Seven promises record-breaking audiences for AFL’s return

Seven is anticipating the return of the AFL to screens tomorrow night will be a ratings smash, suggesting that the empty stadiums may even play favourably into the broadcaster’s hands.

The network has been banking on the return of Big Brother, as well as its resident sporting code, to lift its ratings, with chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette telling advertisers each round of the AFL is going to “create records on the way through”.

Seven wants audiences to ‘Go to the Footy’

“There’s no question that COVID has been devastating. It has from a personal and business perspective. It’s given us all time to think differently and spend a bit of time on how we want to look coming out of this COVID environment. And at Seven, we’ve been no different. We’ve spent a lot of months looking at how we look, how we structure coming out of this,” he said at Seven’s virtual AFL relaunch this afternoon.

“That kick off tomorrow night, Collingwood, Richmond, is the start of the spark that will launch an audience uplift through this week, where every single blockbuster game on Seven will be scheduled and create records on the way through. Audience reach and audience engagement of the highest scale.”

Tomorrow night, he said “will be the most anticipated match this century to date. It’s that big”.

Burnette thanked advertisers for sticking with Seven 

Natalie Harvey, network sales director at Seven, predicted television audiences could be even higher than previous early-round matches, as those who would normally be in the stadium have nowhere else to turn.

“Reach and engagement are two of the biggest benefits for all advertisers when the footy comes back tomorrow night. When it comes to reach, we know that our schedule will increase by around nine to 10% every single week. We’re also going to see that go into October as well because the footy finals are moving back an extra month, which is awesome, especially at that time of the year,” she said.

“The other piece to the reach story is that we’ve got nearly 300,000 people who last year would take themselves off to a stadium to watch the footy. They’re avid fans, and they’re going to be looking for somewhere to watch the footy. So we know that they’re going to be there too. Then on the engagement side, well, footy itself is massively engaging for all of our audiences. We run reduced [ad] content, like we did with Big Brother at the start of the week, which was the initial launch of our EAVE [Enhanced Advertiser and Viewer Experience] proposition. The footy’s been doing it for years – reduced content, but also that incredibly powerful and effective real estate that sits just behind the goal… So for any advertiser that’s engaging with the footy, you’ve got reach, and you’ve got engagement, and it all starts tomorrow night.”

Some of Seven’s offerings to AFL advertisers

AFL executive producer Gary O’Keefe also gave advertisers a preview of the canned crowd sounds which will be rolled out throughout the broadcast.

“Like anything in life, you don’t realise how much you miss it ’til it’s gone,” O’Keefe said of AFL’s live crowds, and the negative effect of having near-silent matches.

The “subtle” addition of crowd sounds to the broadcast, he said, will start from tomorrow night and will offer a “level of comfort” for the viewers at home.

In hyping up tomorrow night, Burnette also thanked brands and marketers for continuing to spend throughout the pandemic.

“I wanted to take a moment to say to our advertising partners and our clients that are watching, thank you. Thank you for investing in us. Thank you for investing in the industry, in what has been a very difficult time for everybody. Your investment has meant a lot. We appreciate it. And we hope that it pays dividends for you,” he said.


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