"Innovate, disrupt or die" – what Seven's upfronts delivered

By Rosie Baker, Pippa Chambers and Rachael Micallef | 21 October 2015
Jessica Mauboy stars in new Seven series The Secret Daughter.

In a bid to woo media agency bosses and advertisers, and secure those sought-after ad dollars for 2016, Seven West Media was the first TV network on carousel to show its hand.

All ears, attendees listened to the likes of Seven CEO, Tim Worner, chief digital officer, Clive Dickens, as well as some familiar faces such as Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and songstress Jessica Mauboy.

The event, held at the Seven studios in a newly revamped quarter, is one of 25 of its upfront sessions which saw an intimate group of 20 taken through the media company's strategy.

Chief revenue officer of Seven West Media, Kurt Burnette, said the new set-up was intended to have less focus on the 'showbiz' side of the annual showcase and more of a 'business' approach.

Worner began by saying how linear TV has changed, stating that “disruption is actually something we’re embracing".

He said it's all about content as the network outlined the tent-pole shows and dramas it is prepping for 2016. But he added that he wanted to talk about “the business of showbusiness” and the innovations the business is making behind the scenes. This is to help advertisers streamline the process of planning and booking ads across the network, Worner said, through automation, programmatic and technology.

He also drew on the network's Share of Eye research project, which it unveiled earlier this week, that unearths what device people are watching on TV  and where.

“Where our audience goes, we'll be there … Some people will have you believe that no one is watching TV … but we're the only ones that can deliver that sort of engagement at such enormous scale," Worner said.

"Make no mistake, the big red train [Seven Network] is still steaming ahead. The destination might have changed … Because these days it's now about so much more than those overnight ratings that we used to hang on every morning.

“Our research shows people are watching more TV than ever before, they are just watching it in different ways, but be assured that is driving the way we’ve changed, the way we think and the way we work. There has been a lot of change, but one thing never changes – everything still starts with content. We are a content company. We pride ourselves in the telling of Australian stories.”

Fresh shows

Seven has spoken previously about its focus on creating new local content, but reiterated this today, announcing several new shows in the mix in 2016.

New shows on the block, set to tempt advertisers of varying ilk, include Sunday Night Takeaway – complete with a segment which 'gives away the ads', along with new format reality shows Kiss Bang Love, a “provocative” approach to dating shows by the creators of Married at First Sight. The Day The Cash Came, an Australian version of the controversial BBC show of the same name, which aired earlier this year, is also on the agenda.

Seven director of network programming, Angus Ross, said the network will be using the platforms of the Australian Open tennis and the Olympic Games to launch the new content, with additional content to be unveiled throughout the year.

Ross said the network's "mantra" is investing in local content, and in 2016 it plans to create more shows than ever before.

“You have to find a different way to reach people than the standard lifestyle show," Ross told AdNews. "We are investing in shows that have the potential to make a lot of noise.”

Landmark Seven shows including My Kitchen Rules and House Rules are making a return to screens next year along with new drama, 800 Words, that has been confirmed for a second series.

It's also announced the 'Foodiful' app which is pegged as a shoppable content destination and will launch during My Kitchen Rules.

In addition, the network has chosen to invest in new drama shows including The Secret Daughter, starring singer and actress, Jessica Mauboy, Wanted - which focuses on a car jacking gone wrong, starring Rebecca Gibney and former Home and Away star, Stephen Peacocke, and a mini-series based on the life of Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum - Molly.

Ross said the key to producing drama in a fragmented TV landscape is to build shows that become “events” to get viewers tuning in when they air. He also said that having content Seven has produced itself, is “piracy proof”.

“It comes down to having a ripping yarn,” Ross said. “The nature of drama is the more you make it an event the more people will rock up.” 

More targeted ads in programmatic push

Network director of sales at Seven, Adam Elliott, also unveiled plans for 7 Screens, Seven’s programmatic solution for advertising agencies and marketing partner which will allow advertisers to trade on customers and not just demographic.

He said Seven’s move into “programmatic buying” will allow advertisers and agencies to connect their brands and campaigns across Seven’s media platforms in real-time through data and analytics.

Within this there will be two phases of programmatic focusing on real time efforts as well as data matching. It boasted targeted pre-roll ads that are personalised and cross-device.

"We can make and take this to a whole other level,” Elliott said.

Seven is also set to work closer with advertisers, in the studio at Seven, to help them become more “multi-screen".

It will also offer advertisers the chance to target mobile and tablet audiences with specific pre-roll ads on mobile offering a personalised element to the live stream, and highlighted how the innovations and changes Seven is making internally will make it easier for advertisers and agencies to buy ad space across all its platforms through one central team.

Burnette said: “It's [live-streaming] TV where you don't have a TV. That's how we'll market it, and we'll do a lot of it.
Consumers told us that they want connection to premium content anywhere and anytime".

"Marketers wanted those consumer engaged, targeted and measured. When Seven live streaming joins our content ecosystem, liner broadcast TV, social, and catch up – they're going to have it all. When we launch it will deliver the most powerful pre-roll in the country."

Burnette was also rather excited to announce a new measurement system with audience measurement company, OzTam, launching in early November, called Video Player Measurement.

“Meaning, we’ll be able to do just that,” Burnette said. “Combine the numbers of TV viewing across TV, mobile, tablet and desktop to give a true, multi-screen view of what is happening across every single device."

Live-streaming and 7 Sync

Seven outlined how its initiative to stream all matches in the 2015 Australian Open via mobile and tablet this year has pushed the cross-platform innovation across the network. The launch date of its already announced Seven Live platform will kick off with the Melbourne Cup on 3 November, and will see all its channels live-streamed on mobile, including the commercial breaks.

Dickens told AdNews that pushing forward the launch date to coincide with a national event is a way to get audiences to adopt the behaviour of watching live-streamed television because it's essentially “creating a new daily habit”.

“TV, the most powerful marketing platform in the country, just moved out of home and onto mobile,” Dickens said.

The other way Seven plans to change the integration between traditional linear television and mobile is the creation of 7 Sync, a marketing platform which aims to deliver content on mobile and social media “in sync” with broadcast television.

He said the new functionality taps into the way customers are already using their mobile devices or multi-screening while watching broadcast television.

“Importantly users do not have to change their current viewing behaviour,” Dickens said.

Seven has also put a focusing on embracing social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr key on its agenda.

The “unavoidable” Olympics

With the 2016 Rio Olympic Games taking place next year, and Seven gearing up for its first coverage of the event as part of a new long-term agreement with the International Olympic Committee, the network is eyeing a broadcast to rival audiences seen during the Sydney 2000 Olympics coverage.

Olympics overage will be shown on SevenMate, 7Two and Seven and will also be available as part of its live-stream of those channels in what Seven presenter, Hamish McLachlan, is calling the “first unavoidable Olympics”.

In addition, Seven will also be showing 140 hours of Paralympics' coverage, airing two weeks after the Olympics' coverage ends.

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