Seven Upfront - Media agencies focus on solid content to grab broad audience attention

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 13 October 2021

Seven Network’s plans for 2022, including a deep content play and leveraging data from its rising BVOD audience, plays to a strong advertising market, according to media agencies.

Media buyers say Seven is clearly running hard to keep its growth trajectory, investing in and reinventing programming, pulling data from subscriber growth in 7Plus and adding data from new partners including Salesforce.

The upfront, showcasing next year's programming to advertisers, pushed the network’s investment in content -- CEO James Warburton's successful working plan to lift the network higher -- from the moment the Kickstart 22 presentation started.

“We are growing and we are winning,” Warburton said, announcing an additional $30 million-$40 million to new local productions.

The lineup included an "unbeatable" sport line-up -- Ashes cricket, Commonwealth Games, AFL, Big Bash, Supercars and horse racing -- and a long list of proven reality programming including MKR, two versions of the Voice, SAS Australia, Big Brother, Farmer Wants A Wife.

All pointing to reliable audience delivery. "Overall, a solid offering, definitely with a leg up from sport, Seven will appeal to the masses, whilst playing it safe," says Pia Coyle at Avenue C. 

Seb Rennie at GroupM Australia: "The return of it’s tentpole shows including The Voice, Big Brother, SAS Australia and Farmer Wants A Wife, as well as international versions of these formats, is likely to prove successful with audiences and advertisers."

Adrian Roeling at Hatched: “Sonia Kruger’s comedy routine nearly stole the show. It deliberately set the scene for Seven’s overall content-led approach which largely focuses on humorous, feel-good, family entertainment and sport, content that is likely to grab broad audience attention in a year where most will be looking for fun, inspiration and optimism."

James Lever at Wavemaker Brisbane: "The standout quote for me was 'data is the oil for companies’ engines' and it’s clear that Seven is well-positioned to help us run smoothly in 2022."

Ben Willee, general manager and media director, Spinach: “An upfront to warm the hearts of celebrity agents all over the country. Seven CEO James Warburton tells us they are investing an additional $30M-$40M on content and it’s clearly gone into their strengths being reality/celebrity and sport.

‘Media Buyers agree it’s very important we have thriving TV Networks in Australia to create competition, build the TV and production industry but most importantly provide a very powerful vehicle for advertisers.

‘This upfront didn’t disappoint, busier than a Sydney botox clinic there are plenty of returning successful formats alongside more sport and you can poke a stick at.

“We expect the ad market to be very strong in the foreseeable future and Seven will undoubtedly reap the rewards of their strong format and focus on technology and data.

Steve Allen, Pearman’s director of strategy and research: Seven’s Up Front, was in a word, dense. It was a withering pitch of programs, technology, targeting, trading…and audience results success. Very comprehensive and confident.

“What came through abundantly clear… is that Seven are certainly not resting on their laurels. Most returning programs will get a re-jig, an improvement of some sort.

“And the number of new programs including big events, like Beijing Winter Olympics and Birmingham Commonwealth Games, well in excess of what has not worked for Seven in 2021

“MKR returning in a new format, Seven have a second crack at apartment renovation show…Apartment Rules. Then a whole slew of crime drama.

“Overarching was Sevens inventory of live sport, and they have a lot more of it in 2022. They seem dominant in live sport for 2022.

James Lever, Wavemaker Brisbane trading lead; “Seven’s upfront started boldly, really emphasizing their #1 audience share so far this year. As usual, this is driven by their traditional cornerstones of News, Sport and key peak programming like The Voice.

"It’s clear that Seven has listened to the market and their offerings focus on solving key challenges for agencies and clients, including limited inventory availability, declining audiences, and a shift to ever more targeted campaigns.

'Firstly, Kickstart solves our problem of being able to guarantee cross-screen placement in key properties, whilst also helping to justify a slight premium for the privilege.

'Secondly, bringing back past favourites (both in terms of shows like MKR and popular talent such as previous Big Brother contestants), for peak pillars should provide confidence in reliable audience delivery from the offset.

"Finally, 7plus rightly was a large focus with massive audience growth this year to 10M+ Australians, a number that will continue to grow with more big-ticket sporting items on the schedule. 7Shop and 7Rewards are exciting additions to Seven’s proposition, and providing they don’t provide a clunky UX, could become a key pillar to retail campaigns.

"The standout quote for me was 'data is the oil for companies’ engines' and it’s clear that Seven is well-positioned to help us run smoothly in 2022."

Pia Coyle, managing partner, Avenue C: “Seven’s approach was polished and clear – win in the heartland most Aussies love – sport.

“With a huge, and let’s face it, unbeatable sport line-up including The Ashes, Commonwealth Games, AFL, Big Bash, Supercars and Horse Racing , Seven have ensured they have a sizeable foundation audience to give their general entertainment programming a fighting chance.

"Interesting to see a lot of past platform programming making their way back in a revamped way (take Australian Idol as an example), a lot of the success of these formats relies on talent and the fatigue audiences feel, so the jury is out on whether all of them will hit the spot.

"Overall, a solid offering, definitely with a leg up from sport, Seven will appeal to the masses, whilst playing it safe." 

Alison Mckay, head of trading, OMD Melbourne; “Overall, this was a confident upfront from Seven. Their 2020 Tokyo Olympics coverage provided them with the perfect platform to launch their back half programming slate and grow their 7Plus subscriber base significantly.

“It’s clear that they have every intention of carrying this momentum through into 2022. Whilst we expect audience growth in Q1 across linear TV (off the back of a poor Q1 2020), it’s unlikely that Seven will continue on the same trajectory across the full 12 months as audiences continue to migrate and fragment.

“They are however in a good position to grow subscribers on 7Plus as they onboard new data partners and invest into exclusive content.

"I think it’s fair to say that content was at the forefront of Seven’s upfronts this year as they took us through their programming spine of premium Sport and both proven and reinvigorated tent pole formats.

"Seven have regained their #1 network position and have every intention of keeping it that way in 2022. With this year’s success of The Voice and Farmer Wants a Wife, they oozed confidence in their ability to reinvigorate previous fan favourites such as MKR and Apartment Rules. It’s family friendly, brand safe content and while advertisers may be a little more sceptical, as states emerge from lockdown, time will tell if there is appetite from audiences.

'The Olympics was always going to be a catalyst for growth on 7Plus. It didn’t disappoint, and Seven now have a more compelling offering for advertisers. With a robust data set and new data partnerships, we expect that how we engage with Seven and leverage their offering will evolve over the next 12 months as advertisers look to deliver personalisation at scale. Expect enhanced insights from RediQ with increased signals via new data partnerships, allowing advertisers to reach a qualified audience beyond broader demos or contextual environments.

"With a multi-million dollar investment into tech and data, including the newly announced Salesforce relationship and 7Shop and 7Reward capabilities, Seven will be able to deliver an enhanced viewer and advertiser experience whilst also positioning themselves as a full-funnel e-commerce partner that can deliver quality audiences through data. How likely viewers will be to pause mid-content remains to be seen, and we expect advertisers to take a cautious approach given the premium that will be associated. Proven results will be key in order to drive uptake.

"The Code7+ update was an exciting announcement from Seven who have previously been a little slower off the mark when it comes to automation. Powered by the new Salesforce relationship and integration with both VOZ and 7RedIQ intelligence, it’s an exciting step towards cross-platform trading solutions grounded in behaviours (and not just demographics), for Seven and advertisers alike.

"However, before agencies and advertisers get too eager, we don’t yet have a timeline as to when Code7+ will be fully integrated and ready for use in market. Seven will need to ensure they don’t overpromise and underdeliver here, and we hope to see this new product available as quickly as possible in 2022.

Dan O’Brien, commercial director and head of strategy, Frontier Australia: “Seven has a reasonable content pipeline leading into 2022 and this was a clear focus for them during this year’s Kickstart event. Sports assets specifically.

“While not necessarily innovative or surprising, we all know it’s going to form the foundation of what any network needs leading into a new year - that being sizeable and reliable audiences across all screens and formats.

“Beyond a big focus on content, there were also glimpses of positive media initiatives and ideas presented, however what wasn’t as clear was how brands can tap into this from early next year.

“How will brands big and small leverage new shoppable formats? How exactly will the introduction of Code7+ benefit advertisers looking to leverage first party data into next year?

“These announcements will obviously need some further explanation but I think Seven is heading in the right direction here and we will certainly be keen to look at these new opportunities for brands we work with.”

Stefan Boden, group business director, PHD Australia: “Seven are heading into 2022 with clear learnings from 2021 and applying these.

“The sporting line up provides a very strong backbone which runs pretty much the whole of 2022 and gives them a great platform from which to launch new shows – it’ll be the envy of all networks.

“Seven has a number of new and returning (after a hiatus) shows which coupled with existing content should make for a strong 2022. SWM have made great strides this year in growing their registered users on 7Plus and the new data partnerships with Cricket Australia and Supercars allows them to dominate in reaching sporting and male audiences. Their data strategy is working well for them so no doubt 2022 will help them build further on this.’

Ashwin Govender, client solutions director, Half Dome: “Seven’s slate once again looks strong with hero pillars such as sport off the back of a massive Olympic year with an upcoming Ashes, horse racing and Winter Olympics and big AFL and AFLW seasons in 2022.

“Reality and drama again dominated and what was most interesting to me was the investment in Australian true crime with productions such as Code 1 and Strike Force. This to me is a clear answer to the true crime boom on Netflix over the past few years at a local level.

“Seven Plus’s growth to 10 million registered users was noteworthy with a 2.8 million uplift during the Olympics. Seven were confident they could get these audiences returning to the platform with its upcoming content slate.

“Perhaps one of the most interesting innovations for me was the Seven Shop and Seven Rewards inclusions. Seven are capitalising on the changed user behaviour which sees us using QR codes daily to become, in their own words, ‘the leader in video commerce’. It will be interesting to see how this comes to life and how successful it becomes for brands.”

Seb Rennie, chief investment officer, GroupM Australia: “Whilst the time difference may be a challenge, for the broadcast of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Seven’s multi-platform broadcast and on demand viewing experience was as success during the Tokyo Olympics and should deliver high levels of audience engagement.

"The return of it’s tentpole shows including The Voice, Big Brother, SAS Australia and Farmer Wants A Wife, as well as international versions of these formats, is likely to prove successful with audiences and advertisers.'

"The network is buoyed by the success of refreshing familiar formats and 2022 will see the return of Australian Idol, My Kitchen Rules and Apartment Rules, but will this strategy continue to pay dividends?

"Seven confirmed continued investment in both user experience and a broader content slate in the BVOD platform. Users will benefit from improvement in audio and video quality as well as enhanced interactivity and dynamic content recommendations.

'These are positive steps as the entire BVOD and SVOD sector becomes increasingly competitive, users have an expectation that their UX and available content will be on par with market leading local and global platforms.

'Seven announced a large investment into Code7, the network’s automated trading platform, with the integration of VOZ data, components of the Salesforce Media Cloud and 7REDiQ, the network’s audience intelligence platform.

"The convergence of these data points will allow buyers to access linear and BVOD audiences in one transaction. In a similar vein to Nine’s Galaxy enhancements, the developments are a positive, and signal the continuation of a converged linear and digital move towards a total TV solution.

"New data partners were announced for the 7REDiQ ecosystem – Car Experts, Equifax, Supercars and Cricket Australia and new shoppable opportunities via 7Shop. Using AI and content recognition technology the viewer will be notified they are viewing shoppable content and will have the opportunity to interact with branded content extensions or move, via QR code, to the vendor’s website to make a purchase.

“These moves are an interesting approach and signal how Seven are looking to provide alternatives and leverage their first party data to increase personalisation in a cookieless future."

Jodi Fraser, commercial director, PMX: “From a television perspective, I am really pleased to see Seven looking to build on the success of their franchises this year – with all franchises returning, and some with a twist, like The Voice Generations.

“This, coupled with their masterful execution of the Olympics in 2021, which will surely enhance their Sport coverage next year, will allow buyers to move into 2022 with confidence around the schedule.

“With Television buying becoming more complicated, it is comforting to see Seven investing in their TV and cross-platform buying solution by bringing Salesforce in to enhance Code 7, and drive the VOZ capability. With audiences continuing to fragment and looking to remain volatile moving forward, investment in this area is vital to ensure stability for buyers.

“The push to evolve the 7Plus digital product seems to be taking shape in 2022. The inclusion of cricket and Supercars data into RedIQ shows Seven’s commitment to innovation.

“It’s a clever use of their assets and it will be interesting to see how we can use this data moving forward. I’m also very excited about 7shop. This feels like a true advancement in capability, and a proposition consumers will enjoy.'

Adrian Roeling, managing partner, Hatched: “Sonia Kruger’s comedy routine nearly stole the show! It deliberately set the scene for Seven’s overall content-led approach which largely focuses on humorous, feel-good, family entertainment and sport, content that is likely to grab broad audience attention in a year where most will be looking for fun, inspiration and optimism.

"Importantly, much of the content strategy focuses on proven, ‘appointment to watch’ programming which will demand consumer attention. It's a smart strategy considering audiences are more likely to be out and about in a post-lockdown world.

“Most properties present favourable brand alignment environments and integration opportunities, with a new in-program shoppable play, 7Shop.

“The 7 approach is built on big-ticket properties which will capture attention – from The Ashes to the Winter Olympics and the Footy.

“Cleverly, Seven has leveraged key formats such as the Olympics to accelerate audience data growth and the targeting proposition, through 7 Plus and 7RedIQ, which is now claiming 10M subscribers with advanced segmentation capability. A necessary move by Seven whose competitors have strong plays in data and technology.

“In addition to the investment in Code7+, the media trading platform, the timing for the data offering probably couldn’t be better given the acceleration of BVOD and e-commerce as a result of COVID.

“Also, it is pleasing to see a continued focus on ensuring diversity and values-based culture throughout the organisation.

“Overall, a strong and consistent proposition in 2022 that if leveraged in the right way has the potential to deliver a full-funnel solution; targeted reach at scale, genuine attention, facilitate transaction and deliver results for brands.”

Mat Rawnsley, head of connections and media, The Hallway: “The Big Brother VIP intensity at the beginning was a somewhat odd tactic and a bit disorienting.

“But we quickly found comfortable territory with the plausible schtick of Kickstart ‘22, quite the appealing proposition at this point in 2021, and with James Warburton asserting his sure-footed leadership of the good ship Seven.

Despite there being no v/o by the beloved Bruce McAvaney, it made a lot of sense to revive and leverage the glory that was the Tokyo Olympic Games. It made infinitely more sense in this context than the ‘hold on to the feeling’ marketing that appeared around the end of the Games did.

Several times in this presentation the 7Plus app was pushed, and pushed hard. For many Australians, the Tokyo games would’ve been the first time they used the app so it is momentum that must be harnessed.

“This upfront felt like it was talking to a much tighter, more focused audience than 9’s was. Maybe it was a conscious decision to talk mostly to the content, which makes sense as the breadth of the offering for advertisers is obviously less expansive than 9’s.

“Ramming home the superior ratings performance and the strength of their sports product was right. Derr. And showing Big Bad Barry Hall set on fire in SAS Australia was an even better call.

“The Comm Games are upon us again, and will surely benefit from the delayed Olympics. They didn’t say where, though. Dubbo? Rotorua? Where’s left?

“The revival of a few old reality faves will be interesting to watch - how will MKR fare in light of a resurgent Masterchef? Australian Idol - hopefully this is the last time I’m subjected to Guy Sebastian 2003 footage. Big Brother legends mixed in with newbies; let’s hope and pray the turkey slap doesn’t make a comeback.

“Hats off for Claremont, good to see some investment in local Australian drama. Lots of other ‘New in ‘22’ content that looks ok. I was getting very worried at no mention of Home & Away, or sightings of Larry or Kochie, but all was wrapped up well in the home stretch.

“Kurt Burnette covered off some solid content around EAVE, 7 Red and Code 7 - a tantalising new integrated CRM/ad platform with Salesforce partnership, but I was left wanting/needing to know more.

“Ultimately, I reckon if 9 landed big thinking very well (around their advertising products) then I reckon 7 landed big events just a bit stronger, and were more focused around the pragmatic, trading end of things rather than data plays and brand growth."

Stephen Leeds, CEO, The Media Store: "Focused on their core business as a broadcaster and content – Seven's content-led strategy is evident with a good blend of returning and new franchises which gives us consistency but also shows innovation. It gives me confidence that we know what we’ll get from Seven and with guaranteed audiences they’re an easy option.

"Seven's dominance in sport will again be their anchor. And with Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games events, they will continue to build their data play. With 2.8 million new 7 Plus registered users from the AFL and the Tokyo Olympics, they will again have the big sporting properties to engage with audiences. They now have an impressive addressable audience database and can rival any many partners. I will be interested to see how they integrate 7 Red IQ – their data partners are impressive and cover the major categories – how they integrate and segment audiences will be key and potentially very powerful.

'The big innovation for me was 7 Shop – making content shoppable on 7 Plus. Emulating the e-commerce capabilities of the likes of Instagram and other social media platforms, if they nail the customer experience, this gives them a real point of difference and something that will appeal to certain advertiser categories.

"Code7’s evolution is long overdue, and seems to have received a health injection of investment. Integrated with VOZ, Salesforce and 7 Red iQ data, makes this a competitive and powerful proposition."

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus