Seven's 2022 upfronts: Sport, data and a LOT of old favourites

In the first Unmade podcast, I talk to Seven's Kurt Burnette and Natalie Harvey about the Commonwealth Games, the new slate, and why they haven't locked in the 2024 Olympics

  
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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.

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I’ll be following up on the podcast with my own analysis in a seperate post at the usual time tomorrow morning.

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My thanks to the team at Abe’s Audio for production on today’s edition.

For your convenience, you’ll find a transcript of the whole conversation below.

Transcript

Tim Burrowes: Welcome to the first edition of The Unmade Podcast. I'm Tim Burrowes. Seven has just wrapped up its presentation for its 2022 Upfronts. New tech capabilities, the Commonwealth Games, and some familiar tent poll shows are among the headlines. Joining me as Unmade's first guests, first of all, the man with maybe the longest job title in the media, Kurt Burnette, chief revenue officer, director of Olympic Paralympic, and Commonwealth Games, organisational strategy and sales/marketing, and Natalie Harvey network sales director for Seven West Media. Welcome, both of you.

Kurt Burnette: Thanks, Tim. Well, what an honour to be on the first, I don't know where you got that title from, but I like it.

Tim Burrowes Well, certainly that's what LinkedIn accuses you of Kurt, and Natalie, welcome to you as well.

Natalie Harvey: Hello Tim. Thanks for having me and Kurt

Tim Burrowes Let's get straight into it. One of the interesting things about the upfronts this year, and it's probably been a story for all of the networks, or certainly, Nine, which has already come along, and now yourselves, so much this year is about the technology and the trading. So in your case, this is Code 7 Plus along, with the tie-in with Salesforce. So let's start with what practical difference that's going to make for media buyers?

Kurt Burnette: Audience is our metric or our driver of success, and that's delivered by great content, of course. I mean, it does start in pretty much in there, but of course, when it comes to ensuring that that audience is traded in the most effective and efficient way, that's what everyone's now trying to crack, or has been over the last few years. So technology does play a part in that, as it does in all industries now. So technology is an important part of that, and it's certainly a big part of Seven's future. So Code 7 has been with us for a few years now, and that's effectively an automated guaranteed audience buy, which means that you brief in what you want from audience and that gets delivered.

And it's effectively one touch from the customer being the agency on behalf of the client. Code 7 Plus effectively is a whole new technology platform underpinning that solution, which brings in a new digital order management platform. It links in a CRM, Salesforce CRM, which is quite clearly the leader in the world on this, and the digital order management platform that we're adding to that is Salesforce's new business media cloud, which is the first in Australia.

So with some of these vendors, not all of them, but some of the linkage is really important. And that's what Salesforce brings to this particular equation, along with some other very well-known vendors to bring the solution alive. So what that does quite simply is makes the transaction faster and more effective across broadcast BVOD and even our short form, in our case 7news.com.au and the short form into the West Australian.

The idea being is how we can tie that together as an audience trade for our customers to get to the audience faster and quicker, transact quicker and get deeper using data segments. So integrated into that platform will be VOZ and also REDiQ, which is our data management platform.

So all of the data points come together. So all of that, you have to have your content, right? That's the first and foremost point, you must have that in a good place across broadcast and digital, which we do on Seven and 7plus, leading platform across both. And this technology brings it together. So when our customers are transacting with us, you can get them a far more effective way of trading

Tim Burrowes: Let's just clarify one point on that with Salesforce, then. Is one of the things that this Salesforce arrangement will allow is that clients will be able to bring their first-party data to the party?

Kurt Burnette: Well, the way that we are building 7 Red IQ is actually the integrator of that, where we can bring in third-party data sets into there. So that is the entry point of which then comes into Code 7 Plus. So yes, is the answer. It's just the way that it comes through.

Tim Burrowes: And then obviously this is the arrangement with Salesforce, as you say, one of the major tech stacks out there, possibly the major tech stack. Not far out the ballpark, though, is Adobe. How do you think about Adobe?

Kurt Burnette: Well, we use Adobe in Red IQ as part of our partners. So they are an enabler. Adobe's part of that equation, as is a number of other data partners that can enable that connection to happen. Our mantra is plug and play your way.

And what that means is that, however, you wish to engage with Seven West Media, that we have that solution to do so. And if you're an Adobe partner, then that's what we'll use to bring you into our environment. That's a very clear mantra when we started with the build on this was to make sure that we could engage with those however, they want to engage with. The idea that we build it and they will come. I don't, I'm sure most would agree that those days are gone. You can't just say, this is the way you have to do it. Now you've got to sort of, yeah, play into the various options that others have.

Tim Burrowes: And as I say, this seems to have been one of those years where this is a really major focus. Now, one of the things that Nine announced with their upfronts was, they would enable media agencies and clients to effectively book everything apart from main channel prime time via their version, which is Galaxy. I think what you were saying just now about being able to automate that booking is that you are able to do the same thing with Code Seven as well. Am I understanding that right?

Kurt Burnette: Yeah, that's correct. I mean, I think there's been a lot of work in industry between the broadcasters to work together, to bring VOZ together, to BVOD work that's going on as well as getting TV buying easier, just in standardisation of file types. And a whole of lot of work that's gone through the TV 23, which you may have heard of, so that's happening at industry level. And then each of the broadcasters will deliver their own version of how they enable that. But we've all got a common goal, and that is to make TV buying easier and TV being the total television, which is Metro regional BVOD, that is, total television. So yes, ours does that as others will do.

Natalie Harvey: And just to build on that, the market has to evolve in how we classify time zones. If you think about how viewing behavior occurs on 7plus, there is no peak and off-peak. People are watching content whenever they want to watch it on whatever device they want to watch it. So I do think that as we move into a world of convergence, that the legacy ways of buying television across broadcast and digital need to evolve, and that's one area that is probably a potential that could change in the future.

Tim Burrowes: I noticed on LinkedIn when I was looking at your job titles, just now. You were just mentioning Natalie, that you are currently hiring for a Head of Convergence Audience Trading, which you mentioned in that as a sort of sales, tech, and product role. What does that say about the direction you're traveling in?

Natalie Harvey: Well, what's interesting about this role is as we've been looking at where this role exists currently, our understanding is nobody has a role like this in any organisation.

And what I believe that says about where we are moving to is very much a future-focused industry around screens coming together to make it easier for our customers to buy our audiences no matter where they are; to look at new ways of trading when it comes to currency of trading as well is a key piece there, but also having technical capabilities to be able to be part of our Code 7 Plus project build as well. So in all honesty, we're looking for a bit of a unicorn, but I think we might have found one.

Tim Burrowes: Who is it?

Natalie Harvey: You'll have to wait and see - keep watching my LinkedIn profile.

Kurt Burnette: But I think it's also worth adding to that. We have customers and our customers are our clients and their agency. So we can come up with whatever it is we want to come up with, but we have to be solving the challenges that are in front of us, that our customers need. So that's what we are solving for in this convergence piece of all of the briefs that are coming in for next year. Now for next year, they all include a solution that allows audience trading take place across broadcast and digital.

It's not going to happen every time straight away, but it's going to happen over time where effectively audience will be traded fluidly across platforms. It's happening. It's real, it's live, we're structuring our departments on it. We're hiring for it as you call out, as you mentioned, and we are setting up technology for it. So it's actually a very exciting time to be in television in that respect. And I think it's been a great deal of success on the BVOD services 7plus is going phenomenally well. That's allowed us to do things like what we're talking about now. If we had said two years ago, let's trade convergently, audience trading on Seven and 7plus, no one would have it.

Tim Burrowes: We'll come on to BVOD in a few minutes.. As you say, content is so much of the game still, of course, including for Seven West Media Sport. So one of the announcements this week, Commonwealth Games from Birmingham in the UK. Obviously, it's not the best time zone for you. How big do you expect them to be nonetheless?

Kurt Burnette: Well, I'll make a comment now that the Commonwealth Games will feature in the top 10 rating programs for 2022 because we've got 44 hours of prime time where there will be events played out, finals played out from 7:30. So we'll allow our news, Home and Away into live events. So live goes all the way through, into early morning, but that prime time is during the day, and remembering in Tokyo, that the finals for the swimming was during the day. We're not suggesting it's going to be to the same levels of Tokyo, but it's certainly going to be to the... As I say, it will feature in the top 10, if not top five ratings for 2022 across broadcast and BVOD bearing in mind it's total video.

So, 100 and I think it was 170 medals we won in 2018 Commonwealth Games. So you imagine that that's almost, I think it's double or triple the size of Tokyo. So there's a huge amount of Australian medalling going on. And as Nat mentioned before, it's redefining prime time. So you're going to see weekend day delivering the same numbers as prime time. So it's actually, it's a natural fit, really, after what's happened with Tokyo and what would've happened with the winter games in February next year, that we move into July and we have the Australian athletes on Seven and 7plus again.

Tim Burrowes: And one of the things that interest me is that you have bought all of the rights, including, as you say, in the announcement, the subscription TV rights. What are your options for those subscription TV rights? Because clearly, that's not an offering you currently have.

Kurt Burnette: We tried in Rio, we actually had a paid service through there. An element of it was paid, and look, our options are open at the moment - that's given all rights, including radio. It gives you options to utilize those subscription rights or not. I mean, it was great success in Tokyo without subscription, but I think anything's possible and we'll work out what the best proposition for us as a business is. And also what's best for the consumer and go from there. So I don't think anything's off the table, Tim that's for sure.

Tim Burrowes: Speaking of things that aren't off the table, you've also got first right of refusal on the 2024 Paris Olympics. And I must admit, I've been anticipating an announcement, perhaps around those this week as well. It’s less than three years away. When are you going to make your mind up about those?

Kurt Burnette: Well, all we can say about that is that the Olympics, they are in our DNA and it's something that we were there in 1956 in Australia, in Melbourne. So we love the Olympics. We've worked very well with them, very closely with the IOC and the Paralympics, I might add, we had great success with them. So we are all having discussions and we'll keep discussing those options with the IOC, but everything also has to make sense; there's no margin for rights that don't make financial sense.

Tim Burrowes: I think it was reported or I think maybe James Warburton said that one of the investor updates that Tokyo - and obviously understandably, because of all the disruption of COVID =- maybe lost the network, something like 50 million dollars. How do you go into a negotiation for Olympic rights and get the right outcome at the other end?

Kurt Burnette: Well, I wouldn't want to get into those details now, Tim, that's a very good question, but we have a view on that and let's just see where all of that ends up.

Tim Burrowes: Do you reckon if we were to talk in three years time, you'll still have the word Olympic in your job title?

Kurt Burnette: Well, given with how long it is. I've got to get something in there, don't I? So, yeah, that's a good reason to do it for sure. We'll add that to the list.

Tim Burrowes: Just one more sport question, and then I'll bring Natalie back in again. There was some reporting this week that Seven would be interested in NRL. Now a cynic thinks, okay, look, it's always worth saying that because it drives the price up for Nine, which doesn't do Seven any harm. Are you serious about getting NRL?

Kurt Burnette: Well, we were just talking about the power of sport and we are serious at about all market sports and NRL is one of those, but again, everything needs to make sense in the discussions, that's, I guess the best way to explain that.

Tim Burrowes: And do you think you could afford both NRL and Olympics?

Kurt Burnette: I think everything's affordable at the right price.

Tim Burrowes: Natalie, let me bring you back in. Something else, which really interests me about the content line-up, which would be interesting to get your sense of how you take something like it to the market. So this coming year, we'll see three talent shows, The Voice, Australia's Got Talent, and Australian Idol, the return of; how do you take that to the market? Is it one story at a time, or how do you tell the story?

Natalie Harvey: I think the benefit Tim, of having all those powerhouse talent shows is: A, we get to showcase diversity of talent because they're all slightly different, but B, we get to schedule them so that they don't compete against each other. And that they're complimentary to where we would expect to see a spike of audience or relevance for brands. So we treat them separately and we schedule them to where we believe we're going to get the best outcome for audiences as well, for brands as well.

Tim Burrowes: And then you've got a new twist on House Rules this year in Apartment Rules, which again, I guess the sponsor opportunities are fairly obvious around that?

Natalie Harvey: Oh, absolutely. All you have to do is drive a few Ks outside of Sydney and you'll see all the apartments that are being built along the light rail and other public transport lines. And you'll see how many people will be interested in this new format. And we've been able to prove with shows like The Voice, like Big Brother, and Farmer Wants a Wife that a re-imagined format will bring audiences in across both broadcasts and digital. And we know that house-building content is very popular for brands because it does bring in an audience that has money. And that is engaged in this really highly valuable content.

Tim Burrowes: And Natalie, as Kurt was saying, BVOD is growing. And again, it looks like there's a further investment in the kind of content library for that. What sort of revenue growth for BVOD have you budgeted for next year?

Natalie Harvey: So from a market perspective, we're expecting to see the growth that has been delivered over the past couple of years to continue, absolutely. And I do believe that with our approach to convergence and the market approach to convergence, that that will see that growth accelerate even further. Major events like the Commonwealth Games will bring in new digital revenue as well. We saw that with Tokyo, the attraction for non-television brands to invest into such a premium environment. So I think it's going to be another really positive year for BVOD.

Kurt Burnette: And just to add to that too, I think an important note of why 7plus is leading currently in the marketplace, there's probably a... It's driven by the big events. Tokyo certainly, drove the audience forward as do The Voice and SAS has been huge, but 70% of the content on 7plus is exclusive, that is it's not on broadcast.

So I think there is a misconception sometimes that it's a catch up service. I mean, certainly the large volumes comes through the streaming and the VOD of the big shows, of The Voice and SAS, et cetera, Home and Away. But it's a really key point. 70% is exclusive content on 7plus. And the viewing consumption is about 50/50. So, it's far more than just a catch up service. And it's a really important part of the strategy that's helped drive us to where we are.

Tim Burrowes: And the sheer amount of live programming that people are just choosing to take over BVOD, has that taken you by surprise a bit? As in the amount of people that are just using it to stream the main channels?

Kurt Burnette: Yeah, I think it's probably surprised that how much of that is going on, but what we saw earlier on was the connected television. So we saw this gradual rise of the streaming that was taking place going from mobile and laptop into the connected TV. So now it's over 70%. So once people move to the big screen that live streaming is starting to take a very, very stronghold. So now it's the norm that it is so much live streaming going on.

However, I will say that out of the Olympics, if you know, and it is the Olympics admittedly, but what an interesting insight was there that 59% of the video that was happening was of VOD and not of the Seven and Seven mate broadcast.

So there is some exclude stuff happening there, but certainly live streaming is big and certainly we saw that with the AFL Grand Final as well, but I still think, of one of the big trends that are continuing this year, that'll continue next year. And that is the connected television. I still say, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The most under-utilised marketing weapon in the country is the connected television. There's still a huge opportunity for brands to become involved with that technology is getting, ad tech is getting better at capturing that. We're working in a number of our new data solutions that we announced in the upfronts today about that, and will continue to focus on that area.

Tim Burrowes: Something else that's interested me today is, traditionally for any free to air TV network, just about all of its revenue comes from the advertisers and the sponsors, not from directly from the audience, you've announced Seven Shop, which is, I guess, an attempt to bring in the beginnings of a revenue stream direct from the audience. What sort of incremental revenue are you hoping to drive from that?

Kurt Burnette: Well, in the early stages, it's actually about content utilization. So Seven Shop is actually, we launched it a couple of years ago or 18 months ago under Seven CAP, which is contextual advertising placement. So that was about the ads where we used AI to take out moments in the creative, that we would place ads like party scenes, heavy party scenes, putting Cadbury's chocolates near ads, near those moments.

So finding the moments in the content and putting ads next to it, we launched 7 CAP and then enabled QR codes, dynamically inserted QR codes, which there are a number of those this year. The next evolution of that is Seven Shop, which means that you can actually shop the content as it appears in the content itself on 7plus. So if you are watching Home and Away and you pause, you can actually see the board shorts, the sunglasses, the product that's in the show itself, and you can get information on it, put it in your cart or shop straight away.

So the initial benefits for that is viewer engagement and then also advertiser engagement. So EVE is our philosophy, the enhanced advertiser, and viewer experience. We've spoken about that a lot. That's what this does. So Seven Shop initially is about a stickiness for an audience and us as an enabler to a direct link to a brands purchase. The revenue, the earnings on the way through. We are not, just to be clear in the early stages, we are not creating a marketplace, our own marketplace. Seven Shop is a e-commerce enabler, is what we'll use that in the first instance. And then we'll sort of... This is a multi-year strategy, we're into the second year of that. So it will evolve and potentially earn clips of tickets on the way through. But the early stages is as an enabler, which is the other part to that is the Seven Rewards, which we launched with a company called Entertainment, which was the original rewards program, which was in the all-time booklet that's turned into digital.

So that is part of this ecosystem, if you like and strategy, which is, if you are watching in 7plus you get rewarded for watching more, coming in more, watching longer, and you get rewards for doing so that is half price tickets, 10% off this or that, whatever it might be. That does two things, it creates a value equation for the customer coming into 7plus. So it's a viewer engagement. Again, this is the EVE proposition, but for the advertiser, it obviously means that their brand is in front of clients and sorry, consumers. And they are transacting with that brand inside that environment. And they can also shop with Seven Shop. It's a combination of action and attention and attribution because all of that throws off data. It's another reason in a cookie-less world of why somebody would provide their information to you. So if there's a very clear strategy on a number of levels, and we'd like to think that it's the full funnel market solution; driving broadcast strategies or brand strategies linking into eCommerce strategies.

Tim Burrowes: Maybe the final question from me. And I think hopefully it's one you can both answer and have different answers to. One of the things that strikes me about the program line-up is there's a lot of stability. There's a lot of - and I mean this in a good way - safe bets for marketers where they'll have plenty of information about how shows are going to perform based on how they've done previously. But also, of course, the TV industry does like and reward risk-taking. So I wonder from both of you, when you look at all the announcements from this week, what do you each think is the bravest thing you are going to do next year?

Kurt Burnette: Well, that is a good question. Because the line-up, and I guess, Hey, Hey, it's Saturday special on Sunday night sort of highlighted the fact that nostalgia is powerful. We believe-

Tim Burrowes: Yes, not many people expected the sort of ratings it delivered.

Kurt Burnette: No, they didn't, but it talks to known but new. So known formats in a new way of delivering, and I think probably the biggest announcement, and the one that I think could perform the best out of all of those shows coming back is My Kitchen Rules. I would say that's probably the safest bet. Probably doesn't answer quite your question. But I think, after the research we've done and we did talk about it coming back last year. I think you might recall. And it wasn't right, but this time it's right. It's shorter, faster, fresher. It'll have all the e-comm stuff in there. That's nothing to do with the consumer side necessarily, but it's just another engager. But for me, that's probably the show I'm most excited about that I think can really make a difference into the back half of next year, launched out of the, or near enough to out of the Commonwealth Game. So yeah, I think that's probably the biggest, safest bet for us.

Natalie Harvey: I like how Kurt turned that question around, always a salesman, but I 100% agree with him.

From my perspective. And I'll take a buyer's view on it just because I used to be a buyer and I'll say the winter Olympics or the Olympic winter games. And the reason why I say it is because last time, when we were selling it with a very similar time zone, we had a lot of people saying, "Oh, it's not going to rate. People aren't going to watch it's the winter Olympics." And boy, they were wrong. Same with Tokyo. It was massively under forecast by the buyers. And we have people scrambling to get on. I think that the Olympic winter games provides a massive opportunity for brands. A really nice alternative to what else is on at that time of the year and will deliver huge cross screen audiences so I would suggest there's probably some people sitting there going, "Olympic winter games, not sure" but avoid at your peril would be my suggestion there.

Tim Burrowes: Well, upfronst is always a busy week, so I will let you both go about your duties. Natalie Harvey and Kurt Burnette, thank you very much.

Kurt Burnette: Thanks, Tim, great to talk.

Natalie Harvey: Thank you.


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Tim Burrowes

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