and started peddling.

After the first ad package, instead of Olympics I got Sunrise, my mistake, this happens every day at this time. Back to the homepage, hit the next WATCH: Live icon, more ads, then finally… The Home Shopping channel. Obviously the term ‘Live’ within 7’s app environment is more brand mark than brand promise.

olympics on 7 app

Desperate for one last patriotic cry, perhaps a heroes’ montage or cross to live interview, I returned to the app’s homepage advertising loop in search of Sunrise, clicked on WATCH: Live, more ads followed by 30 seconds of actual programming then cut to minutes of regular scheduled broadcast ad break, and back to the Olympics.

The segment I was able to catch before leaving the gym this morning was a heartfelt shout-out to the other games champions, all of 7’s broadcast sponsors, thanking them for bringing ‘the spirit of the games’ to all Australians.

Such a blatant last-minute advertising land grab left me feeling more like the guy in the opening scene of the film Seven, force-fed pasta until his stomach stretched to bursting then kicked until they split, than the thankful ‘spirit of the games’ recipient 7 were making out.

I am baffled that in this era of commercial television’s decline, instead of using the Olympics to celebrate content consumption, 7 reveled in their ability to beat the interruption model dead horse into broadcast dust.

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Is anyone, anywhere taking note of the frustration actual real live people are feeling at the Olympics app? And which media agency thought this level of saturation beneficial to the brands they represent?

Sure, 7 can now stroll the media hallways, manila folder in hand bursting with statistics they will use to claim an outstanding advertising victory for months, or even years, for they truly are the most interruptive network in the country. But did they even for a minute entertain the possibility of having done more damage than good to their brand clients?

The Olympics costs a lot of money and sponsors need to pay for it, but the app should have added value to audiences, not advertisers. Why didn’t 7 honor their client’s investment by delivering an experience their audience could walk away with in awe and praise?  Why couldn’t they have started from a place where the experience of the end human was the measure of success and work backwards from there? And why don’t brands seem to care about that experience?seven olympics app homepage

Understanding the commercial reality of the Games, here are just a few things ‘built in’ to the app which contradict delivering an experience that was ‘in the spirit of the Games’:

  • Ads before every main channel TV stream, followed by ad breaks in the main channel broadcast.
  • Ads when switching between app streams, regardless of how little time was spent watching previous streams or time since watching ad blocks on previous streams.
  • Home page buttons promoting Live coverage, hiding regular programing behind a stream of ads.
  • Deliberate instability, so whenever there was a disruption (bad signal, bad button choice or fat thumbs), the stream would freeze with no resume play button, forcing a return to the homepage advertising loop.

The Channel 7 App was an example of the incumbent interruption model having absolutely no consideration for the experience digital audiences expect, and a system completely incapable of averting eyes from a seriously flawed, institution-first system to face the very real humans at the end of the pipeline.

I wondered for about five seconds why 7 didn’t instead choose to thank their audience for supporting the brands participating in the commercial reality of the modern Olympics? I wondered less why 7 didn’t offer an ad-free option and collect $50 from the 1M people who don’t care for ads, surely that would have been a popular option?

Because that would be elevating people above the machine, subverting a system that has served so many for so long and an evolutionary step just far enough from reach as to assure commercial televisions dinosaur-like decline into oblivion… because let’s face it, we all know it’s just a matter of time till the big one hits, right?

Congratulations Channel 7, a truly Gold Medal performance in myopia, now back to your regular, scheduled programming.

Dave Cain is the co-founder at GreenLights

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