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Seven West Media confirms major leadership changes under ‘new operating model’

Seven West Media (SWM) Group has confirmed a wave of major leadership changes under a “new operating model”.

On Wednesday, the media giant also confirmed the departures of chief marketing officer Melissa Hopkins, chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette and Seven Melbourne’s head of sport and managing director Lewis Martin, as a result of a restructuring with the new model “designed to deliver on the strategy that includes optimising its television business and delivering on the digital future”.

Under the new model, SWM will have three divisions: Television, Digital and Western Australia.

Seven’s chief content officer, entertainment programming, Angus Ross, has been appointed group MD, Seven Television; SWM chief digital officer Gereurd Roberts takes on the new role of group MD, Seven Digital.

Maryna Fewster continues as CEO, SWM Western Australia, responsible for SWM’s broadcast, digital and print brands in that market.

Meanwhile, current director of operations and transformation, Trent Dickeson, has been appointed to the new role of chief operating officer, while acting chief financial officer, Craig Haskins, has been appointed chief financial officer.

As part of the changes, Seven said that “a number of redundancies and other cost actions are being taken”, on the back of up to 150 jobs reportedly cut.

Melissa Hopkins

Kurt Burnette

“To build a better media business and to make the most of the opportunities ahead of us, we need to change the way we think and operate. That includes changing the way our executive team is structured and how it works together,” Seven CEO, Jeff Howard, said in a statement.

“We’re setting up new, accountable and transparent profit centres for our Television and Digital business units. The dedicated, end-to-end digital business unit will make sure we capture all the growth digital is going to deliver. Television and Digital will work very closely with our content teams to ensure we maximise the digital growth opportunity as it develops.”

Howard also thanked Hopkins, Burnette and Martin as they depart.

“I’d like to sincerely thank Kurt, Lewis and Mel for their contributions to Seven and they leave with our best wishes for the future,” he said.

“Combined they represent more than 65 years of experience at Seven and it is always very disappointing when such changes have to be made. Our focus, however, is on ensuring Seven West Media’s structure matches our strategy to optimise television, deliver our digital future, find new revenue streams and manage our costs responsibly.”

Former CEO James Warburton (left) and current CEO Jeff Howard (right)

Other management changes confirmed include the promotion of Brook Hall from Seven’s director of content scheduling to chief content officer, and Seven Adelaide’s managing director Vikki Friscic taking on the newly-created role of head of sales strategy and enablement.

The mass redundancies were reported earlier this week, with the media giant believed to be dealing with the end of its multi-million dollar deal with Meta and the current advertising landscape.

It’s reported that the cuts were first discussed in February by then-CEO James Warburton and his successor and then-CFO, Jeff Howard.

In a parliamentary inquiry into social media just last week, Howard said the funding from Seven’s Meta deal “has been used to fund the entire news operation and investment in platforms and content” and that he would be looking “across the board” once the deal expires.

The news comes after a string of controversies that Seven has endured in recent times, including an expenses scandal investigation and a former Spotlight producer claiming the media giant paid for drugs, sex workers and more to secure an interview with Bruce Lehrmann.

Last Friday, Seven’s crime reporter and occasional newsreader Robert Ovadia confirmed he was sacked after over 23 years following allegations of “inappropriate conduct”.

As well as emails exchanged with a former female employee four years ago,  Ovadia reportedly sent an image of a penis to a male colleague who asked the newsroom for “dick pics”, relating to coverage of child sex charges made against former Australian swim coach, Dick Caine.

Ovadia has recruited high profile lawyer John Laxon to defend the sacking.

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