Olympics on ice: The media buyers take on Seven’s second games in a year

Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics launching this week on Seven, Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan spoke with Chris Walton, Natasha Pelly, Craig Cooper, and Anthony O'Callaghan to get an insight into what we might see on screen this time around.

After the success of Seven’s Summer Olympics coverage last year, the network kicks off its Beijing Winter Olympics follow-up this evening. In the meantime, we still await the official confirmation of Seven’s Paris 2024 broadcast deal.

While Australia joined several countries including the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the event, our athletes will still be there gunning for gold. To get an idea of how Seven will cover its second games in nine months, Mumbrella asked a few media buyers to give their take on what is to come, if we can expect any differences or more of the same from the network.

What to look out for/what is exciting about this year’s Winter Olympics coverage on 7?

Natasha Pelly, media analytics director – Publicis Media Exchange (PMX): Having the Summer and Winter Olympics less than a year apart should mean greater consumer appetite for, and engagement with the Games. We’ve been fortunate to have both Games within complementary time zones, which obviously helps drive up the audience numbers and interest from advertisers.

Pelly of Publicis Media Exchange

Historically, Australia hasn’t lit the world on fire during the Winters, but the team is strong this year, coming off the back of winning five medals in four disciplines in December, during the World Cup Championships. There are several compelling Australian stories for viewers to invest in, and some genuine medal potential to follow.

We saw how much audience engagement was generated by the new summer sports debuted in Tokyo – with events like skateboarding performing particularly well on 7Plus. Likewise, the Winters will be debuting a number of new disciplines including mixed team events in ski-jumping and snowboard cross. We expect these events to attract similar levels of excitement, particularly across online platforms.

Chris Walton, managing director – Nunn Media: The truly comprehensive broadcast coverage of the Olympics these days is exciting.  As is the fact that with Beijing only 3 hours behind, just about all the action will be able to be watched live by Australian audiences, much of it in peak time.

Craig Cooper, chief investment officer, Carat Australia: The Winter Olympics couldn’t have come at a better time. Many of us are still either working from home or in hybrid work arrangements and the broadcast will be a welcome boost of Aussie spirit and pride for us all.

Anthony O’Callaghan, MediaCom Melbourne head of marketplace (digital and investment): “It’s great timing as we definitely haven’t been starved of sport the past few months. What’s exciting for us is that this is now the third Olympics in a row that has been in a favourable time zone for Australia. Plus, having both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics kick off on the same date is going to generate a lot of daily action.

Beyond this, and was shown across the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic coverage, is that audiences are never going to miss any of the action given how extensive the digital offering is across 7plus, with all live sports and replays shown across dedicated channels.

There has been a fair bit of controversy in the lead up to these games though (plus another covid variant) but the athletes are all still there and competing, so it won’t take away from the quality of the competition.

In my eyes the Winter Olympics are the premiere Olympics. Most of us haven’t been able to get away for that yearly snow trip, so this will definitely drum up a fair yearning from audiences keen to get their fix of snow sports.”


How can they make the most of it? How do the Winter games stack up as an opportunity for advertisers?

NP: Both Summer and Winter Olympic Games provide advertisers with a raft of diverse content, always within a brand-safe and all-age viewing environment. For advertisers, one of the benefits of all-day coverage is that they can move away from a traditional peak focus, to exploit less cluttered and costly dayparts, with the guarantee of engaged viewership. Leveraging Seven’s extensive online coverage also provides a more efficient means of reaching audiences who may be tuning in for specific sports or events, rather than generic all-event coverage.

CW: Given that advertisers are attracted by audiences then of course the games as a whole present a very good opportunity for advertisers to reach their customers.  That said, one downside of multi-casting across many online channels is that the total games audience will be split over many channels.  Whilst the largest piece of the pie will remain traditional viewing on the main 7 channel, this fragmentation does highlight the benefit of buying a broad package of media that covers the breadth of the coverage.

Chris Walton of Nunn Media

CC: Network 7 knows how to build Olympic audiences and moments, as they have done it many times before. Whilst the lead-in to the event has been marred with pandemic and political hurdles, there is no doubt the broadcast will dominate in share and hopefully increase overall video viewing during this period.

Olympics inventory usually comes with a premium but this is offset with lower ad loads (less ads) and therefore conceptually higher impact. There are so many benefits to partnering with the Olympics and have tailored creative to boost association or just participate with spot packages however all depends on individual client objectives – so it’s may not be for everyone.

AO: The Winter games definitely attract a broader audience. It skews more male than the summer games, and I would suggest more diverse owing to the more ‘extreme’ nature of some of the key events.

On cost it’s been positioned similarly to the Tokyo games, which has been a challenge for some of our buyers, but it’s very well positioned to do well audience-wise given its got minimal sporting competition and will set Seven up going straight into the AFL. Seven may get a boost from viewers back working from home, which gives them the opportunity to utilise a second or third screen set up to watch the games throughout the day.

I wouldn’t underestimate the value of the digital offering and, we’ve seen some really great packages coming across our desks stacking up well against other BVOD opportunities, so there’s been some definite value available for advertisers.


Any interesting storylines that can be taken advantage of?

NP: As always, there are some compelling individual athlete stories to follow beyond only medal hopefuls. Among them, Sami Kennedy-Sim, Australia’s only ski-cross entrant, who underwent heart surgery in 2013 after suffering a stroke – and Bree Walker, who is swapping her hurdles for the monobob, as the one-woman bobsleigh is debuted at this year’s Olympics.

CC: Given the success of the Australian Open, think it’s safe to say that we all want to be cheering on Aussies right now and what better way to do it than on a world stage. There will be some great stories that will develop throughout the games but I think resilience may shine through as a theme given what we collectively have all been through in the last 2 years.

AO: As a nation we fell a bit short in the 2018 Winter Games, probably not achieving the results we’d hoped for. So there’s an opportunity to do better on the field this time around. We’ve got a few genuine medal contenders, most notably Melbourne’s Scotty James in the Snowboard Halfpipe. In his 4th games now (at the ripe old age of 27) he’ll be looking to improve on his best result of Bronze in back in 2018. Arguably he’s in the best form of his career having just won Gold at the most recent X-Games.

MediaCom’s Anthony O’Callaghan

He’s no shoe-in, and will face some stiff competition from the youth of Japan and the United States ‘veteran’ Shaun White who will be looking to add another gold to the three has already in the same event.

Whichever way it falls, it’s going to be the event of the games and Scotty will have all of Australia behind him.


How do you rate Seven’s leveraging of the summer event last year?

NP: Seven’s coverage of the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics was extremely well received by audiences and advertisers alike. Following the conclusion of the Olympics, Seven’s share significantly increased compared to before the Games, lifting to 39.2% from 34.9% vs. people 25-54. This created a limited halo effect, with The Voice receiving a huge audience boost benefitting from launching before the Olympic Closing Ceremony. More important than any halo effect though, is the confidence the market now has in Seven’s delivery of the Winter Olympics, having seen the staggering audience numbers generated last year.

CW: I thought Seven’s coverage of the summer games was excellent.  Again, they were benefitted from the event occurring in the Asia region, but how they pulled it all together was very impressive.

CC: Network Seven had a tough job with the 2021 Olympics and they delivered it brilliantly. It was unheard of in modern times to postpone the Olympics, but from a broadcast POV, you would never have known. Audiences and clients all were rewarded with a premium experience.

One of the smartest things that 7 did with the 2021 broadcast was to fully leverage the OLV/app space and by housing the Olympics within the 7Plus ecosystem, not only did it make logical sense for audiences but it delivered a huge increase in sign-ups to the wider 7Plus service.

Carat’s Craig Cooper

AO: It was handled really well given the circumstances. The games were up in the air after being postponed amidst the pandemic, and even in the weeks leading up to the event, there was still a very real concern from some quarters that they wouldn’t take place.

But we got there, and the team at Seven did an excellent job given the global situation. A lack of fans certainly took away from the atmosphere and the spectacle, but the delivery couldn’t really be faulted and the audience numbers proved that.

Beyond that, It was backed up by extensive coverage of the Paralympic Games across both broadcast and digital platforms, which was a welcome change.

Fans are allowed in this time around, if they adhere to certain protocols, so that will be interesting in itself.

Can Scotty James climb to the top of the podium this time around?

Do you expect more of the same to their summer games coverage?

NP: In terms of format, broadly yes. Of course, the Winter Olympics does not generate the audiences of the Summer Games, so we imagine the coverage will be scaled back proportionally – and advertiser investment likewise.

CW: Yes. If anything, it could be even better (required resources aside) as with fewer events the opportunity to go deeper into each is a good one.

CC: Network 7 are the masters of Olympic broadcasts and we should expect the same level of quality viewing that they have proven successful in the past.

AO: The Seven formula for the Tokyo Games was a success, so we’re expecting very similar – why mess with something that worked for audiences and for advertisers.

I’d expect the same approach across Seven and Seven Plus, with highlights and dedicated segments across their news properties throughout the day.

Plus it’s been announced that the evening wrap up/variety show is back, renamed ‘The Winter Chill’ (formally Shinya during the Tokyo games)

All in all, it will be a solid few weeks of entertainment.

Shinya, now ‘The Winter Chill’ will host the wrap up each day


Doubts or past issues Seven may have faced that they will be looking to address in its coverage.

NP: Looking at SMI data for the last Winter Olympics in February 2018, Seven’s net position was not year-on-year revenue growth. Digital revenue grew significantly, but not enough to offset losses on TV. A lot has changed since 2018 though – so we would expect the monetisation of the digital product to have advanced, and revenues to follow accordingly. That said, we weren’t able to access a lot of data around BVOD audiences during the Summer Olympics. Having more visibility of the reach and scale that 7Plus adds to the Winter coverage would be very valuable. Seven will also need to ensure that UX across their online offerings is smooth, easy to navigate, and bug-free to ensure maximum reach.

CW: There is lots of coverage in the media about the challenges of covering this event given it is in China.  If any contentious events arise, Seven will have to walk a tightrope as it will want to (and should absolutely) cover any newsworthy events, but its team on the ground may have some big calls to make.  Their nightmare scenario may well be a Chinese athlete testing positive for drugs early in the games!


Any other notes…

CW: There are significant pros and cons for Seven given the games are in early February.  Besides the audiences it will have to sell, having a big platform at the start of the year to promote its content is great.  At the same time, as the games come immediately after the summer break, plus other big sporting events such as the Ashes, the BBL, and the Australian Open – a massive event itself with a rival broadcaster that finishes only days before – the Australian public will have had lots of distractions sporting or otherwise, so the sense of anticipation leading into the Winter games isn’t really there.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.