James Warburton won't believe the "doom and gloom" of traditional media

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 14 November 2019

Seven CEO James Warburton has cast off the notion of the "doom and gloom" that he says people are placing around traditional media.

Speaking at the company's annual general meeting (AGM), the new network boss questioned who was really driving the positive conversation around the Australian media market.

He added that it was the responsibility of companies like Seven to lead a positive conversation between media agencies, clients and advertisers, while also pushing consumers "back to brand".

"There are about 100 clients that drive the agenda, and with the addition of things like Prime and the power of the network we own, we have a huge opportunity to push people back to brand and drive the conversation in the market. That's going to be a huge focus for me," Warburton says.

"We are making bold changes and we are moving at pace, all with a focus on strengthening our business and growing value."

Warburton's statement around the concerns in traditional media, follows remarks from Nine's CEO, Hugh Marks, who yesterday at his company's AGM told the media the real threat wasn't a competition between the networks but rather the battle against digital video giants, Facebook and Google.

In the last 48 hours, both media businesses have downgraded their earnings for the full-year, with Warburton and Marks both attributing the announcements to a declining advertising market.

In his address, Warburton explained that political uncertainty, the impact of the Hayne report, following the royal commission into banking and financial services and overall subdued economic conditions were to blame.

The Seven boss also revealed that, with a refreshed strategy, the business would become a "hunter and explorer" of merger and acquisition opportunities.

Warburton says that while Seven has a responsibility to run the cost base as efficiently as possible, he reaffirmed his previous position, that the company can't "cost-cut its way to success".

Seven's chairman Kerry Stokes also took the opportunity at the AGM to weigh in on the growing concerns around Facebook and Google.

Echoing similar comments made by Nine's chairman Peter Costello, Stoke urged the Federal Government to adopt "all of the recommendations" made in the ACCC's report on digital platforms.

He says it is important that that the digital giants are made to follow the same rules as local broadcasters, including content quotas, advertising classifications and privacy laws.

"We urge the Federal Government to adopt all of these recommendations, otherwise the digital platforms' disruption in the broadcast media industry will accelerate, to the detriment of consumers, advertisers and thousands of Australian workers," Stokes says.

"We are not seeking special favours from the government but the chance to continue delivering first-class local content and news to Australians in both city and regional areas."

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