Seven's Warbuton sacks senior execs and cancels Sunday Night

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 2 October 2019
James Warburton

Seven West Media CEO James Warburton has wasted no time executing a raft of new changes, starting with a restructure of his senior executive team.

Three, so far unnamed, senior executives will leave. Warburton is also cutting the number of his direct reports, currently at 17. 

In a statement, Warburton says there is a need for a new organisational structure, simplifying the overall business and driving a "content-led" growth strategy.

The new CEO, who took the reins from Tim Worner in August, says the "flatter" structure wasn't going to be achieved without making some "tough decisions".

As part of the changes, a new chief content officer and chief marketing officer will be hired, reporting directly to Warburton.

While no executives have been named as part of the restructure, the introduction of a new content boss will likely see changes made to the company's programming, digital and OTT (over the top video) departments.

"This new flatter structure will cement our position as Australia's leading media group with content at the heart of the business, digital growth maximised, duplication of roles removed in all areas and operating efficiencies implemented," Warburton says.

"We have had to make some tough decisions in order to build the network for the future. I take very seriously any decision that impacts our people and I am grateful for the loyalty and commitment shown by our team over many years.

Warburton added that anyone impacted by changes will have "dedicated support and respect" throughout the process of transition.

Already Seven has seen the exit of its head of sport Saul Shtein, who departed Seven following the AFL Grand Final over the weekend.

It was also announced today that Stephen Browning would exit as head of corporate communications for a role in resources based out of Melbourne. However, AdNews understands this was not related to the change in leadership.

Chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette, CFO Warwick Lynch, commercial director Bruce McWilliam, chief people and culture officer Kate McGrath and Seven WA CEO Maryna Fewster remain with the business at this time.

Programming modifications begin

The first of the major programming changes implemented by Warburton are also underway, following his previous statements regarding a change in audience demographics.

As part of this, the long-running news and current affairs program, Sunday Night, will be axed after an11-year run. 

The show, fronted by former Sunrise host Melissa Doyle, struggled in the ratings race against Nine competitor 60 Minutes, often falling anywhere between 70,000 and 200,000 national viewers behind.

“After 11 years at the forefront of our Public Affairs offering it is with much sadness I announce the closing down of the day to day operations of Sunday Night: True Stories. It has been a very tough decision in a very challenging TV landscape," Seven Network director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson says. 

"I want to thank the exceptional team of reporters; producers; camera operators; editors and many others who have helped produce more than 500 hours of quality public affairs programming over its lifetime. I wish all those leaving us nothing but the best for the future.”

The program itself will remain on-air until the end of the year. A small production team will stay on to produce existing product over this time.

The network has been struggling to keep up with rival Nine's primetime offering throughout the year and is possibly looking down the barrel of an overall loss for the year.

Seven has also been forced to execute early cancellations of multiple failed projects due lackluster ratings. AdNews understands frustration from media agencies is growing, as Seven struggles to find viable TV show formats.


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