Seven in talks over 2024 Olympics as network begins Rio review

Seven West Media is in “active discussions” over its options to buy the rights for the 2022 winter and 2024 summer Olympics, as chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette described himself as being “very proud” of the broadcaster’s coverage of the Rio Games.


As the Olympics drew to a close yesterday, Burnette told Mumbrella that talks with Olympic officials had taken place Brazil, and remain on-going.

“It’s fair to say conversations have been taking place while we have been here and there are active discussions going on as we speak,” he said. “We are very happy with the way things have gone and we will continue those conversations and, hopefully, they will come to fruition.”

Seven secured the rights for the Rio Games, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018 and the summer Games in Tokyo in 2020 in a deal thought to be worth $200m – a price-tag commentators believed was $50m less than the International Olympic Committee’s original asking price.

Under the deal, Seven has options to extend the rights to broadcast the Winter Olympics in 2022 and the Summer Games in 2024, the location of which will be announced in September 2017.

While Seven will begin a “hot wash” this week to examine the successes and failures of its coverage in Rio, the network is thought to be sufficiently buoyed to be eager to lock in the 2022 and 2024 events, assuming the price is not prohibitive.

Kurt Burnette

Burnette: “We are very happy with the way things have gone and (hopefully, current) conversations will come to fruition”

Speaking with Mumbrella from Rio after attending the closing ceremony, which attracted an Australian metro audience of 614,000, Burnette claimed TV viewing figures across its three channels – Seven, Seven Two and Seven Mate – exceeded Nine’s audience for the London Olympics four years ago.

It also had more than 100m video views across social platforms and more than 37m streams, he said.

But Burnette said lessons had been learned, particularly with Seven’s app, which was plagued with problems throughout the first 72 hours.

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Users reported the app was freezing and crashing, with Seven West chief digital officer Clive Dickens insisting at the time it was nothing to do with Seven but down to its CDM partner, Akamai, and distribution provider Olympic Broadcasting Services.

Burnette suggested Seven would look to take more functions in-house in future.

“We were relying on third parties to deliver that and we had some struggles early on,” Burnette acknowledged. “That created some learnings about how much we could do ourselves versus using others.

“The issues had been largely fixed by the end of the Games but there were still things we were not happy with all the way through. We have got a clear understanding about what needs to be done going forward, so there have been some really valuable learnings in that regard.”

seven olympics app homepageSeven said there had been 1.5m app installs, but declined to say how many had upgraded to the $20 premium package.

Responding to complaints on Seven’s Olympics Facebook page, with viewers angry over interrupted coverage, or no coverage at all of some events, Burnette said it was impossible to please everyone.

“We will try to take on board some of the comments as much as we can but you are never going to please all of the people all of the time,” he said. “We have delivered more than 3000 hours of coverage and given Australians more choice than they have ever had before, yet we still hear questions of not enough choice, or too many ads.”

The latter gripe was in spite of the broadcaster halving the amount of advertising, he said.

“Ratings ultimately are the benchmark of success, or not, and in that regard the majority of Australians were very happy.”

Burnette said incremental advertising revenue from the Games should rise by 50% during the period of the Olympics – SMI figures should reflect that next month, he said – while it has also provided Seven with a high-profile platform to promote forthcoming programs.

“There are two things with the Olympics. One is the incremental revenue, and those increases have been significant, but we also do it for the ability to promote our key program channels,” he explained. “We are about to launch five or six new shows and franchises, and we also launched 7Travel and Foodiful.

“The revenue we generate is a key factor and the other factor will very much be the performance of those new programs, and the success of the new initiates. It creates a business case for the Olympics that we believe is compelling.

“If the shows launch well it has done its job, but even if they don’t we are not going to be blaming the Olympic Games.”

One of the new shows, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, pulled in 1.08m metro viewers last night, with the show topping the ratings in the key advertising demographics.

Burnette added that the Olympics has also provided a ratings boost for news bulletins and Sunrise.

The network said it attracted a combined TV audience of 18m over the 15 days of competition, which has helped Seven win the 20126 ratings in record time.

Chief executive Tim Worner had flagged its Rio coverage as being potentially one of the most innovative and technologically advanced broadcasts of a sporting event. 

“We were going to deliver a new way of watching the Olympic Games and in that regard we have absolutely done that,” Burnette said. “We have broken all sorts of records with streaming and digital catch-up. We had over 100m video views across social and streaming – which is a new record, and we surpassed London in viewing across the three channels,” Burnette said.

“We are very proud about what has been delivered.

“One of the benchmarks of success is what the advertisers buy into, and what they get off that. We have exceeded expectations in that regard so all the advertisers, partners and sponsors have achieved or over-achieved in their audience projections.”Rio Olympics official logoAudience figures may well have been higher had the Australian team not under-achieved, he added.

“To deliver those  numbers we did, to go past London, to produce the digital outcomes we did, is remarkable. It’s fair to easy, and it’s been well reported, that the performance of the Australian team was not what was hoped so the numbers could have been higher with a more successful team.

“But we’ll take the numbers we had. They were terrific but if Australia had done as well as predicted we would have done better again.”

Burnette said the multi-platform coverage has given advertisers, and Seven, important experience in learning how to create and deliver content on different platforms.

Furthermore, the insights Seven has gathered through data capture has been “extraordinary”.

“We have new learnings and capabilities and new ways we are going to deliver our content, not just in sport but in all general content,” he said. “You’ll hear more about this in the coming months.

“One of the key learnings with multiples platforms, from broadcast to digital to social, is how do you deliver the creative on different streams, making sure creative is adapted according to the platform it is on,” Burnette said.

“People are learning on the fly, and we have seen some pretty interesting learnings from those who have done that. We’ll have some key, actionable insights, not just some ‘nice to know’ stuff.”

What has became clear from data analysed so far is that television was the “driver of the conversation”, Burnette added.


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