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Seven brings in Andrew Denton, Back with the Ex and 7 Plus to bounce back from ‘toughest year in recent history’

Seven’s “toughest year in recent history” has led to a major revamp of the second half of its 2018 programming year and a focus on addressable advertising through its new streaming service 7 Plus.

The media company’s 2018 lineup, which was revealed in Melbourne on Friday, includes the return of Andrew Denton to television with Interview, a new dance show Dance Boss, a challenge to Nine’s Australian Ninja Warrior dubbed Australian Spartan, an offering for small businesses The Mentor with Mark Bouris, and new reality dating show, Back with the Ex.

Worner admits Seven did not deliver in the second half of the year

Another interesting addition to the line up is The Real Full Monty –  a one off event which will see eight Australian celebrities go nude for charity.

Seven has also commissioned several new dramas including The First Wives Club, Olivia – which stars Delta Goodrem, Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy, The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Australian Gangster.

Returning next year is My Kitchen Rules, which will see the contestants visit Pete Evans and Manu Feildel’s ‘house’ and a new elimination process, Little Big Shots and House Rules, which will feature all new judges.

Yummy Mummies will also return as an exclusive commission for 7 Plus – the first of many according to Seven.

Seven put a major emphasis on its sports offering for the first six months of the year, kicking off with The Australian Open, followed by the AFL Women’s League and AFL, Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, and the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

In line with the sporting events, Mick Molloy, Sam Pang and Andy Maher will return for The Front Bar, which will also feature national special editions for the Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympics.

Seven has also locked in an exclusive partnership with Optus for sporting events through the year.

Tim Worner, CEO of Seven West Media told a room of agencies and marketers: “For 11 years in a row now we’ve finished on top at Seven. And there’s no doubt that’s a really good thing and just to be clear and get it out of the way nice and early we are going to make it 12 years in a row.

Worner: Not Seven’s best win

“But we want to get our hand up and say this wasn’t our best win. In fact, it’s been our toughest in recent history.”

He went on to tell the room the network hadn’t reached the “lofty expectations” it had set for itself and didn’t deliver on the key advertising demographic numbers as promised.

But he promised next year would be the year where the “biggest audiences” would be on Seven again.

“And we guarantee you, you will be able to connect with those massive audiences far more effectively than you ever have before.”

Later he admitted to Mumbrella: “In many ways what’s happened has been good for us, because we’ve set about putting on what’s not on. That’s been a really big focus for us and we feel as though we’ve got a bunch of shows here that tick that box.”

Angus Ross, Seven Network’s head of programming, said part of the problem was that previously reliable shows did not deliver audiences this year.

“We were number one in all the demographics and then come August, September we launched Hell’s Kitchen. The show underperformed for us and at the same time, post Hell’s Kitchen, some of the shows that were perhaps previously reliable in 7:30pm slots, weren’t reliable,” he said.

“The answer is we didn’t have enough hit shows in the back half and this is a hit show business and we need more.”

Tim Worner, CEO of Seven West Media with Kurt Burnette, chief revenue officer and Angus Ross, Seven’s director of programming

But he’s confident the network can deliver a “strong run home” at the end of the year, with The Wall, Liar, Good Doctor, Instant Hotel and Secret Daughter still to come.

Looking to next year, he said the company would invest heavily in the “shiny floor entertainment space.”

But he denied the costs of sporting events like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games affected budgets for other programs.

“No, quite the opposite. You want to make sure that the quality of the shows that you are launching out of those events really matches viewer’s expectations. It’s all about the ideas and great ideas sometimes cost a lot of money,” he said.

But he did admit drama has been a difficult genre to attract broadcast audiences with.

“There’s still a place in broadcast but its tough at the moment and of all the genres on TV, probably the toughest to get to work at the moment is in the drama space. It’s easier to get people to commit to event series,” Ross told Mumbrella.

“Interestingly this year, the highest ratings drama still is Hoges, and that was described as a flop and each of those did a 1m.

“There are going to be a few different ideas for us in the drama space over the coming year but in terms of reliability, when you look at something like The Doctor Blake Mysteries, that’s almost as reliable as sport.”

Seven’s all fronts included a range of presentations from upcoming show hosts, including Molloy and Bouris, but one of the most lively responses from the room came from the announcement Denton would return to television.

On his return and the launch of new show ‘Interview’, Denton told the audience: “When the chemistry is right, one of the most compelling things on television is a great interview.

“What will make Interview different I guess is the shape of the world now. The last interview show I did, Enough Rope, started on the ABC almost 15 years ago in a kinder, gentler time where everyone loved everyone else and mail was only delivered once a month by unicorns.

“In the last decade and a half so much has changed. We seem to have become meaner, crazier, shoutier, weirder, more dangerous, more extraordinary in every way.”

He described his return to Seven as somewhat of a “homecoming”.

“Those of you with long memories will recall I used to do a tonight show back in the ’90s called Denton and that’s why I’m on the big money – Denton, Interview – these titles don’t come easily people,” he joked.

“As I thought about my return to television, I thought it’s not right that I go back to the ABC because the national broadcaster, their job is to bring through new talent.

“I knew if I would return, I’d deny somebody else the chance to shine so I never went back to them. Instead I came back to Terry.”

Denton says his return is a “homecoming” to the network

Seven also flagged its investment in a new show called Back with the Ex, which will see couples who have previously been together attempt to make things work once more.

Meanwhile new drama The First Wives Club will follow women who have recently become single and are ‘on the market’.

7 Plus, Code7 and addressable advertising

Kurt Burnette, chief revenue officer at Seven described next year as the “perfect storm” of content and technology.

Burnette presented most of next year’s programming, which includes a large focus on sport for the beginning of the year

“What you are about to see is in fact the largest investment in content and marketing this company has ever made, to deliver the most powerful marketing platform ever created,” he said.

“At Seven we are very much about trying to get the balance between art and science, between content and audiences – your customers.

“We believe that before you head down the rabbit hole of micro-targeting, you must first start with the environment.”

The comments come several months after Seven West Media’s announcement it would amend its Yahoo7 deal following the Verizon acquisition, separating its catch-up video service under the new agreement.

Today the focus was on 7 Plus, a slight tweak to the name of original service Plus 7, which will offer live and on-demand shows from December.

It will also include an extended content library with global dramas and exclusive commissions such as Yummy Mummies.

Those who use the subscription offering will have the opportunity to transact for Seven’s new shows, pre-broadcast, offline and in HD.

Worner told Mumbrella he is confident Yahoo 7 can continue to deliver audience numbers without the streaming service.

You have to remember with Yahoo7 that there is a new partner and Oath is one of the biggest advertising companies in the world and I don’t think that they are going to stand back and not do their very best along with us. You have to remember that we are still a partner there, to make sure that offering is as good as it possibly can be,” he said.

Burnette told Mumbrella the network wouldn’t officially launch 7 Plus until December and noted the new streaming service offering would not have a forced log in.

“We took the view as we did with the Olympics, let’s create a log in opportunity which means if you do it will be a value exchange, you’ll get better notifications and additional content,” he said.

A key feature of the launch of 7 Plus will be the addressable advertising offering across various shows.

Described as a “game changer” Seven says it will deliver improvements in targeting and return on investment through its platform.

The addressable TV offering will commence with the coverage of the Rugby League World Cup, and extend across the whole of 7 Plus this year.

“We’ve been working on it for a year to try and make this be able to work and we’ve just got it right in the last couple of weeks so it’s worked out perfectly and because the timing, getting the technology right linked in with us having the World Cup and the real beauty of this thing in the early stages of addressable for us on television is through live sport,” Burnette told Mumbrella.

Burnette says advertisers will be able to change creative in real time and target to consumers on the back end of The World Cup tournament

 

“This was the game to do it. And it’s going to scale up over a period of time. When we start tonight we are going to get log in users from the moment the broadcast starts, and that’s when we can turn the data around immediately but it’s going to take time to scale.

He said while the addressable advertising was delivered last night, the ability to change creative in real time and target consumer will happen towards the end of the tournament.

Asked about whether Seven was using its data from the Rio Olympics last year to target audiences, Burnette responded: “Data is about recency and relevancy. So the relevancy of the Olympics is right but the recency – after 30, 40 days – it’s there and can be used but we want to be using the data that’s relevant and live over the last 30 days so that’s what we want to be doing now as we start tonight and slowly start to build the database.”

Burnette admitted addressable advertising will not be available on all Seven shows initially.

“We will start with the World Cup, then the tennis and then as we launch our shows into February March, we’ll run it. Not all our shows immediately because it depends where the audience is out.

“A show like Sunrise is very ripe for that opportunity just because of that opportunity just because of where it is in the morning and how many hours you’ve got across a period of time over the week.

“Eventually it will be in all of our content where it makes sense but we’ll be starting beyond sporting February next year.”

 

James Bayes, digital sales director at Seven said 7 Plus would aim to tackle issues with advertising on streaming services which currently occur.

“7 Plus will feature a world-class advertising experience that addresses many of your earlier frustrations with OTT experiences. We’ve listened, and 7 Plus is evidence of our commitment to ensuring your brands are connected to audiences in the best possible way,” he said.

“To deliver on this promise we’ve worked with some of the best technology companies in the world, to diminish frequency issues and reduce break crashing that creates negative sentiment on similar services.

“You can and should expect better. As an industry we still have some work to do but 7 Plus will be leading the way.”

He added: “Working closely with our ad partners Integral Ad Science and Moat, we are working on a proof of content solution to the global issue of viewability measurement on connected IPTVs, prioritising Chromecast and Apple TV.”

Seven’s executive team as yesterday’s upfronts (L-R): Tim Worner Ana Bacic, Adam Elliott, Kurt Burnette, Angus Ross, Peter Charles, Clive Dickens

Ana Bacic, head of network marketing said the rollout of 7 Plus would “supercharge” current efforts to deliver highly targeted marketing.

“Our data unit Red Fusion will be powering our marketing on a direct-to-customers one-on-one level. Our data allows us to deploy highly targeted creative messages to individuals right across our digital footprint, spanning TV, print and social channels,” she said.

Burnette also mentioned the launch Code 7 – what appears to be a rival offering to 9Galaxy – for February next year.

He said advertisers will be able to buy shows and environments with the “click of a button”.

“You’ll be able to track the campaign delivery daily, through the Code 7 web portal,” he explained.

While 7 Plus was a major point of discussion at the upfronts, Worner told Mumbrella the future of Seven’s TV offering is in “free to air”.

“Whilst we will probably have content that is commissioned exclusively, or we definitely will, have content commissioned exclusively for 7plus, I don’t see that’s a future.

“The future is free to air television and if you have a look at those big live sports events and the sorts of audiences that are possible, that’s why it’s the future.”

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