Paramount’s 2023 Upfront gets the media buyer treatment

Following a soaked afternoon at Sydney's ICC, Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan asks Australian media agencies to give their take on Paramount ANZ's content-full Upfront for 2023.

Media and marketing executives descended on Sydney’s International Convention Centre yesterday as Paramount hosted its 2023 Upfront event in the midst of a fierce storm.

Rather than set guests up with the promise of a booze-filled occasion that usually follows, the presentation, which ran for just under one and a half hours was accompanied by Paramount-branded picnic boxes, as it kicked off with a theatrical reenactment of Ten’s new hit show Hunted, featuring the network’s biggest stars.

The first year since settling on a united brand, Paramount, Australia’s media buying executives are united on the clear message the event displayed.

It was a “very, very clear message of turning a page,” says Hatched managing partner, Stephen Fisher. “This was a Paramount event and one set up to deal with tomorrow’s media landscape,” as Involved Media’s group managing director, Sarah Keith adds “they really leaned in hard to the Paramount branding, heritage and content.”

Despite the shift, Paramount managed to retain its spirit according to Emma Wood, group investment director at PHD Australia, saying that “despite the changes in ownership in the last few years, there is really strong continuity in the brand proposition.”

“After transitioning themselves to a name that is synonymous with great entertainment, industry leadership and Hollywood heritage, the relatively punchy yet jam-packed 2023 Paramount Upfronts I think hit all the key notes you would expect,” agrees Ryvalmedia MD, Joseph Pardillo. While Wavemaker’s chief investment officer, Phillippa Noilea-Tani also says it was “true to brand, fun, cheeky, feel-good and lighthearted.”


Planet Pluto

Paramount provided details on the long-awaited introduction of Pluto TV to its local setup, with buyers excited at the prospect of the launch, however some were left feeling as though it was short on details, with chief investment officer at Carat, Craig Cooper wanting further details on how it will integrate into the 10Play platform.

“Eyeballs within quality and brand safe video content is what we and our clients search for, but how this will be measured, traded, and positioned against the existing 10Play content will be integral to understand.”

Fisher reckons the move was an intentional one though, with info on FAST channels, Innovid, Kerv, Samba TV, and the Twitter Checkout match up a “clear decision”.

Wood adds Pluto is “an interesting proposition, but not a new one,” with the expectation there will be more to come on it. “Like other offerings in market, agencies and clients will proceed with caution, especially given the new ad-funded models coming to market recently.”

“Pete Hellier did an entertaining job in explanation but the ambition here I’m assuming was to generate more engagement with agencies and clients in the next few days and have deeper one on one conversations.”

Yasmin Sherif, business manager at Alchemy One says “it’s not clear yet how brands can access these platforms. However, it does feel that they are spreading themselves too thin while trying to cover all their bases,” with Keith also saying she would’ve liked to see more about how AdSelector can work for advertisers, “as it is a consumer first proposition”, and Jane Combes, head of trading at OMD Sydney adding that AdSelector is a product already “available in the market but, to my knowledge, it hasn’t been scaled via a network.”

More details were wanted over the various partnerships announced

“As more digital formats emerge and personalisation continues to drive media selection, it could be one to trial for certain categories and brands.”

Pardillo adds he is looking forward to seeing how “Pluto TV, the KERV Interactive, Innovid, Twitter e-Commerce partnerships, and more can elevate how advertisers can leverage household viewing gems like The Bachelor to a whole new level of brand integration and partnership solutions.”

Climbing the ‘Mountain’ of content 

Buyers appear to love the terminology of chief content officer Beverly McGarvey’s “content flywheel” across Reality, Comedy, Drama, Sports and New content, “and there does seem to be enough in the mix to merit ratings upside” says Fisher.

The year is set to kick off early with a new format for The Bachelors starting on 2 January.

“The move of The Bachelors to January 2 is a bold and brave move,” says Combes. “September / October has always been Ten’s best performing quarter with The Bachelor franchise driving delivery year in and year out, but a strong start in January will set them up for success for Q1.”

Wood adds that while a risk, it is “one that might pay off”.

Paramount shook up its scheduling, and gave a clear outline of how the year will run

“I’m A Celeb has always drawn strong audiences in Q1 for consumers who are not interested in sport. It will be interesting to see how the shift in timing impacts Paramount’s audiences at the start of the ratings season and into the year. With The Bachelor(s) moving into January, we can expect interesting trends to emerge.”

Hunted, which was positioned by Paramount as ‘2022’s #1 show” did “a lot of the heavy lifting throughout the presentation” according to Keith, as it was used in the opening sequence, as well as being peppered throughout.

“The curated line up, that is, the old favourites, looks strong and is very much positioned as premium. I was partial to the language of ‘content flywheel’ when describing where 10 may have been criticised in the past of having gaps in the schedule.”

Keith says its mix of content including Gogglebox, HYBPA, The Cheap Seats, and a local spin on the new UK smash hit Taskmaster stands out as “definitely feeling a lot more fun” than what audiences and buyers are used to from a TV network.

Fisher was into it too, saying “it feels like Taskmaster could be the show that takes off – the casting seems spot on from what we saw,” adding the changes in show timing across the year is “designed to draw ratings and inflict damage across the other networks at certain times of the year.”

Noilea-Tani says its array of content again delivers the message the network is no longer just Ten. “As a global house of brands, Paramount showcased a diverse content slate spanning FTA, STV, BVOD, SVOD, with a nod to the legacy and scale of Paramount theatrical.”

She adds its lineup will bring “stability and strength,” with Cooper saying the slate was “predominantly safe choices,” which within the uncertain economic forecast for next year, could be a way to “not only guarantee YOY audience stability but also minimise extra production expenses for the network.”

McGarvey presented the ‘content flywheel’ that is Ten’s programming

One of the bigger shows in the slate, The Real Love Boat set sail on Wednesday night this week and is already locked in for a second season next year. However, just after pulling the anchor, it hit an iceberg, launching to just 215,000 metro viewers which will have been on the radar of many in the audience.

Sherif adds that the allure of new format, The Challenge running in both January and December means it “will be the leading tentpole program over the period and will allow brands to advertise in an uncluttered environment.”

Primed to make up share on its competitors?

Cooper says Paramount/Network 10 has already made huge gains in commercial share over the past 5 years, “and their plan for 2023 should ensure they maintain this position,” while Wood says the positioning around ‘connecting with future generations’ is a strong one, and a “clear point of difference in what is often a sea of sameness.”

“Ten is looking long term,” says Combes. “They’ve moved away from a linear view on driving revenue purely based on programming pull and content.”

“The global alliance, calibre of content, business performance and drive really shone through – the subtle references and glimpses of Top Gun and the ‘mountain of content’ really put into perspective the power that sits behind the brand.”

Where is the roundball?

Just one year into its five-year deal with the A-Leagues, the competition has already been relegated off its main free-to-air channel, and with the new season kicking off tonight many were surprised by the lack of prominence it was given.

“Considering the shift we’ve seen in the last few years to streaming services, it was surprising to see Paramount gloss over their sports offering, which still pulls in huge audiences and gives brands the opportunity to increase their overall reach and frequency,” says Sherif, while Keith agrees it was “interesting to see the A-League being so underplayed (no pun intended).”

The A-Leagues kicks off on Paramount+ tonight

“It’s disappointing, particularly when it’s a World Cup Year and the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be here in 2023. Yes, these particular events are on SBS, but the fan base starts with the A-League.”

Others however thought it was right of the network to “focus on their strengths – drama, reality and comedy” during the presentation says Combes. Cooper also says that while the A-League and the sport more generally is growing in popularity domestically, Paramount+ – which was given exclusive branding of the competition during the presentation – is the format that works for the code, for where it currently is in its development phase.

“As the audiences grows, we may see some matches telecast on the linear screen to increase reach and impact with wider audiences.”

This does come in contrast to the belief that a sport needs to come from behind a paywall to grow, as evidenced by Ten’s past work helping the Big Bash League reach eyeballs.

The day might have looked significantly more different had Paramount managed to secure the AFL rights last month, aided by the looser purse-strings of its US owners. Wood says this won’t be the end in this department though, with the network making a big statement at the beginning of the presentation that they would be going after sport aggressively.

“I suspect that there is more to be announced on in the near future on what Paramount’s sport strategy might look like beyond the A-League. With deep pockets and awareness of the love of sport in Australia, it would cement their offering I feel.”

The final round-up

With such a heavy play on Paramount+, questions again arose as they did about Stan in Nine’s Upfront last month regarding ads on the platform. “Will we see Paramount+ join these ranks?” asks Cooper. “Only time will tell.”

“Paramount+ was heavily referenced as the fastest growing streaming service in Australia,” he adds, “but without any audience data nor advertising opportunities (outside A-league) we remain uncertain to its role in the Paramount ecosystem.”

Fisher says the event went a long way to showing its focus on the younger audience which has long been a staple for Ten. “Abbie Chatfield and the announcement of the Sustainable Screens Australia tie-up really seemed to dial this up and be a step beyond simply ‘we’re the home of 18-39’s’.”

While questions still remain for Keith about how the partnerships with Innovid and Samba TV will work for clients, she said she does believe they are a “mountain of entertainment”, with the youngest news consumers and having “old favourites” that will deliver.

Sherif agrees it was light on detail in parts, saying “it would have been great to see the network share their plans into their buying model in greater detail, what this means for planners and buyers, and how they can continue improving their automation and data offering.”

Combes was “really pleased to see an emphasis placed on culture, values, social responsibility and sustainability.” She said these key themes are quickly becoming pervasive not just in our personal lives, but also our work, and are increasingly influencing media partners.

“It goes beyond the Acknowledgement of Country and a DE&I policy. To have a network stop and openly acknowledge their cultural responsibility and showcase that in a thought-provoking way was a surprise and delight moment.”

Noilea-Tani says it was refreshing to hear about the commitment from Paramount to attract and retain talent, as well as its priority on the depth and strength of its national leadership team.

For Pardillo, it was “great to see yet another platform in market invest strongly in adtech and assemble its portfolio of content in a way that brings advertisers closer to its costumers though the power of entertainment.”


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