‘Weak, tired and a string of failures’: Seven CEO James Warburton gives scathing assessment of his network’s recent performance

Seven’s newly installed CEO James Warburton has taken to the stage in front of media buyers and marketers to admit the network has been “weak, inward focused, tired and stagnant” with “a string of poor programs and failures”.

Warburton said in recent times the company had lost its way, and had allowed its competitors to chalk up easy wins.

Warburton issues a rallying cry to the market

“We’ve let others take a share of what we’ve been so good at in the past. We haven’t thrown a punch over the last quarter, and to be frank, it’s been disappointing. But it’s important to be totally transparent, and to ensure that everyone in this room knows what our plans to address it are,” he said on stage last night at Seven’s Upfronts event in Sydney.

“Our competitors have had it easy. We’ve not been ourselves. We haven’t had a clear strategy nor focus. But from here on in, we will be fierce.”

This fierceness, he said, includes programming Seven 52 weeks a year, and focussing on the key advertising demographic of those aged 25 to 54. It will also see a 30% increase in investment in its tentpole programs at 7:30pm.

“As a content company in recent times, we’ve lost our way in our entertainment strategy and tentpole strategy. We haven’t invested in these tentpoles, we haven’t developed them, and accordingly from Sunday to Tuesday 7:30pm has been a real problem. We’ve been weak, inward focused, tired and stagnant, and recently, we’ve had a string of poor programs and failures by our own high standards,” Warburton said.

“We will refresh and reinvigorate our tentpole programs, but not throw out the formats which have been very successful for us,” he said, noting that House Rules and My Kitchen Rules can still, after all these years, pull steady audiences, despite recent neglect. “These shows haven’t evolved, and to be honest, they’ve looked tired – but what a base from which to re-invest and re-invent them.”

Following the admissions on stage, Warburton was asked by Mumbrella if it was difficult to give such a scathing performance of his predecessor, Tim Worner.

Warburton said he had to be “brutally honest”.

Prime will make Seven even stronger, Warburton said

“If you ask the market and ask buyers, clients, people I work with, that’s jut the way I am. I was honest in terms of the results to shareholders and investors, and that’s just the way I’m built. I say things that I think are right, and I say things as I see them, and I don’t think I ever have a meeting where anyone ever has a doubt about how I’m feeling. So it’s just life,” he said.

Despite the challenges ahead, and the recent failures, Warburton was keen to remind the room of Seven’s more pleasing long-term history, and its prospects.

“We are transforming this company, and we have begun executing our content-led growth platform. But I would remind you, the talented group of people that we have, have seen us number one for more than a decade,” he said.

“I wouldn’t bet against us. You don’t just say you’re the market leader, you have to earn it. But we’ve earned that right over the last decade. Now our promise is to be even bigger in scale, in reach, and to be focussed on people 25 to 54,” he added.

“I will only say this one more time – we’ve not lived up to our own expectations. But what we’re about to show you will change that. We will be fresh, and relaunch our brand. We’ll be younger in look and feel. We’ll be reinvigorated. And we will deliver more Australians than ever before. We won’t let you down. Australia’s most superior and brand-safe platform, all in one place. And we will guarantee you the outcome.”


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