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‘Critically important’ Seven is no longer seen as just a broadcaster: Clive Dickens following amended Yahoo7 deal

Seven no longer wants to be seen as just a broadcaster and instead hopes to be viewed as a total video company, the network’s chief digital officer Clive Dickens has told Mumbrella following its amended joint venture with Yahoo, which will see it launch its own long-form video platform.

Of the amended deal, Dickens said direct-to-consumer brands and partnering to scale will be the group’s immediate focus.

Speaking with Mumbrella following the announcement Seven West Media and Yahoo would continue their joint venture in the local market without its video streaming and catch-up service, Dickens argued the decision to keep its seven.com.au website and Yahoo7 separate, came from the belief media companies should not own and operate 100% of their assets in the current digital age.

“What we believe in is having direct-to-consumer brands, and also we believe partnering to scale. We don’t believe it’s appropriate in this digital economy for media companies to own and operate 100% of their assets. It’s not how consumers behave online, it’s not in the best interest of advertisers and we have the best of both worlds,” he said of the new arrangement. 

He said Seven was able to go direct to consumers with its own brands, such as Seven Live or Seven Tennis, and then partner to scale with Verizon in the “battle for attention” which exists on the internet daily.

The news follows Verizon’s official acquisition of Yahoo, in a US$4.48b deal which will see the Yahoo brand fall into Oath.

According to Dickens, the only change in the Australian market will be the removal of Seven’s long-form video platform and streaming service from Plus7 to a separate platform, 100% owned by Seven West Media.

Dickens said it was “critical” Seven was no longer seen as a broadcaster.

“Consumer and advertisers have now increasingly enjoyed OTT [over the top] entertainment. Over 10m Australians watched some form of long-form television content online. That is the combined size of the market that obviously included Netflix, Amazon and Plus7 and 9 Now but that’s not to be confused with social video or short form,” he explained.

“It has become critically important that Seven is no longer purely a broadcaster, it is a total video company and we have our content everywhere and therefore to have a product that is even more closely aligned with our network is really important.”

All content will be moved from Plus7 to a new product, 100% owned by Seven West Media

He added it was also important to have an advertising solution which was “even more closely connected to broadcast.”

“No other part of the JV is changing. The way we host all our other content, whether that is short-form video, whether that’s tech and other content that we have across hundreds of our Seven brands, this is just the way in which consumers and advertisers are now using this video-on-demand platform.”

Asked whether he had any concerns for Yahoo7’s revenue after the removal of its catch-up service, Dickens said they did not break down profitability by business or product.

“It’s not about measuring profitability by product,” he told Mumbrella.

“We don’t break down profitability by business or by product so in the end it is all about investment in content and investment in consumer experiences so when we report our profitability it’s the overall network affect of the investment we make, everything from Olympics to Home and Away from 800 words to House Rules,” he said.

However, since 2014, Yahoo7’s revenue and profit have continued to decline.

“Undoubtedly though, this has been a growing important part of the Yahoo7 join venture so it does involve a change of focus where that team will no longer be responsible for hosting this long-form catch-up experience.

“There are so many new and growing areas of the business inside the JV, particularly now with the inclusion of opportunities to work together to AOL/Verizon which we are very committed to,” he said.

Dickens could not disclose further details of the new opportunities at the time of interview, but insisted there would be “no disruption to advertisers in the short term”.

Dickens also said all other components of the joint venture, including Yahoo7 Mail, Yahoo7 Finance, Yahoo7 News and Yahoo7 Sport would remain unchanged.

“The consumer-facing window for Australians is unchanged,” he said.

“Nothing changes. The consumer brand is the same. It’s a massive brand and when combined with Seven West Media’s 100% owned digital assets, we’ve been number one digital company online, media company online six of the last eight months post Olympics.”

“It’s a consumer brand. In the same way AOL saw value in the Yahoo global brand, Seven West Media sees value in the Yahoo7 brand.”

This week, Yahoo7 also unveiled its end-to-end proprietary solution, Yahoo7 Storytellers.

Commenting on the new video platform, Dickens said it would predominantly share Seven Network’s prime time content, and exclusive content would be considered as well.

He said at this stage, there would not be any mandatory log-ins on the new platform.

“Over time, if we were to make more content available and add extra features that would warrant it, then of course moving from what has been optional sign-in since 2009 to mandatory is something we would consider, but only when there’s a genuine value exchange between the content owner and the consumer.”

When asked whether Yahoo7 CEO Ed Harrison and Yahoo7 chief revenue officer, Paul Sigaloff, would remain in their roles, Dickens said:  “The management of team of Yahoo7, especially the senior management team, are a critical part of the success of Yahoo7.

“Paul, Ed, Paul Russell and the other executive leadership team have driven that business superbly in the last three years since they’ve been working there.

“There are definitely no plans to change that.”

Dickens was unable to comment on any redundancies that may take place as a result of the changes.

Harrison had no further comments on redundancies other than a statement which was released yesterday: “Yahoo7 has a long track record of delivering innovative solutions to the market and has built a varied portfolio of assets and revenue streams in data, content and technology. We’re excited about the opportunities that will come with being part of Oath, one of the largest media and technology companies in the world and continuing our long-standing and successful relationship with Seven West Media.”

Dickens also was confident in the ability of Kurt Burnette, Seven West Media’s chief revenue officer, to sell digital – citing a KMPG report which reveals total video revenue currently in market.

“KPMG every quarter release the total video revenue market. It takes the television numbers and it adds in the total video revenue plus television beyond television. Doing that for the last three quarters.

“Of the last three quarters, Seven West Media take over 50% of that online market. The reason it takes 50% is 25% to 30% of it is coming from Yahoo7 and 17% to 21% comes from the Seven Network therefore proving they are more than capable of selling it and have been doing so for over a year.

“Two years ago, it was a very different Seven Network. But in the last two years, whether it’s Olympics or Seven Tennis or live streaming, they’ve done a superb job at bringing those consumer experience to advertisers.”

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