Network Seven 2014 Upfront Summary

Seven West Media Group presented their 2014 programming line-up and business plans last night at The Star Event Centre.  The event delivered everything we have come to expect from SWMG; depth, style, class and consistency.

Everything presented on the night related back to the groups “Power to Launch”; having an array of content across all business’ units (Seven, Yahoo7!, Pacific Magazines & West Australian) reaching a significant number of Australians each day, making SWMG “Australia’s leading audience company”.

Given the benchmark Seven have set themselves through consistent success year-on-year, delivering an impressive and inspiring upfront to the market is no mean feat.  Yet there was minimal chest beating and the experienced group of presenters covered the evolving market, technological advances, long line up of sport and importantly the power of local and international content.

Tim Worner opened the evening by reflecting on SEVEN’s success and the key being “Planning, Planning, Planning”.  Understanding the evolving market driven by audiences demanding content on their terms and advertisers keen to target consumers individually has galvanised SWMG to not only gather data but take the opportunity to harness the insights to ensure success for the network and their partners.

The newly appointed Chief Revenue Officer Kurt Burnette then took to the stage throwing out the word ‘partners’ at every opportunity and bringing Data & Technology to the forefront.  Red Fusion which has been in development for over a year was touched on and is now in it’s final implementation stage.  No further details were announced which was disappointing given the market anticipation. 

HBBTV was then hailed as the medium which would “bring the shop front to the living room’ delivering catch-up services, on demand content, new channels, interactivity, analytics and targeted content.  While the opportunities presented by HBBTV are next generation, the realities of launching this into market and reaching critical mass won’t come to fruition until 2015.  The key for clients is to be involved in testing to understand the new technologies and banking the learnings to use as it approaches critical mass.

The introduction of “1 package to buy program” was positioned as the next step of trading simplicity across screens.  The ability to buy a spot in a program across on-air, website, Fango, Yahoo7! and plus 7 along with a MirriAd through one point of contact.  While this is a step in the right direction to simplify trading across all business assets, the number of clients which would utilise this offering is likely to be limited along with the inventory.

The success of Red in 2013 has lead to the development of ‘Red Events’ incorporated into the business with the sole purpose of integrating brands into events built by SWMG e.g. MKR expo.  These experiential integration opportunities are becoming more and more important to clients which also provide SWMG with the opportunity to extend their brands across multiple touchpoints.

Adam Elliot National Sales Director came on stage to further cement the success of Seven across local and international programming highlighting Seven as the only network to consistently launch US content, showcasing their success across multiple years, from Desperate Housewives & Lost to more recently The Blacklist and Marvel agents of SHIELD.  This went a long way too instilling confidence in Seven’s ability to launch US content and was a strong lead-in to Angus Ross Head of Programming presenting the new US slate for 2014.

They left the content news to the end and the biggest crowd pleaser was the announcement of ‘Resurrection’ a heart stopping drama by Brad Pitt’s production company launched by ABC network in the US.  Resurrection tells the story of a small town in Missouri, where people’s deceased loved ones suddenly start to return.  The pilot has tested above all benchmarks in the US and looks to be a highly emotional drama that will no doubt draw in the female audiences.

Other US import announcements included ‘Intelligence’, a reimagining of the six million dollar man with a strong male and female lead who have similar dynamics to the Bones ensemble.  A comedy about American families in 1980’s, The Goldbergs which didn’t present strong enough to translate to Australian audiences. 

The strongest story told was that of the strength of Seven’s local content not only from a ratings perspective but also in delivering tangible results for sponsorship partners.  This was evident from client endorsements viewed by all on the big screen.  As well as delivering depth and consistency Seven have developed a sponsorship measurement system; Red Impact which will now deliver effectiveness reporting. 

Local content is still at the heart of Sevens business with key local productions returning in 2014.  Although Seven has a breadth of successful locally produced content which has resonated with audiences, they are still committed to owning and growing more.  To this end they announced the launch of 2 new programs and 2 tele movies;

  • Bringing Sexy back; a makeover series transforming ordinary Australians who are stuck in a rut.  Success will be heavily reliant on casting and subtly delivering those uplifting stories, however not likely to break any ratings records
  • The Killing Field; sees the return of one of Australia’s most iconic female actors Rebeccca Gibney returning to our screens, starring and directing a crime thriller set in small country town.  Gibney stars as the head of a police task force investigating a shocking crime.  It promises to be full of mystery, epic, compelling and haunting.  Likely to draw in audiences from the first episode.
  • Australia: The story of us; narrative about the people, places and events which have shaped our nation.  The high production value and diverse storyline will make this drama documentary series a success for Seven, especially audiences over 50.
  • INXS: Never tear us apart; a true tale of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll & the tragedy of Michael Hutchennce.  The tele movie will tell the story of Australia’s most successful rock band from the 80’s who conquered the world with their unique sound.  As we’ve seen with other tele movies, the iconic story is a winner.

Overall, last nights presentation was well received by the industry.  While there weren’t any fireworks, Seven’s story focused on  their consistency, depth and now effectiveness through strong planning .  They showcased how they plan to harness the evolving market and technological advances to drive not only their business forward, but their partners as well. 

Seven have once again proved that they have a solid foundation of successful returning tent pole programs every quarter moving into 2014; My Kitchen Rules, House Rules, X-Factor & Dancing with the Stars underpinned by AFL and a combination of high reaching local productions and US content.

Based on last nights show, it’s fair to say Seven’s “Power to Launch” will ensure they have a strong chance of being number 1 again in 2014.

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