Seven on the power of digital, Phoenix and testing new formats in 2024

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 13 December 2023
Brook Hall.

Users of 7plus in 2024 will be able to take advantage of start over functionality, live pause and rewind, skip credits and picture-in-picture.

At the same time, advertisers will be able to benefit from dynamic live overlays, additional premium interactive ads and more formats for non-intrusive sport and FAST channel commercialisation.

Brook Hall, Seven’s director of content scheduling, said he’s particularly excited about the continued increase of personalisation over the past 12 months on the platform, a departure from when 7Plus was in its infancy and everything was manually scheduled. 

“We still have people going ‘what are the priorities, what are the big focuses that we think can funnel people into the system?’, but from there, it doesn't matter who you are - you login to 7plus and your homepage is going to be different,” he said.

“To us, that's necessary because our library is so vast now we cannot manually feature everything that needs to be surfaced. 

“We've been testing it out for about a year now with AWS and we're just seeing results - we've got 10,000 hours of content and going ‘why are these spiking?’ and it's the personalisation algorithms that are picking it up and pulling all of that content around to ensure that we get every bit of value of every piece of content that we have on there.”

Most importantly, said Hall, is that viewers are getting served shows that they want, outside of the big lead properties that remain curated. Once those viewers are funnelled into the platform with those tentpole franchises through broadcast, however, the question then becomes how to keep them in there.

“The NBCU deal is going to be a big part of that, but we've also got content with Warner Bros, Disney, E1 and Sony, and I think a lot of people when they go to 7plus are surprised by this wide variety of content outside of what they knew - over 50% of our viewing on 7plus is content that doesn't air on broadcast,” he told AdNews.

“It's a tricky thing that we're trying to balance internally; the Seven brand is mighty powerful, and being associated with Seven News and AFL and The Voice is a great thing, but making sure people know 7plus is all this other stuff that you wouldn't necessarily associate with the brand; it's educating people 7plus has more to offer than just the Seven brand itself.”

7Bravo - Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip S3

Hall said that is where something like digital provides an advantage - the NBCUniversal deal not only created its own dedicated linear channel in 7Bravo, but the content also sits on 7plus too (The Real Housewives of Miami, one of the shows on 7Bravo, pictured right).

“Comcast are the biggest content company in the world. People often talk about Disney and Fox and Netflix and things like that, but Comcast NBC are the biggest of them all, so having a pipeline from them in this highly competitive world is great,” he said.

“The NBC content is 15% of our VOD minutes on 7plus currently. That's what they've done in a really short time and that proportion keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

It isn’t just digital where Hall sees reason to celebrate, however - he said that although people keep talking about declining audiences on traditional broadcast television, some of the broadcaster’s biggest franchises like Dancing with the Stars, Farmer Wants a Wife and My Kitchen Rules, actually grew broadcast linear audience in 2023.

“Yes, their digital audience was very big and I think for all of us in the market, it's growing at a rapid rate, but the fact that they grew broadcast linear audience too, I think people have lost that,” he told AdNews.

Total TV trading and the 2024 ad market

The introduction of the Phoenix total TV trading system has generated “a lot of excitement, without question” along with the AI audience predictions through the new Databricks deal, which will in turn feed data to Phoenix, according to Seven West Media chief revenue officer, Kurt Burnette.

Phoenix and Databricks are the most sought-after and in-demand products out of our Upfront in October,” Burnette told AdNews.

“Media agencies and brands are looking for more certainty in delivery and to be able to redirect the important resource of time into areas that can deliver even better business outcomes for clients in ideation and activation, Phoenix addresses these challenges and opportunities.”

The Seven Network recently created an Advanced Advertising division to to help clients navigate through dynamic and converged trading with Phoenix, Databricks, Seven’s customer data platform 7REDiQ and the analytic tools that are available for use. 

Kurt Burnette

Burnette (pictured right) said the inclusion of regional markets in Phoenix has really excited the market. 

“Buying regional is very time intensive process and Phoenix will reduce from it from hours to minutes,” he said.

“There has been a lot of positivity about making Phoenix easier to trade total TV and find audiences across all platforms. It goes back to certainty in delivery with additional insights and analytics tools to show the effectiveness and share of voice. 

“Clients recognise the high velocity reach of total TV across metro, regional and digital streaming and video on demand.  The process and the enablement that is Phoenix and its capacity to bring that audience together quickly and effectively is seen as a game changer to those who understand the opportunity.”

Looking at the ad market for next year, Burnette said that Seven has seen a significant improvement from the October-December quarter into January-March with a stronger outlook for both linear TV and BVOD.

“January-March can often be short booking months, but the numbers against the same time last year are well ahead, suggesting a high-demand start to the year, particularly in terms of Seven’s sport, news and Australian Idol,” he told AdNews.

“In fact, sport and live news continue to be a key pillar for most brands and are in high demand. April-June is looking very strong with, for example, very positive upfront commitments in Dream Home and AFL, as well as 7plus and its NBC Universal content.”

Dream Home, Stranded on Honeymoon Island and more

The end of the 2023 OzTAM survey year saw Seven finish on top for the third year in a row and for 15 of the past 17 years, as the network recorded its highest audience share in five years.

Hall said alongside the likes of Australian Idol, The 1% Club, Farmer Wants a Wife, Dancing With The Stars, The Voice and My Kitchen Rules returning to the network in 2024, two new shows should also keep eyes on the network and round out the content offering for next year

“We haven't been in the renovation space for quite a while, but decided to go back into that space in 2024 with Dream Home,” Hall told AdNews.

“We did it really well for a while with House Rules, but now moved on to a new format. Homeownership is highly topical right now and we've made sure that we've put a lot of heart in this show.

“You’re going to see high end renovations, but a lot of emotion with it. These are still people dealing with their own homes and their own struggles in this cost of living situation with interest rates and we think we're about to deliver it to six really deserving couples.”

Another new show is Stranded on Honeymoon Island, a new dating format from the creator of Married at First Sight that’s a “modern take” on helping people to find love. 

“How I describe it is the dating world these days can be highly superficial, people are distracted,  there's a very short time frame on everything, everyone is too judgmental - this format is about breaking that down and going how can we get rid of distractions, how can we get rid of social media, the phones and the instant gratification that people need in their lives and break it down to a raw relationship?” said Hall.

“Basically this is about pairing someone up, putting them on an island somewhere, no TV, no friends, no phones - just the person and can you form a connection with them? 

“We think it's important to balance your schedule with proven known successful formats, but still being willing to go and take some risks on some new ones and that's the way we've approached next year's schedule.”

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