With many Australians forced to spend more time at home this year streaming services have been experiencing huge growth. When it comes to free streaming platforms attached to commercial television broadcasters, Seven is leading the field.
A change of strategy at Seven West Media in the wake of the arrival of James Warburton as CEO a year ago has helped build audience and overhauled the busines model.
“7plus is totally dominant as a FTA streaming service,” Seven’s head of digital Gereurd Roberts explained to Mediaweek. “We are #1 survey year-to-date with a 41% share [commercial streaming platforms] off the back of 49% share in July. Across that period we have had 10 of the top 20 shows [ranked across all five FTA streaming platforms].
Roberts took over digital duties at Seven after segueing from running Pacific Magazines before it was sold to Bauer and then Mercury Capital. Along with Seven’s director of scheduling Brook Hall, the two look after strategy and content at 7plus.
Roberts continued: “Big Brother was a leader across June and July and we have been #1 commercial streaming platform for 18 consecutive weeks – some of those weeks we had more than a 50% share. There have been weeks where 7plus was bigger than 9now and 10play combined.”
Roberts said unlike their competitors, Seven was not reliant on single shows for big spikes.
Hall explained Seven had been on quite a journey to get to a dominant position, learning much along the way.
“For the year we are now #1 live, #1 VOD and #1 combined in the commercial streaming space.”
Hall noted 7plus is run as being largely independent from broadcast. “The BVOD market is not about broadcast catch-up only. Our numbers show that. Despite both Big Brother and Farmer Wants a Wife achieving record numbers on 7plus, and being our two biggest streaming shows ever, 50% of the viewing on 7plus comes from non-broadcast content. That’s a big shift from the number just 12 months ago.”
The TV executives told Mediaweek how Seven has often reminded advertisers about the importance of its spine – news, sport and Home and Away.
Hall: “When James Warburton arrived 12 months ago he was open about our shortcomings in the 7.30pm timeslot. It was our missing link on broadcast and it needed to be addressed. That posed an even greater problem for 7plus because traditionally the 7.30pm drivers were the tentpoles for all BVOD players.
“7plus couldn’t rely on our spine because 7plus didn’t have streaming rights for sport and news is not a big VOD player.
“7plus had to innovate and content was realigned under [director of programming] Angus Ross in content and digital product and operations under Gereurd as chief digital officer.”
Hall said the new streaming vision was to be aligned with the broadcast vision, but not dependent on it.
“Home and Away was our way in and our biggest advantage. There are millions of Australians watching and streaming nightly drama all year round. We made Home and Away our gateway program on 7plus with the aim of becoming the home of drama for free.”
The strategy at 7plus is not about using the BVOD platform to help build broadcast audiences. Hall: “The aim is to get our content viewed, it doesn’t matter where it is. We let the viewer make a choice where they want to view it.”
That strategy seems to be paying off. Roberts: “In July, Big Brother was as big as The Voice and MasterChef combined [on BVOD].”
Seven is selling program sponsorships that are integrated across broadcast and BVOD. Roberts: “That’s how we achieve the greatest audience scale for our partners.”
When it comes to content acquisitions for 7plus, Hall said they are careful to stay in their lane which is drama. “Twelve months ago we added other favourite Australian dramas to sit alongside Home and Away. Programs like Blue Heelers, A Country Practice, All Saints and Packed to the Rafters. They have a TV broadcast legacy, but they now sit only on 7plus. We also leverage our overseas dramas from broadcast like The Good Doctor, 9-1-1, Criminal Minds. We saw the audience really respond to these programs over summer and using our relationships with all the major US studios we started adding titles that were exclusive to 7plus which were outside our traditional IP.
“There are now many series on 7plus that have never aired on our broadcast including Dawson’s Creek, Smallville and Beverly Hills, 90210.”
One of the secrets of 7plus success is the cost. Hall: “We still think free is a big advantage and point of difference from our competitors.”
• The majority of 7plus viewing comes from connected TVs.
• 7plus offers programming content in HD 1080p.
• Most content is available immediately on 7plus after it has been broadcast.
• Hall said he estimates there are many viewers who now only engage with Seven via 7plus. “We have no problem with that. Ten years ago we wanted to also engage more with male viewers and we launched 7mate. We now see there is a big chunk of broadcast linear viewers that only watch 7mate and we are totally fine with that because they are part of our overall audience.”
• Live channel bonus: 7plus boasts 12 live channels – Seven’s four channels through to extras like Fuel, Outdoor Channel, iwonder, racing.com and David Koch’s ausbiz.
Although 50% of the viewing is for non-broadcast content, the single biggest shows on 7plus are still 7.30pm broadcast hits. Roberts: “You can’t underestimate the importance of those big broadcast tentpoles. Big Brother and Farmers Wants a Wife are important, but 7plus is not dependent on them for success. Driving our growth and consistency is our programming mix Brook has been explaining.”
Top Photo: Seven’s Brook Hall and Gereurd Roberts