Kurt Burnette and Melissa Hopkins on 'game-changing' sporting rights and the future of 7Plus

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 25 October 2023

One key takeaway from the Seven Upfront is the broadcaster betting big on the future of its own platforms, whether that’s a new total TV trading system or 7Plus.

With suite of new advertising products set to arrive to the BVOD platform, including dynamic live overlays, additional premium interactive ads and more formats for non-intrusive sport and FAST channel commercialisation, Seven CMO Mel Hopkins told AdNews that the network doesn’t see the other BVOD players as its competitors, but rather looks at the subscription networks as the ones it should be benchmarking against.

“That is the whole reason that 7Plus is growing year on year when some of our competitors have gone back and declined,” she said.

“Plus there’s so many amazing new learnings from things like our partnership with Databricks that we'll be able to apply to broadcast, so 7Plus is our future.”

Kurt Burnett, chief revenue officer, said Seven’s vision is that by 2030, every ad served to the its audience will be optimised, personalised and addressable. 

“Everything that we talk about and that we are applying is towards Enhanced Advertiser and Viewer Experience (EAVE),” he said. 

“It's not by accident; we don't make it up because we need to say something for an Upfront, it's because that's the strategy that is going to get us to the future.”

On that partnership with Databricks – which in its first phase has enabled Seven to predict what the audience on 7plus will be over the next seven days, to a level of accuracy of over 91% - Hopkins (pictured right) said that the “super interesting thing” with how Seven is using AI is the fact the broadcaster is using it to fuel audience insights for advertisers.

“We’re looking at what's right for advertisers and what's right for the audience and the audience experience,” she said. 

“There’s a real risk that you can get into AI to do trendy stuff but actually you could be spamming out horrible advertising through AI just because it's cool.”

Sports was also revealed as an important focus for next year and beyond.

The network's full digital rights to the AFL kick in with the Brownlow Medal and the AFL Grand Final in 2024, followed by the AFLW (which is already running on 7plus) then the full 2025 season. Seven’s digital rights to cricket start in October 2024, with Test matches, Women’s Internationals, BBL and WBBL running on 7plus for the first time. 

Asked what impact he sees next year’s Paris Olympics to have on Seven’s strategy around sports, Burnette said having had the Olympics previously, the network knows the Olympics very well and understands “what's going to happen through the period” but with the AFL, supercars and cricket running over that timeframe, it isn’t changing anything. 

“We're expecting that the AFL and cricket will deliver 4 billion minutes on 7plus, which is the combined minutes of the Tokyo Olympics - which was the largest digital event in history and will be so for many years to come - combined with a home Women’s World Cup,” he told AdNews.

“So that's going to be an absolute game changer, not just for brands who want to invest in sport with Seven, whether broadcast or digital, but for the consumer too - it will be the first time ever they will have free streaming of AFL and cricket. 

“Brands will have access to the only place to get the most powerful 15 or 30 seconds, which is between the goals of the AFL and the wickets of cricket. So that now exists on broadcast, but that will then roll into digital.

“Anyone that says that [it isn’t a game changer] has clearly not seen or spent as much time with it as what we have. This is without question the biggest announcement of any Upfronts in respect of what it will do for the future of the media world and the world we're in.”

Hopkins said Seven is championing democratised sport to all of Australia in front of a paywall, because the broadcaster believe that Australians should be able to watch the sport that they love, without having to pay for it. 

“I know there's been a couple of flippant comments that it's not really that big a deal – to that, I say go and ask Australians,” she said. 

“That's what makes me really proud of us pushing forth on this because we believe that Australians should have the right to democratised content. Sure, they can choose to pay for subscriptions and that's fine, but we believe our job is to bring the best of Australia to all of Australia for free.”

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