“The networks cannot afford to over promise and under deliver,” - Upfront season kicks off

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 21 October 2015
Clive Dickens presenting at Seven's Upfronts in 2015

As the very first TV upfronts kick off today, with Seven's offering, we asked some of adland's media agency bosses about their expectations and what is it that really makes for strong local television programming?

Following news that Seven's 'NewFronts' will head away from the usual showbiz approach, by focusing less on the razzle dazzle of the television industry, head of investment at Carat Melbourne, Paul Wilkinson, said the industry welcomes a different approach this year.

“It’s vital we shift focus away from ‘the norm’ of rolling out the same formats: we need to see how they intend to approach the market moving forwards, both from a content and a transactional point of view,” Wilkinson said.

“Ultimately content will always be the driving factor in how media buyers pull plans and recommendations together, however we need the confidence that our concerns from 2015 are addressed: delivery being the most important here, we do not want to be having the exact same conversations with clients in 2016 that we have had throughout this year’.”

Starcom MediaVest Group's national investment director, Andrew Taylor, said it's set to be probably the most exciting upfronts season for many a year.

He said he's expecting to see very different strategies from each network and that the most important and common factors will be about programming, delivery, timing and screen converged consumer solutions.

“The networks cannot afford to over promise and under deliver,” Taylor said.

“Another key element will be around ease of communication, media buyers need to know exactly what the networks stand for, where they are heading and how can I access their audience at the speed of the consumer.”

He said he is expecting progressive and forward thinking solutions within the investment, data, audience delivery and technology, as well as announcements regarding ‘big event’ programming solutions with smarter, more precision targeted audience delivery options.

CEO Carat ANZ, Simon Ryan, said there is a lot of great content coming down the pipeline with a raft of new shows from each of the networks.

What he says will be interesting is the “tone” of the presentations that start this week.

“In some ways TV is the unsayable word and it's all about 'Premium Video'. The networks really need to position themselves as the owners of great premium video content to be part of the new landscape consumption and vernacular,” Ryan said.

“The play of the online media operators and land grab of high profile content means the networks up-fronts really need to focus on exclusive entertainment, live and exclusive sport, must watch local and international programmes and be disruptive to their traditional business models.”

He also said that amplification and cross device access will also be key.

“Media buyers will be looking hard for cross device data plays and eager to see how Seven will go with the Rio Olympics. The focus on the networks needs to be on data collection and how this drives interest to their medium to combat demand from addressable media platforms. Embracing the digital language and amplifying content is where their play should be".

ZenithOptimedia's chief investment officer, Anthony Ellis said the consistent theme of the upfronts is to create hype and excitement around their product and give advertisers confidence around the year ahead.

“I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to delivering an upfront and we have seen media owners over the past few years looking to refresh and constantly evolve the format to make them more impactful,” Ellis said.

“Typically it is a showcase of content which is important, however I am most interested in how they are innovating and changing their offering to deliver a better product for viewers and advertisers alike.”

We of course hear that media buyers are looking for strong local television programming, but what constitutes as strong local television programming?

Wilkinson said this is indeed “the multi-billion dollar question”.

“I think in the past this was seen as easier to answer, however aside from the old cliché of ‘no swearing, no sex, no violence’ I am not sure anyone can say for sure – who would have predicted that a TV programme showing cat videos we would normally get from YouTube would deliver over one million viewers across prime time FTA TV?

“The most compelling insight we can gather from this is that viewers want something different.   They don’t want yet more reality renovation, cooking, singing or dancing shows. It’s the same reason Ten have managed to succeed in 2015 – they gave viewers something different, and from an advertiser POV they delivered’.

Taylor said the answer, in a nutshell, is timely, topical and relevant content that challenges, is engaging and doesn’t take half of your spare time over three months.

He said big event TV is still a proven ratings winner and will be pivotal to a network’s success - and that Ten proved that with a solid run of event TV over the past few months.

“The problem is that you enter into the unknown territory,” he said.

“ A regurgitated restaurant series will not be enough in 2016. Programme scheduling should also get a mention. Strong scheduling is vital as we have all witnessed this year.”

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