Media buyers dissect Seven’s upcoming content slate and tech improvements

Seven was the second cab-off the rank for the 2022 TV networks upfronts, which saw its key tentpole primetime formats return to screens, while some formats were back after a break, others are getting a major shakeup. Here, Mumbrella speaks to a range of media buyers about whether the elaborate reveal of what’s in store meets the mark when it comes to the number one focus - content.

“They have a clear content strategy, but it’s risky. It’s likely to drive growth in Q1 (off the back of poor performance in Q1 2020) but not beyond that,” says OMD Melbourne’s head of trading, Alison Mckay.

She adds that: “ Advertisers will be skeptical about how many refreshed formats audiences will tolerate, and time will tell if there is appetite in market. What does work in their favour is the opportunity to use major Sport events to launch upcoming programming across the year to maintain some momentum.”

Ryvalmedia’s MD, Joseph Pardillo, says he thinks Seven’s content balance regarding new, old, and returning formats seems to be well calculated on first impressions, however, the network could potentially be playing it too safe.

“From experience, when proven formats have been refreshed and well-executed, it has fuelled a lift in audiences and eyeballs. Big Brother, DWTS, Farmer, and now The Voice have all performed with a second lease on life and rating success.

“These formats are brand-safe, less of a commercial risk for the network, and the strategy of resurrecting old formats has proven many critics wrong. It will be intriguing to see if both MKR and Idol follow suit, considering they’ve been absent from screens for three years and 13 years, respectively – so will a new generation of viewers be attracted and tune in?”

UM’s Sydney trading director, Lorena Chiarella says the Seven Upfronts had a strong sport focus, which she believes is fundamental for advertisers. “Sport is absolutely key for TV networks to offer advertisers large scale event programming that attracts engaged audiences. In my view, Seven’s strategy in this space is 100% accurate as they continue to build up their sport portfolio.

“Majority of the content slate was returning programming or revived programming, for which Seven are going back to the beginning of where the franchises began – Big Brother, Australian Idol, My Kitchen Rules, Dancing With The Stars – potentially relying on nostalgia as the ingredient to pull in audiences. Apartment Rules will be an interesting one to test the engagement of the new 7Shop product.”

However not everyone was impressed. Pearman Media’s director of strategy and research, Steve Allen, notes, “It’s very dense. The vast majority of what they pitched was for the Seven primary channel. I was keen to see whether they would have dramas again this year. It seems to me Seven has a little less of it next year than they had before.”

He adds: “They had a couple this year, RFDS, Nurses. They don’t seem to have as many local ones, but a few from overseas. Dramas are very difficult for any network to get to rate, and are expensive to produce. Their main thrust is event television, reality and sport. And a lot of it. There are a number of specials off-the-back of some of their performers, such as VIP Big Brother and Dancing with the Stars All Stars.

“None of their existing formats were unchanged from the previous year. They are constantly pushing even success stories like The Voice. They seem to be wanting to question everything – whether successful or not.”

Meanwhile, Carat’s chief investment officer, Craig Cooper, says Seven’s content slate for 2022 was quite “safe”.

“Seven West’s content slate for 2022 was quite safe; they will be balancing the successes of 2021, some revivals and a heavy sport focus that should deliver annual ratings success. Interesting to note was the announcement of the Commonwealth Games telecast in July, which was unallocated (and quite late) to an Australian TV network up until now.”

BVOD in focus

The buyers also weigh in on the fact that 7Plus now has 10 million registered users, and 70% of its content is exclusive.

“The 7Plus channel has grown significantly in 2021, primarily due to Tokyo Olympics registrations,” says Carat’s Cooper. “With the Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games scheduled in 2022, they may edge even closer to their competitor’s proclaimed 14 million user base. 7Plus, and the whole BVOD space, is such an important channel for advertisers and the more data and targeting available, could result in less wastage and higher ROI metrics.”

PHD Australia’s group investment director, Stefan Boden, was also impressed. “7Plus have made impressive strides in growing their registered users (the Olympics certainly helped), it’s a valuable platform and the content will continue to evolve and grow, with exclusive content also scheduled purely for 7Plus. A fluid investment strategy is key to ensure we capitalise on any audience shifts. Additional improvements in video and audio quality, live pause, start over/recap will enhance the consumer experience which should only help translate into more audience traction and revenue for the network.”

OMD’s Mckay adds: “The growth in registered users certainly makes for a more compelling offering, however this big number must also be shown as active users, as advertisers will be looking for the additional reach over a period.

“BVOD has been a staple on media plans for a while now. However, with a more robust data set, extended data partnerships and improved tech capability, how we engage with Seven and leverage their offering will evolve over the next 12 months as advertisers look to deliver personalisation at scale. Expect enhanced insights from 7REDiQ, with increased signals via new data partnerships, particularly for the harder to reach male demographics. This will allow advertisers to reach a qualified audience beyond broader demos or contextual environments.”

MediaCom’s national head of investment, Nick Thomas, believes the platform is already delivering great results for advertisers.

“It’s great to see that Seven managed to leverage the Olympics so successfully and boost their registered users, closing the gap with other platforms. This is going to allow us to better understand audiences, target more of the right customer, and increase spending in a platform that we know is already delivering great results for advertisers,” says Thomas.

More than content

Meanwhile, Seven also launched two new offerings to increase the interactions viewers have with content on its platforms.

7Shop is being billed as a “first-of-its-kind” in Australia and provides consumers with an on-screen shopping experience while watching TV programs on 7Plus.

Nunn Media’s Walton says: “It has potential but the offering will have to overcome the classic tension of viewer distraction vs viewer engagement – on the one hand you want consumers to be able to act in-the-moment, but on the other do you really want to take an engaged viewer away from what they are watching?

He notes, however, “It will be a challenge to avoid degrading the quality of what products use this channel due to brands making choices about how intrusive they want to be.”

UM’s Chiarella thinks it was the best thing to come out of the upfronts. “7Shop, in my opinion, is the most significant announcement from the Seven Upfronts. This truly is a game changer and will provide Seven with a strong competitive advantage in the BVOD space as the first mover. More and more advertisers are making e-commerce a focus of their marketing strategy and it’s great to see television networks innovating in this space to compete with the digital behemoths.”

Meanwhile, PHD’s Boden explains: “E-commerce has gone from strength-to-strength over the last 18 months so enabling shoppable content is a really strong development and opportunity for brands to engage directly with consumers. Clients will be able to leverage data and insights from 7REDiQ, 7Rewards to allow creation of unique and customised ad experiences that connect brands more closely with Seven’s audience and allow marketers to track end-to-end consumer journey and attribution as it happens. The investment that clients have made in e-commerce and the current momentum will make this very appealing.”

MediaCom’s Thomas agrees with Boden, that e-commerce is going from strength-to-strength, but it’s how it will be executed that will be the big question. “E-commerce is the hottest new space to play and with 7shop and 7rewards, Seven is taking a big step in the right direction allowing consumers to click-to-buy from the big screen.

“The proof is in the pudding, so seeing how consumers engage and how this actually gets executed will be the big question. But it’s great to see innovative thinking and there is a big demand in this space, and I can see there being no shortage of advertisers willing to partner and test in this space.”

During the upfront presentation Seven also announced its new data partnerships with Car Expert, Cricket Australia, Equifax and Supercars, adding further capability to its audience intelligence platform 7REDiQ.

Seven’s data partners for 7REDiQ to-date include Flybuys, Carsguide, Weatherzone, LandmarksID, Ticketek and Mastercard.

Nunn Media’s Walton says: “Conceptually all the partners on this platform can offer value, either individually or collectively. The potential to maximise client usage is linked to how open the data sources are. If it is (yet) another walled garden then we will only be able to go so far, even if they do claim to be ‘end-to-end’.

Ryvalmedia’s Pardillo, think’s the new partnerships offering is “highly valuable” when they are integrated and available from November. “If CarExpert increases its auto-intended scale, currently sold out every month from what I know, it will provide more scale to more clients and extend onto CTV. Similarly, their Equifax partnership provides brand new segment understanding across a more diverse range of sectors, such as financial products that they haven’t been able to provide previously.

He adds: “Expanding their commercial footprint and unlocking further insights and audience behaviours is undoubtedly helpful with optimised planning and intel for their advertisers. With none more significant as their sports partners – plugging in more data points to identify audiences beyond just ‘sports fans’ but through grassroots understanding, that helps build a deeper customer relationship strategy for advertisers.”

Seven also announced enhancements to its ad buying across broadcast and digital platforms, including a deal with customer relationship management (CRM) service Salesforce and the integration of VOZ data.

Carat’s Cooper says that automated trading is a key piece for the future of media trading. “An upgrade to Code 7 that would not only incorporate linear but also BVOD inventory is a welcome addition. A two year build and deployment roadmap is not outside the parameters for something in this space, and we look forward to hearing more about the platform and launch date.

The conversion of linear and BVOD audience measurement is the holy grail of TV media. We know (through research and personally) that we don’t consume TV/video in a linear fashion anymore and the ability to fluidly buy between the two platforms is a priority. VOZ has been a long time coming, and we are still at the infancy stage of integration into agencies, but if this improves and evolves, it should enable us to drive more effective business outcomes for our clients.”

He adds: “Saleforce is a dominant player globally in the business CRM space and it’s a smart move for Seven to build on their relationship and improve their data organisation and accessibility with this powerhouse partner. Hopefully over the next few weeks it will become clearer how Seven West will utilise Salesforce Media Cloud to benefit advertiser’s and we welcome that discussion.”

Pearman’s Allen explains Seven are following in Nine’s footsteps. “Seven are equaling what Nine have got, who has been going down this path for a few years now. “Guaranteed audience is risk free on both sides, and they get a better premium for it. They get a better cost per thousand, so it often suits advertisers as you are getting guaranteed delivery.

“The CPM selling is used overseas. Nine said their future is in that model, Seven has not gone that far, but it is a currency that we are going to see more and more. We see it on BVOD. This is not a new currency, but it has not been a major feature of TV trading, and it is going to grow,” he concludes.


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