Seven in 2022 - Sport and shiny floor shows but not much sizzle

Seven's upfronts yesterday were the story of a network that is sticking to its knitting

Welcome to Unmade, written on Wednesday morning at blustery Sisters Beach, Tasmania, after an incomplete night’s sleep.

I stayed up to try to see the Southern Lights, which normally only bless the other end of the island. But reports of a big solar storm suggested we might have been in luck last night.

Annoyingly it was cloudy enough to block the view, but windy enough that I kept thinking it was worth giving it another half an hour. Hopefully there will be another time. It’s on the bucket list.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Moon Safari, from Air.

The missing piece?

It was Seven’s turn to lay out its wares for 2022 yesterday.

The trade press generally get the key details under embargo a few hours ahead of time, but unless there’s blockbuster news, it’s only once you watch the event, whether live or streamed, that you form an overall impression.

In Seven’s case, there was no blockbuster.

Indeed, I found myself wondering, if we were to go back three months, what big announcement did they think they’d have this week that subsequently fell over. It felt like something was missing.

There was no 2024 Paris Olympics announcement. Pragmatically, there’s no point rushing a negotiation and spending an extra $20m just to be able to unveil it at an upfronts. And there was nothing about the outside hope that the network may be able to team up with Foxtel to snatch NRL away from Nine.

Instead, there were technology announcements which seemed to be more a matter of hygiene - staying in the same ballpark as Nine, which already unveiled its tie-ins with Adobe, and more recently Salesforce. But it’s hard to tell from the outside just how deep that tech stack integration will go. The impression is that Seven’s Code 7, or Code 7 Plus as it is now, is still trying to catch up with Nine’s Galaxy buying platform.

Seven put its best foot forward with sport. Thanks to The Ashes on home ground alongside Big Bash cricket, it will start summer strongly. The network also has the Olympic Winter Games from Beijing in February. And, as a new announcement this week, the Commonwealth Games - from Birmingham in the UK, from late July into August. Combined with AFL, Supercars and more horse racing than ever, that’s a solid base to talk to advertisers about.

Yesterday, the network also made more than usual of its some of the shows that have become part of the furniture - Home & Away, Sunrise, The Morning Show, Seven News and even The Chase. Which is fair enough. A reliable schedule may beat risky sizzle.

And indeed there was almost no sizzle.

In entertainment, every show announced was derived from an existing franchise.

Seven will carry more talent shows in one year than I can think of a network having done before.

Two series of The Voice , Australia’s Got Talent and Australian Idol, all on one network. Perhaps the strategy is about buying up all the talent formats so nobody else can compete. Add in Dancing With The Stars, and that’s five shiny floor shows in one year.

Two series of Big Brother. SAS Australia returns. Farmer Wants A Wife returns (with the minor twist that they’re crowbarring in former Sunrise presenter Samantha Armytage, because she’s now a farmer’s wife herself). My Kitchen Rules returns, despite its ratings fading last time it was on air.

Perhaps tellingly, the final image of the presentation, which lingered on the screen, was a slide showing key shows for the year.

If you look closely at the top of the slide, you’ll see it’s split into H1 and H2 for the two halves of the year. In recent years, I recall Seven proving more detail about timings.

But perhaps most notable, is that they forgot to include one of the shows they announced yesterday. House Rules is becoming ever closer to Nine’s The Block, rebooted as Apartment Rules.

If you want a clue as to what may have been a last minute addition, then look for the show they forgot to put in the slide. Either that, or perhaps they’e not certain Apartment Rules will go to air in 2022.

However, I’m sure marketers and media agencies will see as a big plus that they know exactly what they’re getting. Other than the question of audiences tiring of ageing formats, there’s little risk. There will be no unexpected wins, but disasters are also unlikely.

CEO James Warburton at Seven is very different to CEO James Warburton at Ten, whose tenure was one of risky swings-and-misses.

However, I can’t seem much (anything) in the schedule that is about building new franchises for the future.

Seven was also not particularly helped by the format in building sizzle. There’s only so much that can be done in a video stream.

Warburton is the best performer among his peers in front of a large crowd. Covid has now robbed Seven of that presentational advantage for two years in a row.

The Seven upfronts also reflected that network’s own situation. It still has a big debt to manage. After last year’s improved debt number, the Olympic losses will drop in the next set of numbers.

But in both main channel and network share, Seven is also holding its own in the ratings. The Olympics helped a lot, and so has the weakness of Ten.

Across the calendar year so far including the Olympic weeks, Seven has a commercial network share of 40 per cent of total people, ahead of Nine’s 36.3 per cent. But without the Olympics, Seven’s lead narrows, with a lead of 38.2 per cent to 37.5 per cent.

In primary channel, it is only the Olympics that puts Seven ahead - with a share of 27.7 per cent to Nine’s 25.9 per cent. Excluding the Olympics, Nine narrowly leads by 26.7 per cent to 26.3 per cent.

It’s a similar story in the key advertising battleground of 25-54. Seven leads in network share for the full year by 36.2 per cent to Nine’s 35.7 per cent. But excluding the Olympic period, Nine has a big lead - 37.1 per cent to 33.9 per cent.

In primary channel share of the 25-54 audience, it’s even closer. Indeed, including the Olympic weeks, both networks have a share of 25.5 per cent each. Excluding the Olympics, Nine’s share rises to 26.6 per cent and Seven’s falls to 23.8 per cent.

And for the shorter, official 40 week ratings survey year, Seven leads in network share in total people and in 25-54. In primary channel, Seven also leads in total people, and is just 0.1 percentage points ahead of Nine in 25-54.

It seems likely Seven will be able to claim victory at the end of the year in total people, and Nine should get there on 25-54.

Another factor peculiar to Seven is that there’s still deal making in the air, with more media consolidation to come. Seven’s role will be as a single chess piece, rather than the whole board. Yesterday was very much the story of a TV network, with no more than a nod to The West Australian newspaper operation. As a buyer, seller, or partner in a merger, Seven West Media’s utility will be as a TV network, not a multi medium operator.

Two things seem likely for this time next year. First, Seven’s upfronts will be in front of a live audience. And second, it will be a different company to the one it is now.

Dr Spin: A stable genius

Dr Spin writes:

Seven Star Sonia Kruger provided the light relief for yesterday’s upfronts. Early in proceedings she talked about how risky picking up the rights to The Voice, after Nine let it go, had seemed. “Turns out James is completely mentally stable",” she told viewers.

Which wasn’t that far from Donald Trump’s self assessment that he’s “a very stable genius”.

And there was another bold line, referencing the 70-year-old Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Dancing With the Stars host Daryl Somers: “When James told me he was bringing back Dancing With The Stars, I thought “If only Daryl was still alive…”

After Sunday night’s ratings from the Hey Hey 50th anniversary, Dr Spin suspects there’ll be more of the reincarnated Somers to come.

Your thoughts are always welcome, either to, or via the button below.

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If you’re interested in hearing more on the Seven upfronts, I kicked off the Unmade podcast yesterday, with a chat to Seven’s sales leads Kurt Burnette and Natalie Harvey.

Unmade - by Tim Burrowes
Seven's 2022 upfronts: Sport, data and a LOT of old favourites
Listen now (28 min) | The Unmade podcast Welcome to the first edition of the Unmade podcast. Today saw Seven’s 2022 Upfronts. The company was second into the market this year - Nine went first, last month, and Ten rounds things off next week. If I’ve done the technical things right, you’ll be able to listen this podcast on your favourite apps as…
Read more

And I’ll also be discussing the upfronts on the Mumbrellacast tomorrow.

This afternoon, I’ll be watching the launch of the new Foxtel news offering, Flash. This time tomorrow, I’ll let you know my thoughts

Have a great day.


Tim Burrowes

Proprietor - Unmade