How Seven has pivoted its message to the online video market

Seven NewfrontsThis week Network Seven began its annual presentations around its 2016 lineup. Nic Christensen talks to senior media buyers about the Seven’s strategy and what it means for the broader market. 

Sometimes it’s the simple things that stand out in TV line up presentations. 

This year Network Seven deliberately junked the familiar “Upfronts” label for its annual presentation in favour of calling them something else – Newfronts.

It’s a phrase that was coined in the US by the IAB – and the Newfronts are the place where the big global digital players present their latest products to media buyers and their views of the evolution of digital.

Seven’s presentations to local buyers last Wednesday and will continue into next week, but among those who have been through already it is clear that Seven – the TV network which has been number one in overall demographics for nine years running – is seeking to push its digital credentials and show that it is evolving to meet the video market.

Acknowledging the decline in traditional TV

Earlier this year, there was a war of words between media buyers and the TV Networks after then GroupM investment boss Danny Bass had the temerity to question why clients should face a price hike on TV when audiences on terrestrial viewing were actually declining. 

It drew an angry response from all the TV networks with FreeTV chairman (and former media buyer-in-chief) Harold Mitchell  going as far as to label one of the most senior media agency bosses (and incoming CEO of IPG Mediabrands Australia) as “ill informed” and “naive”.

Fast forward just six months and the rhetoric – certainly from Seven – has completely changed.

If there is one stand-out insight from the Seven presentations it’s that Seven West CEO Tim Worner is openly acknowledging the TV audience decline on traditional viewing.

Tim Worner


That’s a brave decision and one that comes from television having witnessed the experience of newspapers and knowing that it needs to be open about the changes in consumer viewing habits and the move away from linear programming.

But chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette was quick to emphasise that just because audiences are falling, that doesn’t mean they are disappearing: “We do acknowledge there has been an audience decline and that the audience is changing shape, but the way forward – and we believe to keep that audience growing – is to be where the audience is and that’s live streaming.”

To this point the biggest news from Seven’s Upfronts – sorry Newsfronts – was announced a few weeks ago, and and that was the decision to move live streaming on Plus7.

Plus7It’s also a move that, despite the chagrin of the regional siblings, is welcomed by media buyers.

“It’s great to see Tim Worner acknowledge that audiences have shifted, but then coming up with a solution to be able to capture them so that advertisers don’t lose their appetite for TV,” said Dentsu Aegis trading boss Alex Pekish.

Pekish is also not alone in this view. Bohemia managing partner Brett Dawson also welcomed the digital focus: “(Audience declines) are a fact.

“Audiences are fragmenting and we are accessing content in multiple ways across multiple devices and so it makes a lot of sense that Seven are going to follow that and package it up in a nice easy way for advertisers.”

Seven’s programmatic push 

Seven is also focused on making the buying of video easier unveiling ‘7 Screens’, its programmatic buying offering, and ‘7 Sync’, something the Network is pitching as “Australia’s first ‘premium moment’ marketing platform”.

Seven West Media like all media owners is under pressure to move on programmatic and is now allowing marketers and their agencies to connect their brands and campaigns across its media platforms in real-time through data and analytics.

It’s important to note that we’re talking here about the digital inventory and in particular pre-roll advertising, although it will be enhanced by the 7Sync offering.

“7Sync is a proposition where within our content integration we will be able to trigger a creative message onto social feeds of the consumers advertisers want to target,’ said Burnette.

Kurt Burnette


Seven’s digital boss Clive Dickens put it another way: “We know that consumers love using their mobiles whilst enjoying our shows on television. 7 Sync ensures that the creative and the objectives of our partners and sponsors are carried across all companion devices exclusively ‘in sync’ with our broadcast.”

From the buyer perspective this is highly attractive. “I really like them leading on live streaming and I love the 10 second preroll,” said Bohemia CEO Brett Dawson.

“Give me a 10 second ad anytime – especially when I can put all the data and analytics behind it to ensure optimal targeting. I think consumers will respond well – it is free TV on your mobile and a 10 second preroll for the privilege is a fair trade off.”

Clive Dickens


A two halves strategy

In recent years Seven has been the market leader when it comes to selling its proposition – hence its continual leadership in the ad revenue stakes. That’s been backed up by building a program schedule that allows them to leverage sport at the beginning of the year to cross promote new shows.

Next year is no exception with Seven planning to use the Australian Open Tennis in January, as well as the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August, as a platform for its content in 2016.

Media agency research shows Nine in 2012 got a two per cent bump to its overall numbers from the London Olympics, so it’s fair to say that many buyers expect a similar uplift from Seven.

“The key parts of their strategy are viewing on all devices, continued integration across Australian content and using the tennis and Olympics, for maximum impact,” said Alex Pekish, group media investment director at Aegis Media.

OMD head of trading Melissa Hey also thought the Olympics would be important: “The tennis has always played a big part for them and a lot of Seven’s successes in quarter one have been on the back of them.

“The Olympics will also be big. I mean Nine launched Australia’s got talent off the back of 2012 and also a number of other shows.”

Seven is clear that it will do a similar thing in 2016 with Kurt Burnette telling Mumbrella: “Jessica Mauboy’s new show Secret Daughter will launch out of it. We will launch three to four shows out of the Olympics.

Jessica Mauboy is coming to Seven in The Secret Daughter (landscape)

Jessica Mauboy will start in Seven’s new show The Secret Daughter

The 2016 line up 

Mauboy’s show is a one of a number of new programs that Seven is pinning its hopes on and buyers are definitely interested.

Likewise, following in the footsteps of INXS and Peter Allen, there are big expectations for Seven’s Molly Meldrum series. But again the challenge most buyers note is finding shows that will appeal to the younger audience who have been leading the falls in terrestrial TV viewing.

“(Younger audiences) is definitely their challenge but I don’t think it’s a Seven only problem, I think it is all the free-to-air Networks,” said Hey. “That younger audience 16-39 demographic is across the board a challenge. Jessica Mauboy will be appealing, the Molly Meldrum special will be really strong to launch into in Q1.

“I’m not sure some of the other shows will be as successful.”

Hey wouldn’t be drawn on precisely which shows she was talking about, but the reaction to more millennial focused programs like “Kiss, Bang Love” will be interesting.

Kiss Bang LoveSeven is following in the footsteps of both Nine’s Married at First Sight and Ten’s The Bachelorette/Bachelor, but Burnette denies the local version of the Danish reality show is Seven copying its rivals: “One of our focuses was to be really fresh in our programming and also have shows that would create an incredible social buzz and also be interesting to millennials.”

Despite concerning headwinds around declining audiences and challenges from streaming services, Seven is still projecting its usual confidence about 2016.

“We expect big numbers for Molly, it is in everyone’s memory growing up,” said Burnette. “Like INXS and Peter Allen everyone remembers a time or a moment with Molly and what he did for music. It is going to be a huge show.”

Burnette also noted that the next challenge for Seven was really around ensuring audiences were being measured across various platforms of traditional TV and Plus7 video across desktop, tablets and and mobile and the upcoming cross platform measurement announcements expected later this year from Oztam will help there.

“We have a rich data set and segment out audience into buyer group or life stage groups,” said Burnette. “But we have to be able to show advertisers that we are measuring that total audience.”

Nic Christensen is the deputy editor of Mumbrella.


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