Seven’s Olympic-sized rebuild following major shake-up

During the final week of the financial year, Seven finally announced the restructuring that will cost 150 jobs and save $100 million in annual costs. Since then, the network has been swift in implementing a number of major staffing and operational changes, the results of which are already being felt around the network.

When chief James Warburton stepped down in April, in the midst of a string of controversies — the worst of which being the in-court allegations that the network paid for drugs, sex workers, and a year’s rent to secure an interview with Bruce Lehrmann — the network seemed in an unsalvageable position.

A few other big scalps followed: Spotlight’s executive producer, Mark Llewellyn, quietly resigned during the stunning court testimony that claimed he “gave verbal approval” for the aforementioned Lehrmann expenses, and Seven’s crime reporter Robert Ovadia was sacked following allegations of “inappropriate conduct”.

CMO Melissa Hopkins, chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette, and Seven Melbourne’s head of sport and managing director Lewis Martin were all marched during the final week of June.

New gaps were plugged by Seven’s chief content officer, entertainment programming, Angus Ross, who was appointed group MD of Seven Television, while Seven West Media chief digital officer Gereurd Roberts was made group MD of Seven Digital.

Former director of operations and transformation, Trent Dickeson, was made chief operating officer, while acting CFO Craig Haskins was officially appointed to the role, and Brook Hall jumped from Seven’s director of content scheduling to chief content officer.

But the rebuilding has been going on in the background, too, and has been largely driven by Anthony De Ceglie, who has recently taken control of Seven’s east coast newsrooms, and is putting in place his “strategy to recruit young leaders to Seven”.

De Ceglie replaced Llewellyn with A Current Affair’s Sydney bureau chief Gemma Williams, former Ben Fordham Live producer, and an excellent poach from rivals Nine.

Anthony De Ceglie

He also moved Sunrise executive producer Sean Power to the role of director of news in Sydney, with Neil Warren stepping down “for family reasons” after over three decades at Seven. De Ceglie said giving over the 6pm bulletin to Power is “part of ensuring that Seven has next-generational leaders in place ready for the future”.

Over at Sunrise, current supervising producer Jake Lyle will take on the role of executive producer, with Holly Fallon moving to executive producer of Weekend Sunrise.

Seven has also recently appointed Katie Finney to the new role of national television sales director, and Vikki Friscic as head of sales strategy and enablement. Mark Mooney was named as the new 7NEWS Adelaide news director, with former news director Chris Salter, appointed director of news in Seven Melbourne.

The need for young blood is such that one of Seven’s most-loved newsreader, Mark Ferguson, will soon no longer be seen on air.

According to the Daily Telegraph, part of Seven’s cost cutting strategy is “forcing” staff with excess leave to take some holidays during the upcoming Olympics fortnight, where Seven will be assured of lower-than-usual ratings for its usually-number-one 6pm Sydney news bulletin.

And so Ferguson will be taking a two-week holiday during the Olympics, with De Ceglie “heard telling staff he wanted to use the time to give other presenters experience in the hot seat” – according to the DT’s Jonathon Moran.

Among those rumoured to spending time in the hot seat are Michael Usher, Angela Cox, Angie Asimus, and Edwina Bartholomew.

Also signalling this younger approach at Seven, Ryan Stokes spoke to The Australian in a brief interview published on Friday.

The fact the younger Stokes is willing to chat is a bigger scoop than anything he says during the chat, and aside from noting “cost focus is not new”, it seems he holds out hope that the media arm of Seven Group will enjoy a renaissance.

“We’d like to see a position where the business would get back to delivering earnings growth, but that’s going to take time and effort and a lot of focus on how we continue to revise the operating model,” Stokes told The Australian.

“If we execute on that, we should see a value opportunity increase”.


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